Wireless Internet
Author: William E. Halal and James Kadtke
Latest Update: Mar 15th, 2011
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Wireless Internet refers to broadband Internet access via mobile devices, such as laptops using WiFi and WiMax and 3G mobile phones. These technologies have matured rapidly, are increasingly robust, and are now approaching data rates near that of hard-wired broadband. Because they are generally cheaper and require little infrastructure, wireless Internet is growing much more rapidly in developing countries. ComputerWorld stated, "Home computers aren't the most important means of getting online. They play nowhere near the role in catalyzing digital consumption that mobile devices and Internet cafes do.” (Computer World 09/01/10). Global wireless internet reached over 300 million users in 2009, and the number is growing by almost 85% annually. Informa predicts that 2.5 billion people (30%) will soon have wireless Internet. Security, range, and incompatible standards remain problems, but technical progress could easily resolve them in a few years. (Also see Global Access)

This Forecast Has Arrived  Please note that the Selected Adoption & Forecast Data and our Expert Survey confirm that Wireless Internet reached the 30% adoption level in 2010. It will remain up for a few months to illustrate how TechCast handles arrivals and for the use of our clients. 

Selected Adoption & Forecast Data
Wireless reaching 30% of world with more than $1 trillion market
  All new laptops are now equipped for wireless, and wireless desktop computer peripherals are now so prevalent that they are replacing most hard-wired versions. Corporations are going totally wireless. (TechnologyReview 11/2/10)
 Almost 20% of mobile phones are smart and able to use wireless Internet  services (see Smart Phones). Worldwide, 600 million smart phones with Internet access were sold in 2009 (12% of all mobile phones) with a growth rate of 70%/year. Booz-Allen says 60% of European mobile phones already have Internet access. (Reuters; PhysOrg.com 2/15/10) 
 Informa predicts that by 2014 almost 2.5 billion people (about 30% of world population) will have wireless internet access. (Network World 01/04/10)
 As of 2009, broadband Internet use worldwide produced total revenue of $840 billion, which is projected to increase to over $1 trillion by 2013. (Plunkett Research News 2010).

Event Being Forecast: Wireless systems like WiFi, WiMax, and smart phones are used by 30% of people to access the Internet
Forecast Data Analysis
    Mean Std Dev N (# Experts)
Most Likely Year 2010 2 80
Market Size (1-10) 6.1 2.0
Confidence (%) 84 9.1
Frequency Distributions
 Most Likely Year Market Size (1-10) Confidence (%)

PROS: Trends Driving this Event CONS: Obstacles Opposing this Event
TECHNICAL ADVANCES Some wireless technologies operate across a wide spectrum at low power to avoid intruding on other channels, with transmissions aggregated into coherent messages at the receiver. Others use "cognitive radio" designs that search for unused spectrum. The result is to convert the electromagnetic spectrum from a scarce resource into an abundant resource. 
• Mobile network operators in developed regions are expecting a tenfold increase in wireless traffic by 2015, as data rapidly overtakes voice (ITU/ICT Newslog 12/02/08). 
• Verizon released its 4G network running on the former TV spectrum to provide 100 million users wirth wireless service for mobile phones, cars, PCs, TVs, and other appliances (TechnologyReview 4/19/10).
• The US Federal Communications Commission released the spectrum used by TV broadcasts for other purposes, and so companies are scrambling to fill this "white space" between TV channels. Cognitive radio (see above) is being used to find unused spectrum, and commercial applications will be out soon to create a new "wireless revolution." (TechnologyReview 11/14/08) 
• A Very High Throughput Study Group composed of Intel, Nortel, Motorola, and other companies is bringing out Wi-Fi speeds of 1 gigabit/second. (NetworkWorld 09/15/08)
• The next generation - “WiMax” – runs at over 70 Mbs, covers a large city, and could soon match other forms of broadband in cost.  A version of wireless - xMax - uses 1000 times less power than WiMax. A LAN using xMax could operate for years on a watch battery. (TechWorld 11/40/5)
•  To overcome gaps between different wireless services, carriers are using systems that automatically switch to the best service available. NSA and DARPA are developing intelligent software to optimize connections.
• EvDO may surpass WiFi because it can operate over cell networks to provide seamless coverage. Verizon is introducing EvDO because the Company thinks EvDO could jumpstart the industry all over again.”
•  Ultrawideband operates at 1 GBS, 20 times the speed of WiFi.
• Nokia is developing "adaptive beam forming" antennas that focus signals at the mobile device, rather than spraying it in all directions.  The Quantenna company uses 4 antennas to form a more powerful radio beam capable of transmitting 1 Gbps, faster than most forms of broadband. (TechnologyReview 2/18/09)  
• The terahertz radiation band (100 gigahertz to 10 terahertz) is being developed to improve wireless communications by a factor of 1000, downloading movies in seconds. Batelle demonstrated transmission rates of 10 GPS, comparable to fiber optic speeds. One expert said "If you want very high transmission rates you have to use terahertz frequencies." (New Scientist 3/19/08; TechnologyReview 10/3/08)
• "Optical wireless technology" using infrared light can overcome the bandwidth and security limitations of radio wireless. The same LEDs that are now replacing incandescent light bulbs would transmit signals that permeate a room to carry information at 1 Gbs. "This probably is the next generation wireless," said an expert.  (TechnologyReview 2/11/10)
• Intel has developed a system for sending power to any device using wireless technology safely and efficiently. An Intel executive called it "potentially world changing."  ([email protected] 08/21/08)
• Google and other large companies are deploying a WiMax network that is expected to radically change Internet usage by making most computer applications portable. Scenna Puresh, a spokesperson for the WiMax Forum, said
"We expect WiMax to become a mass market technology in 2-3 years." (PhysOrg 5/9/08) 
• Sony is putting wireless capability is a broad range of its products besides computers, including TVs, stereos, and entertainment centers. (Highbeam Research 03/08 )
• FedEx moved its 50,000 person delivery system to real-time wireless package tracking in 2006. (Highbeam Research 12/20/06)
• The Government Accountability Office confirms that the price of wireless service is falling and innovation is rising. "This illustrates that consumers are getting more wireless services for lower costs," the GAO said. (Portfolio.com 08/26/10) 
TECHNICAL PROBLEMS Wireless is plagued by slow speeds, clashing standards, spotty coverage, small screens, limited storage, and security problems. A particular problem is that wireless devices can only be used on the network that sells the device.

SECURITY  Wireless networks pose significant security problems because their signals can be easily intercepted, making them vulnerable to a wide range of cyber attacks or identity theft, and many users are unaware of these increased risks.

DIFFICULTY While wireless networks for the home can now be purchased for under $100, they are still a challenge to set up and manage properly.  "The wireless category has never made itself inviting to the consumer,” said Simon Fleming-Wood, a senior director for marketing at Cisco, which owns the Linksys brand of home networking equipment. “When you shop for networking products, you feel like you’re in the plumbing aisle of a home improvement store."(NY Times 08/25/10)

PRICING  Pricing models for different mobile internet providers can vary significantly, meaning that some users can pay inordinately high prices for MB transfer allotments, and the pricing schemes are often not easily understood.
COST AND FAILURES It will cost $50-100 billion to create a wireless infrastructure for the U.S . $230 M was spent in '06 and $460 M in '07 by cities that rushed to build wireless networks for their citizens, and many are failing due to cost overuns and technical problems. "They are the monorails of this decade," said Anthony Townsend of the Institute for the Future. "The wrong technology, totally overpromised, and completely undelivered." (TechnologyReview 5/22/07)
MANY DO NOT WANT INTERNET PHONES The Yankee Group found that 54% of Americans have no interest in receiving web services on their wireless phones.
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Public Comments
(Edited and displayed in 1-2 days)
Art Shostak (3/26/2008 5:28:22 PM)
While wi-fi falters on the city-wide installation effort, wi-max should succeed, and "hot spots" are becoming commonplace.This is the right techology at the right time.
Stephen Wood (3/16/2009 5:12:04 PM)
This answer depends entirely on whether you are counting video traffic. Video dramatically outweighs anything else. If it is not counted, we are there today. If it is counted, we are unlikely to reach the 30% point with wireless.
[email protected] (7/14/2009 8:47:35 AM)
Hi, thanks for the information, the article is very useful, I Think the issue about the frecuencies for this systems could be a compplement for this report, because is an very important matter in the world. Best regards
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