Building a wireless network service that attracts and retains subscribers over the long term will be far more difficult than today's hype suggests, industry experts have warned.
According to IDC, the global wireless hotspot market is still in the very early stages of development, despite rapid growth in the number of wireless locations and users.
The analyst advised caution when looking at growth figures which have been achieved from a very low baseline and represent little more than the creation of a hotspot infrastructure.
"In many respects, the hotspot market feels like another technology gold rush," said Keith Waryas, research manager at IDC's wireless business network services programme.
"What we're hearing right now are the promises of fame and fortune typical of an early deployment phase. It is imperative to remember that this market is still exceptionally young and rife with uncertainty.
"Most business models are not yet proven, or even solidified, and the competitive landscape is still very unclear. The hard work needed to achieve Wi-Fi's promise still lies ahead."
Over the next five years, IDC expects the hotspot market to evolve through two distinct phases.
The first will see dramatic growth in hotspots and users. Over the next five years, IDC projects that the number of worldwide hotspot users will approach 25 million.
But according to the analyst's report, Worldwide Hotspot Forecast 2002-2007, one consequence of a rapid build-out is that many public access points will be underused because they were not deployed in a thoughtful manner.
In the second phase, network roaming relationships and partnerships will become vital as providers seek to fill holes in their footprints and expand network use.
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