2019 marks the 20th anniversary of Wi-Fi. In recent months, Wi-Fi has been in the news and on every IT expert’s radar. The release of Wi-Fi 6 is already yesterday’s news as the future standards of Wi-Fi are already being unveiled. The rapidly evolving Wi-Fi market has begun to reflect a general shift away from mobile broadband. While mobile traffic is still showing a 30% growth rate, it is no longer leagues ahead of other IP applications. Put simply: mobile data consumers aren’t watching more videos, playing more games or scrolling more on social media feeds.
Wi-Fi 6 vs 5G
What does this mean for mobile data as major US carriers are chasing the 5G wireless dream? It’s early still for both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G mobile data, but in terms of cost effectiveness, mobile data premiums can cost 37 times more than fixed Wi-Fi. Additionally, if it were a race between 5G and Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6 is strides ahead as many enterprises are working to include Wi-Fi 6 into new and current IT infrastructure. Wi-Fi 6 offers actionable opportunities now, while the mobile phone market remains sluggish with consumers keeping their current devices longer or opting for cheaper models.
Claus Hetting, CEO of Wi-Fi NOW, reflects on the shift to Wi-Fi saying, “We don’t need 570 Mbps to the phone. We need more and better connectivity everywhere for everyone.” That sentiment is supported by the anticipated growth of the fixed wireless access (FWA) market. Mobile Experts expects the FWA equipment market will increase in value from $3.2 billion in 2018 to more than $6.2 billion by 2024. This expansion is attributed to the growth in 802.11-based technologies. Wi-Fi NOW predicts that the Wi-Fi portion of smartphone traffic will grow much faster than mobile data, resulting in a demand for additional Wi-Fi infrastructure to support the traffic.
WiFi Consumer Driven Demand
The demand for public Wi-Fi further builds on the demand for fixed wireless access. In July, South Korea’s capital of Seoul announced that free Wi-Fi will be available on all public transit systems and parks across the city by 2020. Other countries have also made strides towards accessible and free public Wi-Fi. The Philippines government recently signed a bill that would make free Internet available at land transport terminals, train stations, bus stops and rest areas across the country. The WiFI4EU project kicked off with the first free Wi-Fi networks going live in France and Spain. Greece outlined a plan to begin building its new free public Wi-Fi network in early 2020.
The consumer ultimately influences the shift to Wi-Fi. A BCG research study found that more than 80% of traffic is offloaded to Wi-Fi. Consumers opt to connect to available Wi-Fi to avoid paying higher mobile data prices. This is especially true of consumers who are on capped data plans.
IoT’s Role in Rising Demand for Wi-Fi
Internet of Things (IoT) also plays a role in the demand for Wi-Fi over mobile data. According to a recent report from Strategy Analytics, smart home Wi-Fi devices are expected reach 17 billion units by 2030. Considering there are already more than 5 billion Wi-Fi connected devices in use in homes today, the increase in IoT devices depends on Wi-Fi standards rapidly adapting to increased demands. The report states, “The new Wi-Fi 6 standard will account for about a third of smart home device sales by 2023 and is expected to become the dominant standard later in 2020s.”
The first 20 years of Wi-Fi networking have been extraordinary. The future of Wi-Fi is bright. Wi-Fi 6 has barely entered the market and the Wi-Fi standard’s successor has already been named: 802.11be, likely to be renamed Wi-Fi 7. As of now, Wi-Fi 7 will be focused on boosting speeds. Carroll Ansley of CommScope explains, “Wi-Fi 6 is really all about efficiency and quality. With 802.11be we’re back focusing on significant growth in throughput.” Before we look ahead to Wi-Fi 7, we have Wi-Fi 6 to satisfy modern networking demands.
Want more? Stay in-the-know on the impacts of Wi-Fi 6, changes in the mobile market and other developing technologies by following the Actiontec blog. You can also learn more about the history and evolution of Wi-Fi networking on Actiontec’s Complete Guide to WiFi Networking.