Wi-Fi Popular Now on Smartphones, Set to Boom

Wi-Fi, already heavily used in mobile devices such as the iPhone according to new research, is coming to a smartphone or cell phone near you.

"Wi-Fi is like chocolate," Edgar Figueroa, executive director of the Wi-Fi Alliance, told Computerworld before the start of International CTIA Wireless here. "Three-fourths of the people who have Wi-Fi on their phone use it, and half of the iPhone traffic is going through Wi-Fi, according to ABI."

ABI Research, which conducted the study, said that all the major smartphone makers were planning to include Wi-Fi in their phones, with many carriers supporting the standard because it was able to handle large files for movies and songs.

While 44% of smartphones currently have Wi-Fi, that number will increase to 90% by 2014, ABI said. Separately, ABI predicted that the number of Wi-Fi-enabled traditional mobile phones shipped would reach 141 million in 2009, and soar to 520 million by 2014.

"The surprising thing in the survey is that Wi-Fi ends up being a growth driver for the smartphone," Figueroa said, noting that users of phones with Wi-Fi say they like their phone twice as much as those who have phones without Wi-Fi.

Figueroa said carriers tend to agree that Wi-Fi is complementary to other networks, including 3G and 4G cellular. In all, about 600 million devices that incorporate Wi-Fi have shipped globally, he said.

He said the Wi-Fi Alliance has talked to 12 major carriers globally that have included Wi-Fi in their plans alongside other networks. AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S. have recognized its value as well, he noted, with AT&T allowing its subscribers to use free Wi-Fi hot spots inside of Starbucks, while T-Mobile has set up its service to help users find Wi-Fi to make free calls.

Launched today, Skype for iPhone allows iPhone owners to use the popular VoIP service, but only over Wi-Fi, protecting AT&T's revenue for calls made over its cellular network.

Because Wi-Fi is not proprietary and is based on IP, it is easy to use, which has aided adoption, Figueroa said. Its theoretical throughput is 500Mbit/sec., although many users are gratified to get over 100Mbit/sec.

Among a number of technology advancements with Wi-Fi is something called "device to device," which would allow a Wi-Fi-enabled device to connect directly to another device without the need for a router in the middle of the network pathway, Figueroa said.

For example, a user could send a picture from a Wi-Fi-ready handset to a TV display or projector with no router, or from a laptop to a local printer. Members of the alliance are targeting the unveiling of that technology next year, perhaps under a different name, he said.

Shop ▾
arrow up Amazon Shop buttons are programmatically attached to all reviews, regardless of products' final review scores. Our parent company, IDG, receives advertisement revenue for shopping activity generated by the links. Because the buttons are attached programmatically, they should not be interpreted as editorial endorsements.

Subscribe to the Best of PCWorld Newsletter