Women take to Wi-Fi


15 Feb 2005

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Driven by fashion, cafe culture and the flexibility it affords, women now make up 45pc of Dublin’s public wireless hotspot technology user base, going against the grain of the stereotypically male geek being the earliest adopter of new technology, a survey has revealed.

The survey of 400 respondents by wireless hotspot provider Bitbuzz, whose Wi-Fi networks cover more than 50 bars and coffee shops across Dublin found that some 69pc of Wi-Fi nomads, executives and students who flit around the city tapping into Wi-Fi networks already have broadband access at home.

“The fact that people who use hotspots already have broadband means that Wi-Fi is not the replacement for broadband that most people think it is but a way of complementing your work pattern on the move,” said Stephen McCormack of Bitbuzz. “It’s not obvious at first glance, but Wi-Fi users are using it when they can.”

McCormack pointed out that the fact that such a large proportion of Wi-Fi’s early adopters in Dublin indicated that the technology went against the stereotype of the male geek. “It’s actually resulting in the laptop becoming something of a fashion item and a statement to use a laptop in public in the same way as people took to mobile phones. People aren’t embarrassed to use laptops.”

He added that such a trend could afford a strong business dynamic for computer manufacturers such as Apple who invest heavily in aesthetics as well as Wi-Fi connectivity for their laptops. In fact, according to the survey some 26pc of Bitbuzz’s Wi-Fi customers use Apple Macs to access Wi-Fi and that 30pc who are considering buying a new computer would consider Apple.

However, the clear majority of users said that they use an Intel-based appliance to access Wi-Fi. Some 28.1pc of the user base access the Wi-Fi networks via a PDA.

Of the 400 users, 77.6pc said that they can see their Wi-Fi usage increasing in the next year. Some 49.2pc of the users said that they use Wi-Fi for both business and personal purposes.

One of the other interesting trends to emerge from the survey was that some 52.6pc of users carried a portable MP3 player. “We see a clear trend that suggest that the Wi-Fi user base is perfectly aligned with the early adopters of digital music.”

In terms of services that users hoped to see available on Wi-Fi networks in the years ahead, some 69pc of the survey’s respondents said that they would like to see voice-over internet protocol become available.

McCormack added that at present some 53 premises across Dublin currently offer his company’s Wi-Fi hotspot service. “Our plan is to grow this to 100 this year,” he said.

Pictured were Shane Deasy, managing director of Bitbuzz, with Audrey Woots from photography agency Photoline, that uses Bitbuzz’s subscription service for sending photographs wirelessly

By John Kennedy