500 Million Wi-Fi Phones To Ship In 2014 - InformationWeek

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500 Million Wi-Fi Phones To Ship In 2014

Consumer demand and higher profits are driving carriers and device makers to embrace the once-shunned wireless handset technology.

Shunned not long ago by carriers and device providers alike, Wi-Fi-capable mobile phones are becoming so popular that the Wi-Fi Alliance, the wireless technology's trade association, is predicting 500 million Wi-Fi handsets will be shipped in 2014.

Why did the market change so dramatically from carrier resistance to a stance where Wi-Fi enabled devices are welcomed? Consumer demand is one reason, but carriers also found they could sell more lucrative data contracts with Wi-Fi and the technology saves wear and tear on carrier spectrum, which is becoming more crowded almost daily.

"In the age of data-centric multimedia phones, carriers have embraced Wi-Fi technology as a way to offload traffic from licensed spectrum and improve the consumer experience," said Michael Morgan, ABI Research industry specialist. "We are seeing handset users starting to demand Wi-Fi because of its higher data rate and indoor reception benefits."

Edgar Figueroa, CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance, said, "the phenomenal growth of handsets offering Wi-Fi is no surprise."

ABI Research said 141 million Wi-Fi-capable handsets were shipped in 2009 out of a total of 580 million shipped Wi-Fi devices, including a large proportion of laptops. The market research firm said the Wi-Fi mobile handset momentum is growing rapidly -- Wi-Fi handset certification volume jumped 142% in 2009 from the previous year's figures.

And the next big thing in Wi-Fi mobile handsets is already evident in a handful of mobile phones that are equipped to handle 802.11n, the latest, most robust release of Wi-Fi. ABI Research is predicting that most Wi-Fi-capable handsets in 2012 will have 11n capability.

In addition to more extensive range coverage, 11n drains batteries less than older Wi-Fi releases. In addition, the Wi-Fi Alliance said there are improvements in multimedia quality of service and security features with 11n.

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