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A new US-based study on Wi-Fi shows that it is more widely used in the home than in the workplace, but analysts say businesses will catch on.

The survey of 2,500 people showed that 34 per cent of respondents used a wireless LAN (Local Area Network) at home compared to 27 per cent who used it at work. The sample for the study came from IDC's Mobile Advisory Council of which there are 12,000 members comprising consumers, business users and buyers of mobile devices; 84 per cent of the council is based in the US.

"I don't think you could say that that [trend] is happening in Europe," said Sandra O'Boyle, senior analyst with telecoms consultancy Current Analysis, indicating that Europe is nowhere near as ready as the US for Wi-Fi, "but that conclusion makes sense." O'Boyle said with a number of family members wanting to avail of a broadband connections from anywhere in the house, demand for access to WLANs from the home was understandable.

IDC said the results of its survey confirm its assertion that business use of Wi-Fi is falling behind home use. The research company has attributed the current economic climate to the low priority wireless LANs are given in corporate IT budgets. At the same time, IDC maintains that cheaper equipment costs has driven WLAN use in homes.

"The rise of affordable wireless-enabled computing devices, coupled with low-cost wireless home networking solutions and increasing hotspot availability, is driving the use of wireless beyond the office, and especially at home," said IDC's Randy Giusto, vice president of personal technologies and services.

While home users appear to have the edge on businesses, Wi-Fi in the long-term is anyone's game, according to IDC. But the company does predict that increased dependency on electronic communication and the desire to maximise productivity will drive up demand for WLAN among business users.

O'Boyle also believes there will be a change in the rate of Wi-Fi demand in the business sector. "There will probably be a shift, and if there is more security for wireless LANs, IT companies will avail of it," she said.

Another key finding of the study was that top hotspot locations among mobile users are in key travel locations and coffee shops. Universities represent the highest degree of daily use and laptops remain the device platform of choice. In Europe use of available Wi-Fi hotspots has been small. "People are not aware, billing roaming doesn't work that well at the moment, not everybody has a wireless enabled laptop and not everybody needs it," O'Boyle said, describing the European Wi-Fi scene.

© ENN

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