US lags behind in wi-fi access

6 November 2014

BOSTON: Some 450m households worldwide have their own wi-fi networks, according to a new report, with Europe in the vanguard in terms of penetration and North America far behind.

The study from Strategy Analytics – Global Broadband and WLAN (Wi-Fi) Networked Households Forecast 2009-2018 – revealed that with 80.4% of Dutch households having wi-fi networks, the Netherlands was leading the way.

This was in large part a consequence of high fixed-line broadband penetration. And since the US has relatively low broadband penetration compared to other developed markets, it languished in 11th place with just 57.8% of households having wi-fi.

Korea (79.4%) was in second place, followed by a raft of European nations, including Norway (76.2%), the UK (72.1%), Belgium (69.8%), Denmark (67.8%), France (67.5%) and Sweden (65.0%). Then came Japan (63.2%) and Canada (61.0%).

In terms of numbers, however, the US was near the top, with 72m wi-fi households, second only to China (108m) and ahead of Japan (30m). Overall, the market had grown 5% growth in 2013-14.

The issues of broadband and wi-fi access have been dragged into US politics. In New York, a group of politicians has sought to make Comcast's planned merger with Time Warner Cable conditional on the former providing free broadband to the city's public housing residents and free wi-fi in the city's parks.

One warned of a growing digital divide in New York, where one third of residents were unable to get on the internet, with a subsequent impact on the city's global competitiveness.

As households around the world own an increasing number of connected devices, Strategy Analytics said that there room for more take-up of wi-fi in broadband homes. It expected that, as the technology improved and prices fell, that 80% of fixed-line broadband households would have wi-fi networks by 2018.

But in emerging markets, where there are significant infrastructure costs involved in in expanding fixed-line broadband access, households are more likely to relying on individual mobile data plans.

Data sourced from PR Newswire, New York Times; additional content by Warc staff