By Yukari Iwatani
ATLANTA, June 3 (Reuters) - The vice chairman of high-speed
wireless Internet firm Cometa Networks on Tuesday said he
expects to see the industry exploding by 2008, with more than
50 million users and double that many compatible devices.
"There has never been penetration that has grown that fast
in a consumer electronics product except for the handheld 900
megahertz (cordless) phone that all of us have in our homes,"
said Larry Brilliant at a Wi-Fi session at the Supercomm
communications conference here.
Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity, is an ultra high-speed
wireless Internet connection usually available within a radius
of a few hundred feet of a transmitter known as a hot spot or
Laptop computers or other portable devices with Wi-Fi cards
tap into the wireless access points, which are physically
connected to high-speed networks.
The emerging technology presents a challenge to traditional
cellular networks, which are more prevalent but offer Internet
access at slower speeds.
Cometa Networks is a partnership of AT&T Corp.
International Business Machines Corp.
, Intel Corp.
. and two venture firms that aims to blanket the
country with hot spots and provide ubiquitous Wi-Fi access,
which it plans to wholesale to Internet service providers and
Brilliant, citing industry studies, said he expects 96
percent of corporate laptops and 75 percent of handheld
computers to be Wi-Fi compatible by 2007.
Including laptops, handhelds, wearable devices and vehicles
such as cars, planes and buses, over 100 million devices will
be Wi-Fi enabled by 2008, he said.
Brilliant also said he believes there will be more than 10
million access points by 2008, with about half of those in
Cometa itself plans to install 5,000 hot spots by Feb. 2004
in the top 25 markets and 20,000 hot spots in 50 of the largest
U.S. markets by 2005, he said.
Brilliant said the industry is only in its initial phase,
and he expects consolidation to occur in the next phase as the
technology becomes more mainstream and companies gain a better
understanding of how consumers and businesses want to use it.
He also said subscription services would likely be more
popular with customers, as opposed to a fee per day, per hour,
or per session.
"My expectation is that ... a high percentage of people
having once experienced the oxygen of broadband wireless will
go everywhere and want it all-you-can-eat, all the time,
everywhere, and I don't think any other business model will
make it," he said.
Copyright 2003, Reuters News Service
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