The US Knows (of) Wi-Fi

By Eric Griffith

February 25, 2004

Separate surveys point to American consumers' increased awareness of Wi-Fi and the productivity gains it provides.

Two research firms this week released information gleaned in surveys of American consumers that points to overall increased awareness of Wi-Fi and the productivity gains wireless networking brings.

A survey of 1,000 people by New York-based Ipsos-Insight reveals that media attention of Wi-Fi has made enough of an impact that 59 percent of Americans over 18 are aware of the technology. Last year that number was only 41 percent. They attribute this to the "hype and media attention" brought about by such things as Intel's Centrino advertising campaign.

Still, only 8 percent of those aware of Wi-Fi consider themselves "very familiar" with the technology; 34 percent say they are "somewhat" familiar, while 55 percent say they've just heard the name somewhere.

Far more people -- 72 percent -- have an overall awareness that wireless is used in home networks in some way. But only 5 percent actually have wireless home networks, and less than one in five of those who are aware of the technology plan to add a WLAN any time soon. Half of those aware of Wi-Fi think WLANs are too expensive for the home, while 37 percent think it'll be too slow compared with their broadband connection. Security wasn't much of an issue.

There were similar results from InsightExpress, a Stamford, Conn.-based researcher that talked with 600 U.S. online users in 48 hours. Of those, 10 percent were using Wi-Fi. Of those, 61 percent said they are more productive because of it. In fact, 38 percent said they do more work.

Convenience was listed as the top reason to go wireless -- either the ability to take the computer anywhere or avoiding running Ethernet -- but only 37 percent said Wi-Fi was purchased for a home network because it was affordable. Despite prices falling to new all-time lows for 802.11 equipment, this suggests vendors still have to overcome a stigma of expense.

Hotspot usage was also touched upon by both firms. InsightExpress found that 40 percent had used Wi-Fi while outside of their home or office, and that almost half of them would rather go to a business that offers Wi-Fi. Same goes for patronage of ISPs -- they want to support providers that also provide hotspots. Ipsos respondents who currently had Wi-Fi at home were somewhat interested in the same access at hotels (80 percent), airports (69 percent) and eateries (57 percent). No word on if they're willing to pay for it, however.

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