Global shipments of built-in car Wi-Fi systems are set to soar, according to research firm iSuppli Corp., as auto makers increasingly view wireless connectivity as a "key competitive differentiator."
Worldwide automotive original equipment manufacturer shipments of Wi-Fi systems are expected to rise to 7.2 million units in 2017, up dramatically from just 174,000 this year, iSuppli said.
"Wi-Fi in the car is a hot topic these days, with major OEMs noticeably incorporating it into new-model releases," said iSuppli analyst Stacey Oh. "Whereas Wi-Fi was an aftermarket accessory in the past, OEMs now are touting it as a key offering."
For example, Ford Motor Co. (F) it turning its vehicles into Wi-Fi hot spots with the next generation of its Sync in-car connectivity system. MyFord is able to incorporate in-car Wi-Fi connectivity, powered by any customer's existing USB mobile broadband modem.
Meanwhile, European OEMs are taking a different route, according to iSuppli. Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (MRVL) and Harman International Industries Inc. (HAR) in August announced integrated Wi-Fi connectivity via Marvell Mobile Hotspot technology, with the 2010 Audi A8 as the first vehicle on the market to feature the factory-installed mobile hotspot.
-By John Kell, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2480; email@example.com