The Wi-Fi standard (802.11g) used in Apple's AirPort Extreme is reaching market in a raft of new products.

This week, 802.11g chip manufacturer Broadcom announced that over 3 million chips supporting the standard have shipped since production began in December.

The company reveals that "major" notebook computer vendors will support the standard in their products.

Apple was the first to introduce such support, with its new PowerBook products introduced in January this year. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said Apple chose 802.11g for its faster data-transfer and backward compatibility. Belkin, Linksys and Buffalo Technology are also introducing products supporting the specification.

The standard offers data-transfer speeds of up to 54Mbps, compared to the 11Mbps data rate of 802.11b-based products - such as the original AirPort. The standard is also fully compatible with 802.11b devices. However, Industry watchers voiced concern at Apple's support of an unratified standard when AirPort Extreme was introduced.

Apple's prognosis is that 802.11g will emerge as the industry standard, in preference to the 802.11a standard. 802.11a is not backward compatible, offers 54Mbps transfer speeds but over shorter distances than 'g', and requires that new Base Stations are installed on existing networks.

Broadcom's news appears to bear Apple's diagnosis out, at least at this stage: "Broadcom's implementation of the 802.11g draft specification has reached an adoption rate (measured by the number of chips sold) more than four times faster than the original adoption rate of 802.11b," said Broadcom in a statement.

Broadcom president and CEO Alan Ross said: "The technology is driving a tremendous growth cycle in the wireless LAN industry."

DigiTimes reports that analyst firm IC Insight expects shipments of 802.11 chips to grow 80 per cent in 2003, reaching 35 million units.

Two approval steps remain within the standardization process before the 802.11g standard is completed. Final approval is expected in mid-June 2003.

Adoption of the faster 'g' standard is also likely to receive a boost from the massive rollout of Wi-Fi hot spots across the globe that is unfolding this year.

France Telecom today announced its plans to extend Wi-Fi to 900 hotels across France. In the UK, Internet Exchange is setting up hot spots in high street locations, while Inspired Broadcast Networks is putting Wi-Fi into 3,000 pubs across the UK this year. Similar activity is taking place globally.