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Wi-Fi Failing to Attract Business Users

A Gartner Inc. survey of more than 2,000 business travelers in the United States and the United Kingdom revealed that despite the growing availability of Wi-Fi hotspots both in transit and inside transport terminals, only 25 percent of U.S. and 17 percent of U.K. business travelers are taking advantage of the technology. Public Wi-Fi hotspots have been available for several years and makers of laptop PCs have offered "built in" Wi-Fi for the past two.

However, Gartner found that users are abstaining from using the technology because of educational, cultural and financial reasons rather than technological apprehension. Nevertheless, Gartner said that Wi-Fi could prove to be a beneficial differentiator in a competitive travel market if these barriers can be overcome, as they will be less costly for airlines to implement than other in-flight enhancements.

Hotels remain the leading Wi-Fi hotspot locations, with more than 60,000 places across the world. In recent years, wireless data access has also been available on air, rail and sea transport for commuters and business travelers. "Some airlines such as Lufthansa and SAS in Europe and ANA, JAL and Singapore Airlines in Asia are offering wireless Internet access to their passengers," said Delia MacMillan, research vice-president at Gartner. "But, although the service is accessible, there are a number of technical and business issues that are obstructing growth regardless of the mode of transport."

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