It was only a matter of time, and controlling bosses around the world probably won’t welcome the news. Thanks to telecommuters and other techno geeks who ply their trade at home, the worldwide installed base of home networks is expected to break the 200 million mark by the end of 2008.

According to the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based market research firm In-Stat, the trend is being driven by such factors as the still-rising number of broadband subscribers, the desire to share bandwidth, residential gateway use by telecom broadband providers, and increases in the Asia/Pacific market.

According to In-Stat, growth of the total market for broadband and network customer premises equipment (CPE) is slowing, compared to previous years.However, it is expected to remain positive through at least 2012, as technological upgrades will spur replacements.

The total CPE market includes broadband modems, routers and residential gateway equipment for DSL, cable, fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), fixed wireless broadband (FWB), and fixed satellite broadband (FSB).

In-Stat analyst Joyce Putscher said opportunities for replacements and upgrades will continue to drive growth, as the number of worldwide broadband subscribers and their significant installed base of equipment is predicted to exceed 500 million in 2010.

“Gigabit Ethernet, VoIP, the DSL Forum’s TR-69 and 802.11n are examples of drivers for CPE upgrades and replacements over the next several years,” Putscher said.

However, Putscher noted that consumers’ lack of knowledge regarding the benefits and differences between 802.11g and 802.11n could lead to less demand for 802.11n upgrades.

In-Stat made a number of specific findings regarding home networking growth. For example, worldwide CPE unit shipments grew 15 percent in 2007 to 149 million. Also, by 2010, the firm projects that gateways will garner a majority share of global annual CPE revenue. By 2012, it expects routers to still be comprised of a higher percentage of wireless units than DSL gateways. Asia/Pacific’s share of routers will continue to increase through 2011. This region’s router market is increasingly being driven by China, due to that region’s annual rise in the number of home networks. Lastly, worldwide home LAN PHY interface shipments will surpass 500 million during 2010.