According to a recent survey, the majority (63 percent) of U.K. consumers would prefer mobile broadband over public Wi-Fi hotspots (26 percent) as a means to go online when out and about. Respondents expressed concern about Wi-Fi security, as well as about the often complicated sign-up forms used by access points. Other public Wi-Fi problems cited include sporadic coverage, performance and price.
In the worldwide rush to deploy free public Wi-Fi, discussion of the matter tends to center on the advantages, such as cost savings and convenience for users and consumer data mining for local businesses. However, this survey is a useful antidote to the hype, pointing out that there are also some major disadvantages to the service, security lapses being the most grievous. Especially in a developed, affluent market like that of the U.K., users may determine that cost savings are outweighed by the risk of having one’s data or even identity stolen over the free and easy airwaves. If operators want to succeed with public Wi-Fi, they would be well advised to address security issues aggressively and early on.