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Business travelers spurn Wi-Fi

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Thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots exist globally, but levels of usage among business travelers are low.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Despite the growing availability of wireless computer access in airports, hotels, airplanes, cafes and public spaces, the technology has failed to attract business travelers.

According to a recent survey in the US and the UK, only a small proportion of travelers are logging on to the Internet at wireless hotspots in public spaces, even though there has been a lot of hype and interest in the technology.

The poll of 2,000 business travelers by research firm Gartner, shows that only 25 percent of U.S. and 17 percent of UK business travelers use Wireless Fidelity or Wi-Fi hotspots.

Those surveyed were not deterred from logging on because they did not understand the technology, found it hard to use or were fed up with slow connections -- instead the desire to be out of reach from the office was the overwhelming factor.

In total 78 percent of U.S., and 75 percent of UK travelers said they welcomed the chance to be out of contact while in the air. Even on the ground, nearly a third of U.S. and UK travelers said that they did not need to use Wi-Fi hot spots.

The survey also found that the price of some wireless services and the limited availability of hot spots in useful locations deterred travelers from logging on.

In a CNN.com poll earlier this year, which asked people whether they would use in-flight Internet, 54 percent of more than 5,000 who voted said they would do so only if it were free. (Poll Results)

"Wi-Fi has come a long way, but our survey shows that many business travelers remain uncertain as to why they should use Wi-Fi, what equipment they need, how they can connect and what they will be charged," says Delia MacMillan, an analyst at Gartner.

"If Wi-Fi providers really want to attract new customers, they must convince both end-users and organizations of its benefits."

Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity, is a radio signal that has a limited range, allowing travelers with specially fitted computers to connect wirelessly to the Internet.

For several years Wi-Fi has been available at public hotspots, and makers of laptop computers now include a built in Wi-Fi antenna in their latest models.

Airlines such as Lufthansa, Scandinavian Air Services (SAS), All Nippon Airlines (ANA), Japan Airlines and Singapore Airlines also offer wireless Internet access in-flight.

Many airport terminals also have a similar service. (Full Story)

Limited exposure to the technology may change as laptops and mobile devices with built-in Wi-Fi become widespread, with Gartner predicting that by the end of 2005, half of laptop computers in use will have Wi-Fi capabilities.

Gartner's survey found that travelers consider in-flight Internet access less of a priority than comforts such as bigger baggage allowance, better entertainment and more personal space.

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