The number of devices that will support 802.11n Wi-Fi is expected to explode in the coming years, according to a study from research firm In-Stat.
The study says 53 million consumer-electronics devices allowed for connectivity to wireless-N networks last year. That figure is expected to jump to 82 million next year and nearly 300 million in 2015, representing 465 percent growth over five years.
Early versions of wireless networking standards, including 802.11b and 802.11g, employed the 2.4GHz frequency band. However, 802.11n uses the 5GHz band as well. The technology, which offers more range than its predecessors, is able to reach speeds of up to 600Mbps. The data rate for 802.11g, on the other hand, is just 54Mbps.
The pervasiveness of Wi-Fi can't be underestimated. According to In-Stat, 85 percent of all e-readers will have Wi-Fi connectivity of some sort by 2013. The firm said 750 million smartphones running Wi-Fi will ship in 2013.
By then, 802.11n's dominance could be on its last leg. The technology will soon be trumped by the launch of 802.11ac. That standard, which is expected to find its way to devices starting in either 2012 or 2013, can deliver data-transfer speeds of 1Gbps and uses the 5GHz spectrum exclusively.
Speaking to CNET in an interview earlier this year, Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director for the Wi-Fi Alliance, which certifies wireless standards, said 802.11ac could be ideal for home users.
"It's a big enabler for the digital home," she said. "With 1Gbps for the raw data rate, the benchmark I hear is you can comfortably stream three lightly compressed HD videos at a time."
Even so, In-Stat doesn't believe 802.11ac will have a significant impact on the marketplace for quite some time. In a statement, Frank Dickson, vice president of Mobile Internet at In-Stat, said the "real impact [of 802.11ac] will not be felt until 2015 and beyond."
And what will that impact be? In-Stat said in a study released in February that it expects 1 billion 802.11ac-equipped devices to be in the market by 2015.