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Wi-Fi is hardly a technology that was considered important for mobile phones even five years ago, moreover, the vast majority of cell phones that are shipped today do not support wireless LAN at all. However, in two years from now about a quarter of all handsets will feature Wi-Fi technology to connect to the Internet without using cell networks.

Mobile handsets with embedded Wi-Fi continued to experience growth in 2009 despite total handset shipment declines, reports In-Stat market tracking firm. While the 2009 Wi-Fi mobile handset growth rate of more than 20% was significantly slower than 2008’s early market monster growth, In-Stat expects that 2010 will see resumed strength with units exceeding 180 million.

While the majority of current Wi-Fi enabled handsets are smartphones, feature phone manufacturers are also beginning to incorporate this feature, providing double stimulus for Wi-Fi handset growth. The Wi-Fi attach rate will nearly triple from 2009’s rate by 2013, whereas even in 2012 approximately 25% of all mobile phones will embed wireless local area network (WLAN) controller.

“There are three primary zones of Wi-Fi handset usage: at home, at the office and on the go. In the home, while broadband penetration has increased significantly over the past several years, so too has Wi-Fi penetration. This has enabled home networks that will rely on Wi-Fi handsets for voice and to share information with other devices, such as TVs,” said Frank Dickson an In-Stat analyst.

While the enterprise was the original smartphone/Wi-Fi handset market, consumer adoption has also experienced strong growth, largely due to the success of Apple’s iPhone in the consumer market. As a result, the potential for voice over Wi-Fi is gaining popularity, as cellular/Wi-Fi phones become more pervasive and consumer familiarity with VoIP increases.

“In the office, enterprise smartphones will continue evolving to leverage VoIP’s potential, and on the go, consumers are increasingly leveraging Wi-Fi enabled handsets as they become more educated about hotspots,” said Mr. Dickson.

While the majority of respondents from In-Stat’s recent survey still access hotspots with a notebook, more than a quarter of the responses indicated accessing a public network with Wi-Fi enabled handsets.

Tags: Wi-Fi

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