The overwhelming majority of British respondents to a MORI poll are clueless about “Wi-Fi [define] hotspots [define],” with small percentages believing the term refers to hot tubs, sunbeds, nightclubs, or other mistaken conclusions.

The April 2003 Packard Bell-sponsored survey of 985 home PC users in Great Britain revealed that 70 percent of respondents had no idea what a Wi-Fi hotspot was, and even when prompted, only 29 percent correctly identified the term as an area covered by a wireless access point, typically set up for the Internet so that people can connect to the Web without cables. Nearly half (43 percent) of those surveyed said they just didn’t know, rather than venture a guess.

The findings were filled with some wild speculations:

  • 5 percent of all respondents thought it was a nightclub, while 10 percent of single respondents identified it as a nightclub
  • 2 percent of all respondents thought that it was something smelly that has been left out in the sun for too long
  • 2 percent thought that it was a new hi-fi
  • 1 percent thought that it was a posh hot tub
  • 1 percent thought that it was a sunbed
  • 1 percent thought that it was a microwave ready meal
  • 1 percent of married respondents identified it as trouble with the wife

Nearly all (98 percent) of the younger (15-to-24-year-olds) respondents are mobile phone users, so 10 percent of that age group thought a Wi-Fi hotspot was an area with high mobile phone reception.

‘It is very interesting to see the number of people who have opted for the more outlandish responses. It always takes a while for new technologies to filter through to all users. As consumers increasingly see a network of ‘Wi-Fi hotspots’ springing up everywhere from coffee shops and pubs to hotels and airports and it becomes more common to see people making use of wireless Internet access points, the understanding will grow very rapidly,” said Graham Hopper, managing director Packard Bell UK and Eire.

While the opt-in HotSpot List.com only has seven Wi-Fi hotspots listed in the UK – compared to nearly 4,200 wireless access points in the U.S., followed by Canada (75), Germany (52), and Australia (46) – the actual numbers are much higher and difficult to quantify.

UK Internet provider, The Cloud is planning to install Wi-Fi in roughly 3,000 locations by the end of 2003, and up to 20,000 sites by the end 2004, through strategic partnerships with telecommunications service providers.

“The Cloud’s wholesale network makes it very easy for the cellular carriers, ISPs and other major service providers to immediately begin selling broadband wireless services to their customers – they have coverage, a high quality, well managed network they can rely on, and they can package this service with their other data offerings and sell it to their existing customers under their own brand,” said George Polk, managing director, The Cloud.

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