Wi-Fi® has accomplished more in 16 years than many technologies do in their lifespan – including enabling the rise of mobile internet by carrying a significant portion of the world’s data traffic, advancing data rates from 11 Mbps to more than 1,100 Mbps, connecting users in more than 450 million households worldwide and more than 47 million global public hotspots, and contributing more than $222 billion in economic value.
Wi-Fi Alliance® has developed a list of predictions for 2016 that demonstrates Wi-Fi’s steady march forward as it continues to deliver an even better user experience.
The number of connected devices will reach 38.5 billion in 2020. This growth is due in part to manufacturers adding intelligence and connectivity to products not typically thought of as “high-tech,” like your Wi-Fi connected vacuum, coffee maker, door locks, or slow cooker. In 2016, companies that do not specialize in developing connectivity technologies – particularly those developing products for the Smart Home – will leverage a new Wi-Fi Alliance Implementer membership category, which will allow them to more easily deliver Wi-Fi connected products with secure operation, certified interoperability, and legacy compatibility with the 6.8 billion Wi-Fi products currently in use. The average home has more than eight devices on the network, and that number will continue to grow. Companies have come to understand the value of Wi-Fi certification in assuring users that they can control their home connectivity devices securely and reliably for years to come, and Wi-Fi will continue to play a role in shaping a user-friendly and seamless Smart Home.
Wi-Fi is in more places you want it to be.
Seventy-three percent of Americans say it is very important to have access to Wi-Fi in their daily lives. Wi-Fi’s value is also recognized around the world, and last year we saw global Wi-Fi infrastructure investments pickup with assistance from cities and companies such as Google and Facebook. In 2016, city Wi-Fi deployments will increase, with some leveraging Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint™ to enable seamless roaming with other cities miles and even continents away. Sports fans will take advantage of enhanced Wi-Fi as stadiums and sports arenas amp up their Wi-Fi networks to keep pace with record wireless traffic numbers, and travelers will remain connected on-the-go through services from providers such as Boingo who keep users connected in airports and railways around the world. Users demand availability of Wi-Fi no matter where their day takes them. In 2016, Wi-Fi in cars, homes, and in-flight will be a standard amenity with auto manufacturers offering Wi-Fi connectivity in an expanding line of vehicles, airline carriers such as Air China upgrading their services and JetBlue announcing they will offer free Wi-Fi on every flight in 2016, and homebuilders supplying homes with connected automation packages.
Protecting unlicensed spectrum is a priority.
Everyone understands and agrees with the need to protect the billions of Wi-Fi users. In late 2015, there was an important shift towards a collaborative model for delivering on Wi-Fi and LTE-U coexistence. In 2016, industry will make progress on a test regimen for LTE-U devices, and Wi-Fi Alliance will emerge as the premier forum for this collaboration. Working within Wi-Fi Alliance, industry will deliver an agreed upon test plan which will promote fair sharing by all LTE-U devices. Users are concerned that another technology will negatively affect their Wi-Fi usage, and preserving the benefits of unlicensed spectrum for the billions of business, education, enterprise, and government users who depend on Wi-Fi every day will remain a priority this year.
Wi-Fi location will emerge.
Wi-Fi will enable a new breed of innovative applications built on location-based information. Wi-Fi location capabilities will bring users even closer to the world around them, enabling a variety of robust applications and usages – both indoors and outdoors. Retailers will be some of the first to leverage location awareness – a market that will reach $43.3 billion in four short years – and service providers will follow shortly after. Wi-Fi location will enable a range of usages for consumers, enterprises, healthcare providers, and the Internet of Things. While location-based services are now popular, Wi-Fi location will offer a variety of advantages over existing technologies, including the ability to deliver precise indoor location data.
Wi-Fi portfolio of technologies gets even better.
In 2016, a variety of new programs will make Wi-Fi better than ever. An update to Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ ac will bring new features such as Multi-user MIMO to increase performance and network capacity, taking Wi-Fi beyond the gigabit Wi-Fi speeds already supported. This second wave of features will enable users to realize the full potential of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac, and help meet carrier requirements by supporting faster and more scalable operator networks. As a complement to Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac, the WiGig CERTIFIED™ program is expected to launch, bringing multi-gigabit performance to in-room connectivity. Wi-Fi Alliance will also progress on work in new frequency bands, following the introduction of Wi-Fi HaLow™, to provide users with longer range and lower power connectivity – ideally suited to enable a variety of power-efficient use cases in the Internet of Things and other industrial applications, among others. To enable continued innovation through its expanding portfolio, Wi-Fi Alliance will work with regulators worldwide to increase spectrum availability for Wi-Fi technologies.
Wi-Fi brings even more value for carriers.
In 2016, carrier Wi-Fi that is faster, more robust, and even easier to use and manage will emerge. While Passpoint was the first of a series of Wi-Fi Alliance programs to enable a more cellular-like experience in Wi-Fi hotspots, new operator-focused programs and deployment guidelines will help scale service provider Wi-Fi networks, enable greater device mobility, more easily provision devices on the network, improve network utilization, and bring performance enhancements for dense deployments. A list of our current work areas, including those specifically related to carrier Wi-Fi can be found here.
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