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Consumers drive UK WiFi sales

Sales of WiFi equipment in the U.K. have rocketed over the past year, with consumers adopting the technology at a faster pace than expected. Report from market analysis firm Gfk says that sales of wireless routers increased 108 percent in the first quarter of 2006 compared to the same period in 2005. Some 380,000 units were sold over the three-month period, worth a total of £24 million. Sales of wireless cards increased by 87 percent year on year to 525,000 units, worth £13 million, in the same period.

GfK noted that it is personal wireless users who drove this increase, rather than businesses, as more and more people take to the nomadic use of WiFi equipment. Price is also important, as about 70 percent of WiFi cards now sell for under £25, and the average price of a wireless router down to about £60, convincing more consumers that the time for the wireless home has arrived. Gfk also reports that 62 percent of wireless routers were sold though retail channels in the first quarter of last year, a figure which has grown to over 75 percent in 2006. Over the same period, 78 percent of WiFi cards were sold through retail channels in the first quarter of 2006, compared to 63 percent a year ago.

Note, though, that business users are still the main users of mobile wireless technology, primarily 3G data cards. The first quarter of 2006 has seen a whopping 580 percent increase on the first quarter of 2005 in sales of 3G data cards, up to nearly 30,000 units worth £1.7 million. Again, the reason for businesses being the main driver of mobile wireless equipment sales is price, as the cost of mobile data card hardware, especially when substantial tariffs are added on top, remains prohibitive for consumers.

Jean Littolff, IT business group director at GfK, said, "Although there has been an explosion of retail purchase of mobile wireless data access in the beginning of 2006, the trend is very much on the equipment allowing nomadic wireless data usage. But the possibilities for nomadic usage are not problem free. Vendors have done a great job selling wireless technology, but this is of no benefit if the users are unaware of how to utilize the technology." He adds, "To see growth rates continue in such a strong up ward direction, we also need to see the infrastructure behind the technology improve at a similar rate."

For more on WiFi UK sales:
- see this Vnunet report

PLUS: AT&T is expanding its wireless footprint in Europe. Since teaming up with Swiss company WeRoam in February, AT&T now has more than 10,000 places in Europe with WiFi, capabilities, including areas in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Hungary, Ireland, France and Israel, the company said. AT&T also has WiFi accessible areas in Brazil, Japan and Taiwan. Report

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