AT&T has reported an enormous surge in WiFi hotspot use, triple the normal amount, in the first quarter 2009. The increase, in our view, is an indication that “migratory” user behavior is becoming more a factor in Internet use.
We define migratory users as those who regularly use a portable device to access the Internet from some number of predictable locations—like hotspots. The migratory user market is the big opportunity for WiMAX, which is ironically a technology being promoted by AT&T’s competitor Sprint/Clearwire. The AT&T experience shows that WiFi might well be an opportunity killer for WiMAX if hotspot growth expands, however. The big question is whether migratory behavior would involve enough different locations that WiFi hotspot deployment would become impractical.