Why hotspots aren’t hot here

Ever wonder what industry analysts do on their time off? Mark Tauschekof Info-Tech Research recently helped install a Wi-Fi hotpsot for aToronto-area car detailing business. It was a favour for the owner, afriend of Tauschek, who knows what he’s doing: Before becoming ananalyst he worked for an integrator whose business was installingad-supported hotspots. But at the time – four years ago – it took toomuch time to educate owners and customers about Wi-Fi to make thebusiness go. Things haven’t changed much in this country, according toJiWire,a Wi-Fi advertising network that says it tracks hotspots around theworld. Canada has only 3,465 public hotspots, compared to 66,000 in theU.S. California alone has 9,440. We won’t get into the number ofhotspots in Japan, Korea, Britain and France.

Whatgot me thinking about this is that AT&Tjust plunked down US$275 million for a Wi-Fi back officeprovider called Wayport. Will a Canadian carrier follow suit? Onealready has. Several years ago Telus bought Spotnik, which it owned apiece of. Otherwise, Tauschek said in a phone interview, it’s notlikely Bell, Rogers or Telus will be opening their wallets. They’realready in the hotspot provider business and have a cozy arrangement inwhich subscribers can freely roam on each other’s Wi-Fi network. Thebiggest hotspot providers available are Vancouver’s FatPort, followedby Montreal’s Eye-In Wireless.

Canada always has been a bit slowin taking up technology (take, for example, our home broadband speeds)but Tauschek thinks we may be on the verge of hotspot heaven.AT&T is expanding its hotspot efforts to shift mobile datausers from its cellular network to the faster Wi-Fi. With Bell, Telusand Rogers investing in faster HSPA networks, they’ll want to followAT&T, Tuashcek predicts. Those hunting for hotspots across thecountry can only hope.

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