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Early Adopters Eager for Wi-Fi Mobile Phones

A recent survey of U.S. early adopters by In-Stat found that almost half of those respondents planning to replace their current mobile phones want Wi-Fi capability built-in to their new handset.

To meet the growing demand, there is an avalanche of dual-mode phones in the pipeline. By the end of this year, the Wi-Fi Alliance will have certified more than 100 different models of combination Wi-Fi and cellular phones.

"In the years ahead, dual-mode VoIP-capable phone systems will have increasing competition from other technologies, like femtocells for cellular coverage, but widespread Wi-Fi deployment and the variety of Wi-Fi/cellular handsets offers Wi-Fi/Cellular based systems a significant head-start in the market," says Allen Nogee, In-Stat Principal Analyst. "Other technologies, such as WiMAX and Ultra Wideband, are also poised to enter the handset market, but Wi-Fi fills a unique niche that WiMAX and UWB cannot match."

I believe that most of the gadget geeks who will be the first to use these new dual-mode devices will anticipate savings related to long-distance calling or conserving/reducing minutes on their mobile phone service plan. Perhaps there will be other expected benefits, such as improved in-home coverage and less dropped calls, but that appears to be the primary motivation.

Recent research by In-Stat found the following:

- Phones supporting voice over Wi-Fi are limited in numbers today but will exceed 100 models by year end.

- VoIP will be big; the number of Wi-Fi/cellular phones shipped incorporating some form of SIP voice support is forecasted to exceed 50 million by 2011.

- Many of the issues with early Wi-Fi/Cellular handsets, such as limited battery life, will be resolved in models released during 2007.

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