wifi devices researchWorldwide shipments of Wi-Fi-enabled devices will almost double year-to-year (YtY) in 2012, exceeding 1.5 billion, according to the latest data and forecast from ABI Research. Growth is widespread geographically, as well as across devices — including handsets, laptops, media tablets, printers, TVs and automotive equipment, according to ABI London.

The “connected home” is one key Wi-Fi growth area, particularly connected TVs, which are increasingly popular, ABI analysts point out. Wi-Fi as well as fixed line Internet access is being used by those enabling smart TVs, with 17 million Wi-Fi-enabled flat panel TVs shipped in 2011. That’s grown to 30 million this year, with ABI forecasting a four-fold expansion by 2017.

“Since 2009 over 9 billion Wi-Fi enabled devices have been shipped,” commented Peter Cooney, wireless connectivity practice director, “whilst growth was driven by networking in the early years the smartphone soon became the major market. Growth in the next few years will be increasingly driven by a whole host of applications in the mobile and connected home space.”

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Broadcom, Qualcomm, Media Tek, Marvell, Intel and Texas Instruments are the top six suppliers of Wi-Fi chipsets, accounting for more than 85% of global market revenue in 2011. Rapid growth in mobile handsets and laptop computers have boosted Wi-Fi chip suppliers’ revenues over the last few years, according to ABI.

Newer markets including connected TVs “will increasingly help to drive revenue going forward,” they say. Those that have done well in the smartphone market will have an advantage when it comes to supplying chips for connected TVs “as there is significant synergy between the two markets not only in wireless connectivity but also application processor requirements.”

“Wi-Fi is expected to become ubiquitous in coming years, not only to allow wireless Internet access, but mainly as consumers increasingly demand wireless connections between TVs and other devices such as smartphones and media tablets,” added Cooney. “The forthcoming Wi-Fi display specification or Miracast, will further drive Wi-Fi attach rates in the connected home as consumers embrace the technology.”

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