Wireless fidelity, which techies call Wi-Fi, is catching on fast. And PCTEL (PCTI), a little- known developer of wireless software, is a pivotal player. Its software lets a PC connect to the Net from a house, a hotel, a Starbucks (SBUX) coffee shop, or a conference room -- much like a cell phone. Wi-Fi-equipped computers send and receive data fast -- anywhere within the range of an axis point of usually 300 feet. "PCTEL has the software that makes Wi-Fi easy to use and cheap to deploy," says Wes Cummins of B. Riley Research, who rates the stock a buy. It has zoomed from 4 in October to 9 on Mar. 26, as pros got clued in to Wi-Fi. "Our software lets users move freely from one wireless network to another," says CEO Martin Singer. PCTEL sells its products -- such as the Segue line, which simplifies Net access -- to PC makers such as Dell Computer (DELL). Anton Wahlman of investment firm Needham says PCTEL will earn 10 cents a share in 2003 on sales of $70 million, and 50 cents in 2004 on $102 million. Wahlman, who rates PCTEL a buy, owns shares, and Needham has done banking for PCTEL. Standard & Poor's technical outlook: "Bullish."
Unless otherwise noted, neither the sources cited in Inside Wall Street nor their firms hold positions in the stocks under discussion. Similarly, they have no investment banking or other financial relationships with them. By Gene G. Marcial