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Study: Home Use Driving Wi-Fi Adoption

A new IDC survey shows more than a third of respondents use an 802.11 LAN at home, but just 27% use one at work.
The hottest hot spots for Wi-Fi use are in the home, research firm IDC said Wednesday. A survey of 2,500 members of the company's Mobile Advisory Council found that more than a third of respondents use an 802.11 LAN at home, while only 27% use Wi-Fi in the workplace.

Tight economic times lie behind both figures, IDC analyst Randy Giusto says. "The overall slowdown in enterprise IT spending has made wireless LANs a low priority for many IT organizations, while at the same time prices have dropped dramatically for home-based wireless access points," Giusto said.

A growing base of workers who have wireless access at home will express an increasing eagerness to have hot spots added to their workspaces, according to IDC's "Mobile Usage Patterns 2003." When the time for increased enterprise Wi-Fi deployment comes, the workforce is likely to be device-ready as well as Wi-Fi-savvy.

"Even if the company doesn't have wireless LANs in place yet, the new and replacement hardware they're buying tends to be equipped with 802 [wireless] chips. This is especially true of new notebooks and mobile devices," Giusto says.

Nor are businesses completely deferring Wi-Fi investment, Giusto says. "We've found that many companies that don't have wireless LANs deployed across multiple floors on their campus are putting access points in waiting rooms for the convenience of their customers."

While mobile employees may lack Wi-Fi access at work, they're taking increasing advantage of public hot-spot availability on the road, but there's little consensus yet on how best to pay for it. IDC's findings indicated a fairly evenly distributed range of Wi-Fi pay preferences, such as access fees included in cell-phone bills; subscriptions on either a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis; and pay-as-you-go plans. According to IDC, the key 30- to 39-year-old demographic prefers utility-based pay-for-use Wi-Fi charges.

Mobile workers primarily tap hot spots in hotels and coffee shops, followed by public-access points in airports, using the Wi-Fi connections for E-mail, intranet, and Internet access and messaging.

One thing those home Wi-Fi users aren't doing, according to Giusto's findings, is working wirelessly. The leading home Wi-Fi applications were identified as listening to music files, playing games, and messaging.

The most constant day-to-day use of Wi-Fi access was found on university campuses.