Wi-Fi Alliance introduces new product finder tool as device shipments set to top 10B

Just as Wi-Fi device shipments are poised to top the 10 billion mark this month, the Wi-Fi Alliance is introducing a tool to make it easier for consumers to find Wi-Fi Certified products on its website.

ABI Research, which has tracked Wi-Fi shipments since the industry's inception, indicates that at the end of 2014, 9.98 billion Wi-Fi devices had been sold worldwide and that about 4.5 billion W-Fi products are in use today.

Given that 6.5 million Wi-Fi certified devices are shipping every day, the industry will hit that 10 billion mark before the month is over, according to Kelly Davis-Felner, vice president of marketing for the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Along with that milestone, the Wi-Fi Alliance is launching the product-finder tool on its website. For a long time, the site has offered somebody with "a lot of patience" to pull down data about certified products, but "this is much, much more user friendly," David-Felner told FierceWirelessTech.

Consumers can search by brand, product type or other capabilities. For example, if you want to find mobile phones with Passpoint or mobile phones with the latest version of Wi-Fi, the new tool will enable that, she said.

More than 23,000 products have completed Wi-Fi certification since March 2000, and new product categories in automotive, smart home and wearables have begun to emerge in the product certification traffic, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance.  

"We've watched the Wi-Fi industry continue to grow at an impressive pace throughout its history, and it's not showing any signs of slowing down," said ABI Research Director Phil Solis in a press release. "We expect strong growth to continue, because of the many Wi-Fi technology advancements ahead and new categories such as automotive, smart home, and industrial IoT, where Wi-Fi will play a big role."

Last year saw cable companies in particular pursue an aggressive expansion of their Wi-Fi networks, finishing the year with more than 9 million hotspots across the U.S., led by Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA).

Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint was launched in 2012 to streamline network access in hotspots and eliminate the need for users to find and authenticate a network each time they connect, providing a more cellular-like experience. At the time, Passpoint was largely envisioned as a mobile data offload type of service, but it's been interesting to watch the cable companies become more and more aggressive in adopting Passpoint, Davis-Felner said.

"I think that's because it's a really big opportunity for cable providers," she said. For mobile service providers, monetization is an issue, and while she said Wi-Fi represents a great business value for them, it's more complex due to concerns about cannibalization, pricing and making sure people don't think Wi-Fi should just be free.

For cable companies, however, "it's all upside," she said. "It's all about bringing a whole new mobility business to life, so it makes a ton of sense to me. And yet, I have to admit it took me by surprise just as much as it may have taken others. I do think 2014 was a really big year and I think you'll see it continue into 2015."

For more:
- see the press release

Year in Review: Pay-TV's 2014 dominated by AT&T, Comcast mergers and online video

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Article updated Jan. 5 to reflect revised daily Wi-Fi shipment figures from the Wi-Fi Alliance.