Voice Over WiFi Adoption Soaring

Demand for Wi-Fi VoIP handsets is growing at a healthy pace and the use of dual-mode WiFi/cellular handsets is expected to rise dramatically, reports Infonetics Research.

Demand for Wi-Fi VoIP handsets is growing at a healthy pace as enterprises steadily continue to deploy voice over wireless LANs (VoWLAN), according to a study by Infonetics Research.

The study, titled “Wi-Fi Phones Annual Worldwide Market Size and Forecast,” reports that sales of Wi-Fi VoIP handsets reached $45 million in 2004 — or a total of 113,000 units — and that strong growth will continue through 2009.

Wi-Fi/cellular handset revenue hit $6.6 million in 2004, and units totaled more than 8,000, the report states, even though dual mode units were not commercially available until the fourth quarter of the year. The number of deployed dual mode devicess is projected to grow dramatically — to about $3 billion worldwide by 2009 — as enterprises take advantage of the opportunity to offer employees flexible mobile access over different forms of wireless networks.

“Wi-Fi capability will eventually become a common feature in cell phones, just as it is becoming standard in laptops today, giving mobile operators a big opportunity with Wi-Fi voice,” wrote Infonetics analyst and report author Richard Webb in a press release.

“But voice over wireless Internet devices have the potential to be a hugely disruptive technology, too. One big factor is the low cost of calling, especially long distance, overseas, and during peak hours. The traditional model of time and distance-based pricing for voice calls will be eroded by VoIP, and as VoIP goes wireless, this will present a challenge not only to fixed line operators, but to mobile operators as well.”

“There are technical issues to be worked through before wireless Internet calling becomes viable commercially, such as quality of service (QoS), roaming across different wireless platforms, and also the relatively short range of Wi-Fi signals,” Webb continued. “But with vendors currently working towards standards to address these challenges, it is likely we will be at the foot of the adoption bell-curve by mid-2006.”