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Wi-Fi Good Enough for Metro Area Networks

Wi-Fi technology is rapidly advancing beyond the usage model of providing indoor short-range wireless Internet access for mobile computers, according to the latest wireless broadband service report from Research and Markets.

The extended range of Wi-Fi access points for indoor and outdoor applications has the capability of coverage across entire campuses, thus eliminating wiring infrastructures for other types of electronic equipment.

Applications and demand for new services will drive Wi-Fi to bring voice, data and video into the space of various offerings. Wi-Fi is evolving from a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) application to a broadband wireless service with a great deal of opportunities on a global scale.

That said, I believe that the growing application of Wi-Fi network technology is partly being driven by the poor adoption of 3G mobile service provider offerings. The small amount of unlicensed spectrum devoted to Wi-Fi has truly enabled a substantial degree of experimentation and application innovation.

It's not the best solution, but it's certainly good enough -- given the alternative approaches that attempt to leverage "walled garden" business models that use legalized anti-competitive "restraint of trade" practices as a barrier to market entry.

As Wi-Fi technology is pushed to the limits to support wireless metro area network (WMAN) needs and associated value-added services (VAS), I believe that it's time for all forward-looking policymakers to positively respond to the clear market opportunity.

National regulators must prepare to assign additional unlicensed wireless spectrum to meet the growing demand -- and thereby unlock the full market potential of wireless service innovation.

Key findings of the market study include:

- Municipal wireless deployments must expand services beyond email, Internet and data transfer to VAS and content to improve ROI and dramatically speed payback.

- Mobile devices with embedded Wi-Fi or a combo of Wi-Fi and Cellular will be used by 94.9 percent of the business by 2010.

- Revenues will reach $4.4B, $300M, $1.45B for handsets, dual mode chip-sets, and access points respectively by 2010.

- WMAN and Wi-Fi (U.S.) investments will total $80M by 2010, trailing off from previous years but reaching an aggregate amount of $1.6 billion.

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