Your mobilel phone wants to be a Wi-Fi hot spot

Will Wi-Fi or mobile broadband dominate the future of wireless? (The answer is yes!)

The coming wave of 'hot spot phones'

Two obvious trends -- Wi-Fi access point electronics are getting smaller and mobile broadband is getting faster -- will result in another inevitable outcome: The use of mobile phones as Wi-Fi hot spots. Call them "hot spot phones."

The CradlePoint PHS300, for example, is 4.7" x 2.8" x 0.8" and weighs just four ounces. It's already smaller than some mobile phones. It's only a matter of time before handset makers start building Wi-Fi access points into mobile phones.

Business travelers will be able to simply turn on the Wi-Fi function on their mobile phones, then connect via that phone over Wi-Fi with the laptop and other devices. Groups will be able to share the mobile phone's connection.

This is also, by the way, one way to solve the problem of low network connectivity in poor neighborhoods. The US city of Houston, for example, plans to spend US$3.5 million to build conventional Wi-Fi hot spots in poor neighborhoods throughout the city as a way to bridge the "digital divide" between low-income families and everyone else. The problem is that Wi-Fi penetration is very low in these areas.

Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi infrastructure Houston is planning to build will be very expensive, and costs will be high even if nobody uses the networks.

Although Wi-Fi penetration is low among low-income people, mobile phone ownership is relatively high. A super efficient way to bring Wi-Fi to low-income people would be to Wi-Fi-enable their existing phones. This is just one of the many problems that could best be solved by Wi-Fi enabling mobile phones.

Will Wi-Fi dominate the future of wireless? Or will mobile broadband dominate? The answer is yes! And it's only a matter of time before your mobile phone becomes a Wi-Fi access point.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. Contact Mike at mike.elgan@elgan.com or his blog, The Raw Feed.

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