The Wi-Fi equipment market is expected to see more than 9 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2011 to 2016, with the enterprise segment contributing the bulk of the growth at more than 21 percent CAGR. “In volume shipment terms, the consumer segment is forecast to see more than 112 million units by 2016, representing more than 63 percent growth over 2010,” says Peter Cooney, Semiconductors Practice Director at ABI Research.

The growth rate of the Wi-Fi equipment market (which includes access points, routers, gateways, wireless controller and NICs such as PCI adapters, PC cards and USB adapters) was slow in 2009 due to the unhealthy economy. However, the market saw strong growth in the last two quarters of 2010.

Adoption of 802.11n products, including upgrades, has increased in tempo from 2010 to 2011. A major factor is the rising demand for mobile Internet access, with greater speed and bandwidth leading to the proliferation of hotspots in many countries, especially in major cities. This global trend should continue until 2015, says Research Associate Khin Sandi Lynn.

“Netgear and D-Link have emerged as serious competitors,” she notes, “with TP-Link establishing a foothold in the consumer segment and becoming an emergent force in the Chinese market, posing a threat to market leaders such as Cisco and Aruba. Nevertheless, Cisco, the incumbent, remains an established leader in the enterprise segment.”

In the consumer segment competition will intensify and we will see greater pricing pressures for products such as USB adapters. On the other hand, greater demand for tablets, netbooks and laptops with built-in Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth capability don’t necessarily translate to higher demand for portable wireless products such as PCI and USB adapters.

With the rising number of hotspots sprouting up in major cities, the demand for enterprise equipment will increase, rather than demand for consumer wireless adapters. Nonetheless, both market segments will grow overall due to increased global demand.