Viva La Wi-Fi!

Last year saw the resurgence of Wi-Fi hotspots as more and more handsets incorporated the technology, and cellular network operators and wired ISPs signed deals or bought access to Wi-Fi networks. But while 2009 may have brought back Wi-Fi around the town, I think this year we’ll increasingly see Wi-Fi being used inside the home as a result of faster home broadband networks. A slew of broadband-enabled devices — from DVD players to music systems — are coming that use Wi-FiĀ  to connect to the web, as is a new Direct Wi-Fi standard that will enable consumers to stream their media as well as easily get their video and pictures off their gadgets without ever hopping on the public Internet.

For proof, see the Wi-Fi hype that will be on display at this week’s Consumer Electronics Trade Show; or better yet, take a peek at the chart below showing how Wall Street is valuing the companies that develop Wi-Fi chips. I included Intel (s Intc) and Qualcomm (s qcom), both of which are benefiting from the mobile computing and mobile phone popularity as reference points. Clearly the belief in Wi-Fi goes beyond netbooks and handsets.

And the availability of personal hotspots such as the Mi-Fi and the rise of the Direct Wi-Fi standard make Atheros (s athr), Broadcom (s brcm) and Marvell (s mrvl) big winners. Also keep an eye on Taiwanese Wi-Fi chip maker Ralink Technology, as well as a host of startups using Wi-Fi around the home, from Quantenna and Celeno to the likes of Sonos and Eye-Fi, which use Wi-Fi to wirelessly transport content.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Adventures in Librarianship.