The number of wireless LAN hot spots worldwide will more than double by 2005, but the services are unlikely to reach "critical mass" until three to five years from now, according to Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner.

Potential fans of hot spots, where Internet access is available to users of notebook PCs and other devices equipped with IEEE 802.11 technology, are frustrated by the limited number of hot spots available and the lack of consistency among billing systems, Dulaney says.

The report forecasts there will be about 71,000 hot spots worldwide this year, up from about 14,800 in 2002 and 1,200 in 2001. The number of hot spots will grow to about 152,000 in 2005, according to Gartner. There will be 9.3 million visitors to hot spots in 2003, up from 2.5 million in 2002, Gartner says.