Forget 5G, it's Wi-Fi that continues to grow

Faster 4G – and the promise of 5G – will help businesses on the move. But Wi-Fi will remain a core service for years to come.

Inside the Enterprise: Over the last few years, mobile workers have enjoyed a technology boom.

Faster, lighter and cheaper devices such as tablets, and increasingly sophisticated smartphones, have transformed working away from the office. And the growth of fast mobile connections make operating remotely a much more practical, and comfortable, experience than it was even two or three years ago.

Improvements in cellular mobile bandwidth, in particular, are benefiting anyone who has to work on the move. For those of us old enough to have experienced attacking a hotel phone socket with a pair of crocodile clips and a 9,600 baud modem, even 3G, let alone 4G and the upcoming, faster versions of LTE, are revolutionary.

But, although mobile connections are getting faster, studies have found that the speed drops off quickly as more users sign up for 4G services. And, as we reported here just last week, there are plenty of places that still have no mobile signal at all.

This is just one of the reasons W-iFi continues to be important, both for individual mobile workers, and for businesses. According to iPass, which manages corporate Wi-Fi connections and so, does have an interest in boosting the technology we will see the number of Wi-Fi hotspots grow from around 48 million today, to 340 million in 2018. That equates to one hotspot for every 20 people.

More practically, it means that mobile workers are never far from a high-speed connection. In the UK at least, free WiFi access is now almost a given in cafes; plenty of pubs have connections, as do public areas such as shopping centres, airports and railway stations. Even hotels, which have tried to charge a premium for internet access, now often give it away.

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