Two separate analyst reports indicate that 802.11 (Wi-Fi)-enabled devices are on a major growth spurt, with interest in the ‘n’ version rising quickly.

In a report announced mid-December, In-Stat predicted that Wi-Fi-enabled entertainment device shipments would increase from 108.8 million in 2009 to 177.3 million in 2013. And yesterday, ABI Research reported that 802.11n in Wi-Fi enabled smartphones would increase from less than 1 percent in 2009 to 87 percent in 2014.

The latest amendment to the wireless networking standard, IEEE 802.11n significantly increases the maximum raw data throughput, enabling WiFi to transmit even HD video.
 
“Driven by chip-makers more than by handset vendors, 802.11n is making its official debut in higher-end smartphones in 2010,” ABI Research industry analyst Michael Morgan said, in a statement.

According to Morgan, the market is reaching a “tipping point,” with 50 percent of Wi-Fi access points now using 11n. Awareness of the standard’s capabilities is growing, too, but will take a few years.
 
“At first, 802.11n-enabled handsets will not offer MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) or some of 11n’s more advanced enhancements. So (handset) users won’t see the same degree of improvement that they would with a laptop or netbook,” Morgan stated. “The full power of the protocol won’t be available in most handsets until 2014 or later.”

As a whole, the 802.11 family of standards has proved immensely popular. “It’s the most broadly used telecommunications technology in the world, behind only wired Ethernet currently,” independent consultant Victor Blake said.

“Anyone can do it,” Blake added. “It’s infrastructure-less and supports p2p natively.”

Millions of Cablevision customers use the provider’s free Optimum Wi-Fi, which is available at numerous New York City area locations, including train stations and Madison Square Garden. (For more, click here.)
 
According to ABI Research’s new report, it costs manufacturers virtually no more to include 802.11n in handsets alongside the current “b” and “g” protocols. And those older technologies won’t be going away, because handsets will need to work in the widest possible range of connectivity environments.

The same applies to frequencies: 802.11n works best in the 5 GHz band, while b and g are restricted to 2.4 GHz.

Research from InStat found that gaming devices are moving toward 802.11n.

According to InStat, for the past several years all gaming consoles have had Wi-Fi embedded, which is a trend that will continue throughout the forecast period. The most significant variance in handhelds will be the type of Wi-Fi. Beginning in 2010, these devices will begin shipping with 802.11n, while previously all devices were being shipped with 802.11b.   

-Linda Hardesty

The Daily

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