WLAN will become the next prevalent connectivity technology in mass-market mobile handsets according to research by Berg Insight. The number of handsets with integrated WLAN is forecasted to grow from 27 million in 2007 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 71.5% to 400 million in 2012, corresponding to an attach rate of 25%.
WLAN will primarily be used for fast internet access in home or office networks and file transfer of for instance photos and media libraries. Mobile operators no longer consider WLAN a threat against data revenues. As flat rate plans for data access become the norm, it makes more sense for them to encourage subscribers to use a local internet connection to prevent data overload in mobile networks.
Berg Insight has a more cautious outlook for the adoption of other connectivity technologies such as near field communications (NFC) and ultra wideband (UWB) in mobile handsets.
The number of handsets with integrated NFC or FeliCa (Sony's contactless RFID integrated circuit smart card system) is forecasted to grow from 35 million in 2007 at a CAGR of 43.8% to 215 million in 2012, corresponding to an attach rate of 13%.
UWB is not expected to appear in significant volumes before 2010 and only be featured in 1% of the handsets shipped in 2012.
There is significant potential for both technologies but neither has yet become widespread enough to motivate their integration into high volume handsets. NFC is closer to achieving a breakthrough, which could be achieved as early as 2010 or 2011.