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Wi-Fi more addictive than coffee?

Could Wi-Fi be more addictive than coffee? With Wi-Fi chipset sales poised to reach 300 million units this year, the Wi-Fi Alliance and In-Stat think it just may be. According to Karen Hanley, senior director at the Wi-Fi Alliance, responses to a series of consumer studies conducted by the non-profit indicated that 80% of consumers would rather give up their coffee before forgoing a wireless connection. While not a reason to run to the doctor, consumers’ responses are indicative of a larger trend: Wi-Fi’s growing prevalence in the industry.

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The wireless technology’s strength in PCs, combined with growth in phones and consumer electronics, is projected to propel the industry past 700 million units in 2011, with consumer electronics and phones exceeding notebook computers in the total number of shipments.

“There is a familiarity, and it’s becoming more and more prolific and pervasive,” Hanley said.

Total shipments of Wi-Fi enabled products have experienced year-over-year growth. In 2005, 161 million units were shipped, up from 105 million in 2004. The following year they grew to 213 million and shipments in 2007 peaked at 300 million. While growth of Wi-Fi PCs remains strong, with 46% of laptops currently being Wi-Fi enabled, the areas experiencing the most growth were consumer electronics and Wi-Fi cellular phones.

“The growth of this market continues to be very strong,” said Karen Hanley, senior director for the Wi-Fi Alliance. “It continues to have quite a bright future, and the proliferation of Wi-Fi into a broader set of devices is really fueling this growth.”

According to the report, Wi-Fi connectivity was included on virtually all gaming devices and an increasing number of handsets and music players this year. Hanley said that sales of new higher-throughput products were boosted to 9% of total shipments due in large part to the June 2007 introduction of certification for products based upon 802.11n draft 2.0. She said that with more than 350 million Wi-Fi users around the world, familiarity with the technology is beginning to become more widespread.

“Wi-Fi is now in the Merriem Webster dictionary,” Hanley noted. “It is a part of our culture and continues to be a cultural phenomenon. But, as with any technology, the consumer just wants it to work. I as the consumer don’t care what’s behind the curtain. I just care that it works and I am able to work and move the data or audio quickly.”

Hope for the Wi-Fi market seems to be catching on amongst analyst firms and industry followers. Just last week, IMS research released a similar report stating that despite fixed mobile convergence’s relatively slow growth, Wi-Fi in handsets is gaining traction as a feature. Hanley also cited a study by ABI Research, which estimated that by 2011, the industry will be shipping more than 450 million Wi-Fi equipped phones per year. Most seem to agree that the market is still in its early stages, but the consensus amongst analysts is largely that this is an area to follow over the next few years.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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