802.11n, WiFi Direct to broaden handset capabilities

LAS VEGAS--Faster, more capable WiFi is poised to pop up in a growing number of smartphones, according to the WiFi Alliance. The association said that it certified 10 handsets so far for the faster 802.11n connection technology, and also touted its progress on the WiFi Direct initiative, which is intended to foster peer-to-peer sharing among WiFi-enabled devices.

According to Sarah Morris, senior marketing manager for the WiFi Alliance, WiFi will be nearly ubiquitous in smartphones within four years.

"Last year about 140 million handsets were sold with WiFi in them. That's a quarter of all WiFi devices shipped," said Morris. Referencing forecasts from ABI Research, Morris noted that 500 million handsets a year are expected to ship with WiFi in 2014. "We're seeing and certifying both feature phones and smartphones. But in particular, probably half of the smartphone models shipping now already have WiFi, and we estimate 90 percent of those will have WiFi by 2014. So the uptake is going to be huge," said Morris.

"We've certified 500 different handset models with WiFi in them, and probably half of them were last year. So, this market has really exploded," she added.

The first 802.11n phones were certified by the alliance last fall and are designed to offer faster speeds, more overall range and better performance at the network's edge than what is offered by older 802.11 b/g models. Though 802.11n speed and coverage vary depending upon implementation in a device, the alliance said that generally 802.11n devices should deliver about five times the data rate and up to twice the range of older WiFi standards

"802.11n technology is going to be the predominant WiFi technology by 2012," Morris said.

Of the 10 802.11n models certified by the alliance, four are from LG and six are from Samsung.

The WiFi Alliance also expects the first certified WiFi Direct products to be introduced later this year. WiFi Direct, a software upgrade to be available this year, enables two or more devices to communicate with each other with no need for a WiFi network, access point or Internet connection. The application will rival Bluetooth in that it will enable devices equipped with WiFi to share files and stream media. Handsets will thus be able to link to laptops, cameras, media players and much more.

WiFi Direct software will operate on 802.11 b/g and 802.11n devices, but it will be likely be up to individual manufacturers to offer downloads of the new app for use on older devices.

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