Survey shows 84 percent want citywide Wi-Fi, 91 percent expect it when traveling

A survey conducted by Devicescape, The Cloud and Trustive reveals that 84 percent of respondents want citywide WI-Fi  and 91 percent expect Wi-Fi when they are traveling (i.e. when they are in airports, bus terminals, train stations and ferries). Two other interesting figures from the survey: 56% are willing to pay for citywide Wi-Fi access as a utility like water, gas or electricity, although 79 percent believe that Wi-Fi should be free. Here are more interesting results from the survey and my analysis.

(1) Device most often used to connect to Wi-Fi when traveling:

35% iPhone
30% Laptop
20% Nokia phone
6% Windows Mobile for smartphones and other devices
3% Netbook (e.g. Asus EEEPC)
4% Other
1% Blackberry

It’s amazing to see the iPhone up there in the list given that it was only launched two years ago (the 3G version only last year) but bear in mind that many of Devicescape’s users downloaded the Easy Wi-Fi application from the Apple app store. I’d be curious to see the results of next year’s survey. I expect Netbooks to have a larger percentage. Netbooks sold well during the last holiday season despite the financial crisis.

(2) Where people use their 3G/Wi-Fi device:

66% Home
59% Hotel
56% Bar / restaurant / cafe
54% Airport
53% Work
37% Outdoors
29% Train station
16% While Driving
6% Petrol station

(3) What irritates you most when trying to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot:

50% Complicated login screens
35% Complex payment procedures
37% Difficulty identifying which hotspots I can use
33% Poor quality of service
11% Poor tech support
24% All of the above

It’s not surprising that the respondents hate complicated login screens more than anything else. Look at where they use Wi-Fi: it’s when they’re traveling (see #2 above). So imagine you are waiting in an airport or a train station. You click to join a Wi-Fi network and the first thing you see is a login screen that requires you to spend more time trying to log in than the time it would take you to check email or find an address on a map. This is what people get in many train stations in Europe, not to mention airports everywhere except where the airport has free Wi-Fi.

More than one-third cited the difficulty of finding hotspots to use. This happens when you are confronted with several Wi-Fi networks and you’re trying to figure out which one is the best connection (actually there is a company called WeFi that makes a software client you can download that finds the best Wi-Fi network for you — disclosure: I am on the advisory board of WeFi).

(4) The overwhelming majority of smartphone users (81%) prefer using Wi-Fi over 3G for browsing Web sites, downloading data, Google searches and sending e-mail.

(5) The most widely used application is email (84%), followed by Internet browsing activities such as reading news websites, blogs, using social networking sites (78%). The rest use Chat/IM/Skype (32%) but very few play online games (4%) or watch streaming video (14%).

(6) 86% of respondents want device manufacturers such as Nokia and Motorola to build Wi-Fi into their handsets and 82% of respondents want the mobile service provider to provide an overall 3G/Wi-Fi data package. 90% want their mobile service provider to allow them to roam between Wi-Fi and 3G networks.

(7) Skype which was chosen by 85% of the respondents as their preferred VOIP service, followed by Truphone (11%), Jahjah (2%), EQO (1%), and Defi (1%).

Who were the people surveyed?

38% come from the US, 28% from the UK and Europe (except Russia), Asia Pacific (7%), Japan (7%), Russia (4%) with the rest coming from Mexico, Canada, India, the Middle East, China, etc. The vast majority, over 90%, were male.

Age group:
3% 17 and under
15% 18 – 25
24% 26 – 34
32% 35 – 45
26% Above 45

What do they do? 14% are students, 21% own businesses or are consultants, contractors and freelancers. 10% report that their job requires them to travel frequently. 21% are engineers, programmers and other technical workers.

I spoke to Dave Fraser, CEO of Devicescape, and he said that the results are not surprising. What surprised him were the negative reactions of mobile operators to the overwhelming preference of the respondents for Wi-Fi over 3G. Mobile operators have been advertising 3G service as “Internet everywhere” or “Internet just like it is at home or at work” when it’s nothing like that at all. In many cases, the 3G connection is very slow and sub-optimal for the applications that people use on their Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices. But the carriers are beginning to love Wi-Fi if only because it allows them to offload a lot of data traffic to a Wi-Fi network. As more people buy Netbooks and iPhones, the amount of data traffic will explode in the coming years.

While people love using Wi-Fi networks, the owners of those networks don’t make it easy for them to log on. Complicated login screens and annoying payment procedures were cited most often by the respondents as the most common frustrations.


  1. Brett Glass says:

    Yes, everyone wants free Wi-Fi…. And a pony, too. Trouble is, bandwidth costs money. I’d like free gasoline, free electricity… oh, and don’t forget the pony. But it isn’t practical simply to give it away. And municipalities shouldn’t get into the position of competing with honest, reputable, hard working local businesspeople who are trying to make a living providing decent broadband. If transaction costs are a problem, then let’s make that simpler. But it’s not going to be free if it’s any good — and the worst thing we could do is have government compete with the private sector to provide it.