Wi-Fi seems to be creeping its way into every device under the Sun: the iPad, iPod Touch, Chumby, Kindles, laptops, netbooks, smartphones, game systems, media streamers, e-readers, you name it, there is probably Wi-Fi in it. So, now the question is as this technology shows up in all of these devices, will we see more Wi-Fi networks popping up in more locations?
The Wall Street Journal put forward a hypothesis that thanks to the iPad, we could see urban Wi-Fi networks getting a new lease on life. While there have been several municipalities that have attempted to roll out city-wide Wi-Fi, most have failed. The problem was that those cities tried to run it as a free service, and, while a noble cause, there are costs associated with keeping such a system running. So what are urban centers to do to meet the demand of this increased need for Wi-fi?
Minneapolis, Minn. just completed a $20 million dollar investment in a municipal Wi-Fi network that will be used by emergency services, but will be supported by a subscription service that citizens of the city may subscribe to. US Internet is the company that will be managing this project, and the company that the subscriptions will be run through, but this begs the question of do you really want to pay for a separate Internet subscription just to have Wi-Fi on the go?
In a recent poll by GigaOm, 36 percent of readers said that they would like to see their internet service providers (ISPs) provide free Wi-Fi as a add-on perk to their accounts. While there might not currently be a huge amount of motivation at this time for ISPs to add such a perk, customer demand may not give them a choice as more of these devices enter the marketplace.
Of course the argument can be made that until such time as Wi-Fi is rolled out in such a widely usable manner that the iPad is sold in versions that also include 3G access on the AT&T network. Well, as has been widely discussed, its network leaves a lot to be desired, and as an example, isn’t even available in my town. Sprint and Verizon on the other hand do offer 3G here, and Steve Jobs did say that you could use other companies than AT&T, but at that point, why not go for a MiFi?
For those unfamiliar with the device, it creates a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot from your carrier’s network and allows you to connect up to four devices at once to it to share the connection. If you want to use it in USB mode, it turns into a high speed wireless modem. Sure it isn’t the perfect solution compared to your ISP giving you Wi-Fi access, or getting free Wi-Fi at a Starbucks, but when you’re on the go, it may be the best solution for the time being.
With even car companies such as Ford looking to add Wi-Fi to their cars, and restaurants adding free Wi-Fi as a perk, it’s fairly obvious that the demand for Wi-Fi everywhere we go is doing nothing but growing. While it may take some time to roll out, 2010 and 2o11 look set to be a time of massive growth in Wi-Fi demand and, hopefully, Wi-Fi supply.