Experts Say Runway Is Clearing for Wi-Fi Takeoff

A confluence of more powerful technology, better security and wider availability will spur rapid adoption of Wi-Fi devices, according to industry experts.

The cabin crew asks kindly that all passengers remain seated throughout the flight and please refrain at all times from turning off their wireless devices.

Such seamless connectivity will be part of the average consumer experience for many travelers in the near future if you believe what some proponents of the Wi-Fi wireless networking industry are saying.

Delivering a keynote at the Ziff Davis Wireless Solutions Virtual Tradeshow 2005 on Wednesday, Wi-Fi advocate David Cohen predicted that distribution of more powerful networking gear, larger numbers of interoperable devices and better security measures will lead to widespread adoption of the technology.

Cohen, who is co-founder of the Wi-Fi Alliance industry group and a marketing executive at chipmaker Broadcom Corp., said that continued advancement of the 802.11 wireless standard and a fleet of smarter products, are fueling a new wave of growth in the unwired world.

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Perhaps the most provocative evidence of that adoption, he said, is the work of Boeing division Connexion and others to bring Wi-Fi onto airplanes, including flights by Lufthansa and Korean Airlines.

"Its pretty amazing to think that airlines are telling us to turn on our wireless devices now, instead of asking us to turn them off in years past," said Cohen.

"If your world isnt wireless already, it will be soon, as better (Wi-Fi) products come to market, security gets better, networks get easier to set up, and pricing comes into affordable levels."

For its part, the Wi-Fi Alliance is a non-profit association dedicated to promoting use of such wireless LANs (WLANs).

Among the 200 companies involved in the organization are sizeable technology vendors including Broadcom, Cisco Systems Inc., Dell Inc., Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp, Nokia Corp. and Sony Corp.

According to Dallas-based researchers Parks Association, a majority 52 percent of all Internet-connected U.S. homes already use some form of Wi-Fi networking technology, and Cohen said that number should increase dramatically over the next three years.

One of the primary catalysts for the projected industry growth, he said, will be the work that Wi-Fi Alliance is doing to push forward 802.11.

The latest version of the standard being advanced by the organization is 802.11n, which promises to significantly improve network data speed and reliability, in addition to increasing the physical range of Wi-Fi access points.

The Wi-Fi Alliance is projecting that 802.11n could push wireless data processing speeds above 540MB per second, or capable of handling over ten times more data than todays widely used 802.11g technologies.

By late 2006 or early 2007, said Cohen, 802.11n technology should be available widely enough so that most Wi-Fi users in the U.S. and major markets in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region can benefit from the improved performance.

As part of the bandwidth-related increase promised by the new technologies, Cohen said that Wi-Fi users will soon be able to use larger numbers of multimedia applications that depend on the increased data rates to run effectively, such as wireless video broadcasting services.

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