WiFi: Making Everyone a Communications Company
As cellular was following its natural and political evolution, a new technology called WiFi was emerging from the edges in the homes of consumers and offices of small businesses. The killer aspect of WiFi was that it used the unlicensed part of the airwaves. This meant that anyone could plug in a WiFi access point and have broadband up and running within 150 feet. The ease of use and elimination of wires made WiFi an instant hit, with over 178,000 hot spots globally as of 2007.6 When WiFi chipsets became standard in new laptops and many popular destinations incorporated hot spots, WiFi really took off. Now WiFi is even used to carry Internet voice (or voice over IP) for free as an alternative to fixed-line or cellular phone calls. Figure 1.5 shows the incredible growth of WiFi devices.
Yet, as with 1G cellular, very few analysts saw the long-term promise of WiFi in its early stages. In fact, what analysts thought was a $200 million market before 2000 quickly became a $2 billion plus market for WiFi-related equipment and services by 2004.8