It seems that the iconic “Wi-Fi Here” badge is turning up everywhere these days. Once found on coffee shop windows to indicate that patrons could connect their mobile devices to the Internet, the symbol can now be seen in countless public venues. Wi-Fi can now be found everywhere from retail stores and hotels to airports, doctor’s offices, and even airplanes.

For many businesses and public locations, providing Wi-Fi to customers has almost become like electricity or water, a cost of doing business. Many service providers are now constructing extensive networks of public Wi-Fi hotspots for use by their mobile or home broadband customers. The intention is to enhance and differentiate their offering, with the goal of retaining their customers’ business. However, very little knowledge is currently available about how consumers are actually using public Wi-Fi and how they view the overall experience.

To learn more, Cisco conducted a survey of 620 U.S. mobile users to understand their needs and behaviors, current and future use of public hotspots, and unmet demands.

The study revealed that 70 percent of mobile users are now using public hotspots, with 57 percent of those users accessing one at least weekly – a significant increase from our 2012 mobile consumer survey.  Smartphones are the predominant mobile device used in public Wi-Fi hotspots.  Almost one-third of smartphone owners are connecting to hotspots in retail stores, outdoors, or other public locations, such as libraries or doctor offices, at least weekly.  Not only do consumers want more hotspots in the traditional public Wi-Fi locations, but they also expect hotspots to be available wherever they spend their lives outside the home, work, or school.  In general, mobile users are satisfied with public Wi-Fi but there is room for improvement in the areas of speed, security, and, of course availability.  Consumers also see room for improvement in the Wi-Fi offered in public outdoors and retail locations.

The research findings are important, because they can help businesses and service providers understand the size of the opportunity, develop winning strategies, and optimize their Wi-Fi offerings and network deployments to derive greater business value.

The complete results can be found at “What Do Consumers Want from Public Wi-Fi?

This white paper is part of a series presenting 2013 Cisco mobile consumer research findings.  Future blogs will present insights regarding changing mobile usage and consumer behavior, as well as opportunities in new localized mobile services.


Stuart Taylor


Service Provider Transformation Group