iPass Reports on Hotspot Usage

By Eric Griffith

March 06, 2007

The virtual provider's new index is all about what hotspots mobile workers actually utilize for connecting to the office.

JiWire.com provides a pretty comprehensive look at the number of hotspots out in the world, based on its database of 100,000 locations. One thing it can't provide is a look at the usage of those sites by businesses. So iPass is hoping to fill that void. Today, the company launched its iPass Wi-Fi Hotspot Index, a broad look at usage of its own virtual network of 70,000 hotspots around the world.

"It occurred to us, with our global user base and networks, we have a unique position to provide the industry and media with information about usage trends in hotspots for the enterprise," says Rick Bilodeau, senior director of corporate and channel marketing at iPass.

The enterprise distinction is important here, as that's who iPass sells its services to. The new hotspot index doesn't take into account use by consumers. However, it's also not compiled by calling a bunch of different carriers/providers and aggregating that data -- the index is based directly on information from the iPass network and its one million unique users.

The index is broken down into regions of the world, venue types, countries, cities and airports. The data presented on this first round encompasses the second half of 2006 (June 1 to December 31), but refers back to January 1, 2006, to indicate changes from one half of the year to the other. Measurements of use at each venue are in "day sessions," which could mean multiple sessions but all in a single 24-hour period at a single location. "If you're at a hotel and log in at breakfast and at lunch and dinner, that's still one day session," says Bilodeau. "They'll be seen as multiple day sessions if they go to multiple locations."

The day sessions are also broken down into the average single session length. For example, it's little surprise that sessions at hotels are longer (138 minutes on average) than at airports (41 minutes) or cafes or retailers (67 minutes).

The top five countries seeing Wi-Fi use by iPass customers are the U.S, the U.K. and Germany. The U.S. saw a 33% growth in use since the first half of '06. The country with the biggest growth was Australia, with 271% -- but that might be simply because iPass launched there in 2006, so the growth came up from a previous 0%, says Bilodeau, adding, "The rest are pretty valid." (JiWire's top three countries are the same).

Top cities: London, Singapore (which gets a listing as #8 country as well) and New York. JiWire differs, saying as of March 5 the top cities are Taipei, London, Seoul and Tokyo. The top U.S. city on their list is San Francisco, at #8. The JiWire data is based only on the number of locations in their database, however -- not usage. It might be interesting to see that comparison (number of locations vs. actual usage) in future iPass index releases.

The iPassConnect client software will actually log use not only of iPass partner hotspots but also any Wi-Fi connection used through iPassConnect, so it's not skewed only to iPass partners -- just mostly. But they are partnered with most of the big names, including venues like Starbucks and McDonald's.

iPass plans to update the index every six months, maybe more if it sees a demand. There might also be additions to the index in the future, such as integration of mobile data (iPass supports 3G EV-DO networks) and maybe even dialup (just so we can see how much it's declining), all connection methods handled by iPassConnect.

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