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Wi-Fi's success relies on ubiquity

Current adoption of the wireless technology will help ensure its continued existence in light of emergence of cellular broadband, experts say.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

Wi-Fi's ubiquity will see the continued success of the wireless technology, said the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Its executive director, Edgar Figueroa, said in an interview with ZDNet Asia, Wi-Fi's widespread adoption worldwide has helped make it a standard mode of accessing broadband.

Wi-Fi's success relies on its current take up, in some 2 billion devices globally and the hundreds of thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots, according to Figueroa.

Figueroa was commenting on the interest in cellular broadband technologies such as LTE (long term evolution) and 3G during last week's CommunicAsia show.

"Wi-Fi is experiencing strong momentum, and the industry is growing at a fast pace... In 2008, our industry shipped between 387 million and 450 million units. The industry will grow to [exceed] 650 million to [hit] 1 billion shipments in 2011 alone," said Figueroa.

In an earlier interview, an In-Stat analyst said cellular broadband's ability to provide blanket coverage where Wi-Fi cannot, could "kill" the latter eventually. He also pointed to a trend of consumers and business users moving over to cellular broadband, from Wi-Fi options.

Cellular broadband not ready to eclipse Wi-Fi
Perhaps the biggest barrier against cellular broadband wrestling users away from Wi-Fi right now is network capacity, according to an ABI Research analyst.

Philip Solis, principal analyst, Mobile Broadband at ABI Research, told ZDNet Asia he sees a potential bottleneck in current 3G network capacity, saying operators may not be able to support the current load of broadband users--including wired broadband--if everyone were to hop onto the cellular networks now.

The expected capacity issues are what are fueling industry interest in 4G technologies such as LTE, Solis added.

Similar to Figueroa's point on ubiquity, Solis said Wi-Fi capability, being more commonly found in devices will help ensure its staying power in the world of connectivity choices. Wi-Fi and wireless WAN technologies, which include 4G and WiMax connectivity, are not able to replace each other, he insisted.

Last week, the Singapore government announced a boost to local free Wi-Fi scheme, Wireless@SG. A government official said the service would complement, not compete with cellular broadband, because the free service would only be able to provide "best effort" service, leaving opportunity for paid services such as cellular broadband to fill the uptime void.

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