Global public Wi-Fi hotspot numbers are set to grow from 1.3 million in 2011, to 5.8 million by 2015, a 350 per cent increase.
The number does not include 'community hotspots', where users share their own Wi-Fi access point with others, which add an additional 4.5 million worldwide, according to a report released by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) and compiled by Informa.
The findings show that 58 per cent of operators - including 47 per cent of mobile operators - believe Wi-Fi hotspots are either very important or crucial to their customers' experience; offload busy mobile broadband networks; and provide a value-added services platform.
The survey found that smartphone connections to Wi-Fi hotspots will soon overtake laptops globally. Laptops now represent less than half (48 per cent) of the connections to hotspots, smartphones account for 36 per cent and tablets 10 per cent.