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Study: Wi-Fi weaving its way into homes

More and more broadband-connected homes are embracing Wi-Fi in the United States as well as those in Europe and Asia, according to a study by a United Kingdom-based market researcher.

An estimated 50 million homes in Europe, the United States and Asia will have Wi-Fi connections by 2007, according to new data released Wednesday.

Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity, which refers to wireless local area networks that use one of several 802.11 standards, will mainly grow in broadband-connected homes.

At the end 2003, there were more than 100 million broadband connections globally, 80 percent of which were in homes, according to a study by market research firm BWCS. But the number of Wi-Fi-enabled homes was just 5 million, mainly in the United States. Global penetration levels of home wireless local area networks (LANs are expected to reach 23 percent of broadband homes by 2007, according to the report.

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The study points out that the growth of Wi-Fi home networking in the United States is driven by low-cost 802.11b technology, a wireless LAN technology that operates in the 2.4GHz frequency range with a data transmission speed of up to 11mbps, combined with the spread of high-speed, fixed-line connections. Now, the same experience is getting replicated in Japan and Korea.

According to an earlier survey by IDC, the availability of affordable wireless computing devices, low-cost wireless home connections and the rise in public hot spots are driving the use of Wi-Fi beyond the office--and especially in private residences.

The Ledbury, England-based researcher said the next phase of Wi-Fi development would be marked by convergence of computer and television set as well as other devices such as cameras and MP3 players, which can be connected to the home wireless network to share files, video clips and photographs.

The growth of home Wi-Fi will spur the demand for new services and may also drive an increase of public hot spots, as more consumers are likely to demand high-speed wireless access while away from their homes, the report noted.

"Broadband connections can offer a whole lot more than just swifter data downloads, and a brand-new market for Wi-Fi-based entertainment services is developing," Ian Cox, the report's author, said in a statement.

"We are now seeing major players such as Microsoft, Intel, Cisco and others making concerted efforts to break into the market," he said.