WiFi reshapes consumer electronics sector

WiFi makes a lot of noise when it comes to metro-WiFi and hotspots but there is another area, consumer electronics, that is being reshaped by the technology as well. ABI Research said in a report released last week that the consumer electronics sector is in the middle of a "major shift"--and key to that shift is the fact that WiFi networking is becoming an enabler for the delivery and redistribution of entertainment content in the home. ABI predicts that the total number of WiFi-enabled consumer electronics devices will grow from about 40 million shipped in 2006 to nearly 249 million in 2011.

ABI's Michael Wolf says: "From the enormous interest in online gaming, to the rapid emergence of new internet distribution channels for top-tier movie and TV content, the need for connectivity in mainstream consumer electronics is growing rapidly." The consumer WiFi market has thus far consisted mostly of routers, gateways, and adapters, but ABI Research says that as the market evolves toward digital distribution, the growth will be fueled as much by the inclusion of embedded WiFi in consumer electronics. Among the report's highlights:

* The market is led by portable gaming consoles,with Nintendo and Sony equipping their latest devices with WiFi for multiplayer and online gaming

*Microsoft's Zune media player signals the beginning of a "large scale movement" toward embedded WiFi in portable media players

* Camera vendors such as Nikon, Kodak, and Canon have already embraced WiFi in their products

* Line-powered devices--gaming consoles, DVD players, and audio receivers--are expected to see "high attach rates" for WiFi during the forecast period

"The development of a market for Wi-Fi enabled consumer electronics has been hampered by technology limitations such as power consumption," ABI analyst Philip Solis says. "But it has also been delayed by consumer electronics vendors' hesitation as they waited to see what would happen with 802.11n. With the 802.11n standard set to be ratified in a little over a year, the Wi-Fi Alliance's decision to certify solutions based on a draft 2.0 for 802.11n, and vendors' intentions to release products based on current Wi-Fi protocols, this market is set for growth."

For more on ABI Research's report on WiFi in consumer electronics:
-see ABI Research's Web site

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