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Although 802.11n Wi-Fi technology was found in less than 1% of Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones last year, in 2014 at least 87% of Wi-Fi-capable smartphones will feature this latest of the 802.11 protocols, according to ABI Research. However, users of these phones should not expect laptop-like performance, at least not initially.

“Driven by chip-makers more than by handset vendors, 802.11n is making its official debut in higher-end smartphones in 2010. 802.11n is arriving in the handset just at the right time. We had to wait for consumers to switch over to 802.11n access points, and we’re just now reaching that tipping point. Something like 50% of the Wi-Fi access points on offer are now 11n. Consumers are becoming aware of what it can do,” said ABI Research industry analyst Michael Morgan.

It costs manufacturers virtually no more to include 802.11n in handsets alongside the current “b” and “g” protocols. And those older technologies will 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 5GHz band, while b and g are restricted to 2.4GHz. Hence, it is important for vendors to continue offering all these protocols and if possible selectable frequency capabilities for some time to come.

 “At first, 802.11n-enabled handsets will not offer MIMO or some of 11n’s more advanced enhancements. So users won’t see the same degree of improvement that they would with a laptop or netbook. While 802.11n will start to penetrate mid- and lower-end smartphones from about 2012 on, the full power of the protocol won’t be available in most handsets until 2014 or later,” added Mr. Morgan.

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