Advances in component integration and power management by chip-makers should bring 802.11 wireless networking to many handheld devices this spring and even to some cell phones by year-end. Wireless chip-maker Broadcom is shipping an 802.11b radio, AirForce One, that packs more than 100 Wi-Fi components onto a tiny CMOS chip. Air-Force One draws 70 to 80 percent less power during operation and up to 97 percent less power in sleep mode than current multichip solutions, says Jeff Abramowitz, Broadcom's senior director of wireless LAN in Irvine, California.
Priced even lower than legacy solutions, highly integrated chips make built-in Wi-Fi viable for all but the lowest-priced PDAs, says Allen Nogee, principal analyst for research firm In-Stat/MDR in Scottsdale, Arizona. Besides PDAs, consumer electronics vendors and entrepreneurs are considering Wi-Fi in digital cameras, video cameras, MP3 players and gaming devices, says Abramowitz.
Wi-Fi is further off for cell phones because of their longer product life cycles. But in addition to hot-spot access, says Nogee, Wi-Fi may improve cell phone reception in large buildings by providing a broader band for voice and data packets to travel.