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WiFi goes home

Broadband users are driving the WLAN market, says Linksys

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The UK is now taking around half a million Wi-Fi devices a year, with most of them going into the residential market, says Linksys marketing director Mike Wagner.

"The home market is driving wireless now, it's growing 70% year on year while the business market is flat," he says. "It will change when business starts spending again - they've been waiting for the 802.11g standard to be ratified. Schools too are a huge market, and they're also waiting for 11g."

He warns that home Wi-Fi will hit the nascent Wi-Fi hotspot market, because most current pricing models are aimed solely at business users. Hotspot operators "still have to figure out roaming and a lower cost of daily usage - £5 a day is the right number," he says.

Linksys is well known for its routers, which are designed to connect a home LAN to broadband. Wagner says that its shipments of wireless-capable routers exceeded wired-only routers last September. "It's now 2:1 and we expect it to reach 4:1," he says.

He adds that home users are also leading the acceptance of high-speed Wi-Fi. Linksys introduced a number of G products which anticipated the 54Mbps 802.11g standard. Once the standard is fully ratified there will be firmware upgrades for these to 11g, but Wagner says that in the meantime, many home users have been happy to buy the non-standard versions.

"The home market will pick up new technology as long as it has a compelling value, but business won't buy it because it's not ratified," he says.

His comments came as Linksys launched a series of Wi-Fi multimedia products aimed squarely at home LANs. "The wireless market has moved over the last 12 months from data only to data plus content plus entertainment," he says.

The new products include a £69 wired-to-wireless bridge for connecting PS2 and Xbox games consoles to Wi-Fi, a £129 Wi-Fi camera with its own built-in Webserver, and a digital media adapter for TV and hi-fi use.

The media adapter uses 802.11b to stream audio from a PC to a hi-fi or still images to a TV. A forthcoming 11g version will support streaming video.

Wagner says that Linksys has now taken over from Cisco as the top Wi-Fi vendor. He adds that Cisco's acquisition of Linksys will not change either company's market strategy, and will allow Linksys designers to better integrate their routers with the Cisco headend technology used by many ADSL and cable modem providers. ®

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