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Will Wi-Fi take over the airwaves?

As wireless home networking catches on, the climate is right for growth in the Wi-Fi market, according to a new study.

As wireless home networking catches on, the climate is right for growth in the Wi-Fi market, according to a new study.

Wi-Fi is a technology that allows devices located within a 300-foot radius to communicate without wires. Wi-Fi includes two different standards, 802.11b and 802.11a.


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Products using the 802.11b standard are already being accepted, and products using the emerging 802.11a standard are finding their way into the homes of early adopters, according to a study released Monday from In-Stat/MDR. The 802.11b standard allows data to be transferred at rates up to 11mbps and uses the 2.4GHz radio band. The 802.11a standard transmits data at up to 54mbps in the higher 5GHz frequency and is not compatible with 802.11b.

The report projected annual worldwide shipments of Wi-Fi equipment to reach 33 million units in 2006, up from 6 million expected to ship this year.

Gemma Paulo, an In-Stat/MDR analyst, said that the competing 802.11a and 802.11b standards may initially confuse the market, but the emergence of products that can support both standards will help broaden acceptance.

"The key feature that consumers want is the ability to share broadband access, and we expect that will drive growth," Paulo said.

The momentum behind the wireless technology is growing on the part of manufacturers as well, which are looking to take advantage of its increasing popularity by incorporating it into devices ranging from tablet PCs to handhelds. This greater volume of Wi-Fi products has helped drive down costs for the internal components, the report stated.

With the prices of Wi-Fi devices falling, more people are "accepting (it) as an attractive method of wirelessly sharing broadband Internet access," Paulo said.

According to In-Stat, the United States is expected to remain the largest market for wireless networking despite wide adoption rates of broadband subscribers in other countries such as South Korea.