With Wi-Fi functionality becoming a standard feature in a host of consumer-electronic devices, from TVs to in-car entertainment systems, recent IHS iSuppli research notes shipments of wireless local area network (WLAN) chipsets will double this year alone.

Shipments of WLAN chipsets, mainly Wi-Fi-compatible devices, are projected to reach 738.9 million units this year, up more than 100 percent from 2010 (366.8 million units). That number, IHS iSuppli predicts, will grow to more than 1 billion units next year and more than 2 billion units by 2014.

“Wireless connectivity has become a must-have item in electronic devices in the computer, consumer, communications and automotive markets,” says Jagdish Rebello, senior director and principal analyst for consumer and communication electronics at IHS in a statement. “These days, an electronic product not capable of communicating or accessing content at any time or in any place is regarded by consumers as deficient. This wireless revolution is contributing to a global boom in demand for Wi-Fi chipsets.”

(Editor’s note: for more on the future of WLANs and advanced wireless technology, read the upcoming March issue of Communications Technology magazine.”

WLAN chipsets can be found in both standalone solutions and embedded devices. The standalone category includes devices such as point/bridge routers; the embedded category comprises a broad range of electronic devices, including laptops, mobile handsets, tablets, high-definition TVs, portable media players, printers, cameras, camcorders, DVD and Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, personal navigation devices and high-end automotive head units.?

While WLAN chipsets mainly are based on the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard, other connectivity technologies are also making significant inroads into the daily lives of consumers. For instance, there’s the Wireless Personal Area Networking (WPAN) segment, which encompasses disparate technologies like Bluetooth and Near Field Communications. In both the WLAN and WPAN technologies, radio waves transmit and exchange data over short distances between devices, enhancing their mobility and ease of use.?

Another connectivity technology, Zigbee, is trying to gain momentum in the home automation and smart utility monitoring applications for residential and commercial building environments. Hopes are being pinned on Zigbee to achieve traction in applications like the heating, cooling and lighting of living spaces, as well as the monitoring of gas, water and electrical utilities.?

“As Wi-Fi increasingly develops into a standard wireless networking interface for innumerable devices, the easy interconnection capabilities inherent in the technology will open the door for an even greater range of consumer electronic devices to be seamlessly connected and networked,” Rebello adds. “In turn, significant new business opportunities can be expected to emerge for the silicon suppliers, consumer electronics manufacturers and communication service providers operating in the WLAN space.”

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