Three months into 2018 and the Wi-Fi® industry is moving at full speed. Wi-Fi smart home innovations were front and center at the Consumer Electronics Show, and the Las Vegas tradeshow demonstrated Wi-Fi remains the backbone of consumer technology innovation for the hottest trends including virtual reality, connected vehicles and voice assistants. In February, Super Bowl LII not only resulted in the first win in franchise history for Philadelphia Eagles fans, but also represented a milestone for Wi-Fi engagement with more than 59% of fans engaged with social applications, music, and the cloud during the big game. Exciting announcements around Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Vantage™ trials demonstrated Wi-Fi’s ability to improve performance in dense environments. The successful deployment of a Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint® network at Mobile World Congress 2018 demonstrated how advanced wireless networks can provide a seamless and secure experience for conference attendees throughout Barcelona and fuel connectivity for emerging smart cities around the world. While continuing to provide the backbone for consumer technology innovations, Wi-Fi is becoming a strategic imperative for service providers – delivering a high impact and better user experience while relying on technology already used and trusted by people around the world.
With more than three billion devices shipping this year and an installed base reaching 9.5 billion, Wi-Fi continues to impact everything from home networking and retail applications to critical business operations around the world. The increase in connected devices and user demand for seamless connectivity even in crowded environments is leading to new developments in Wi-Fi that will bring benefits to users, service providers, enterprises, and home networks. 2018 will be ripe with Wi-Fi innovation.
The home becomes an enterprise network
Wi-Fi is the digital foundation of the home, and the Wi-Fi industry is incorporating best practices from enterprise network deployments into the home. With the emergence of popular personal assistants and everyday connected "things" to next-generation technology such as cordless virtual reality, high-performance Wi-Fi will become even more critical. Last year, Wi-Fi Alliance® introduced Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design™, which delivers professionally-designed, builder-installed Wi-Fi networks to new homes. Wi-Fi Home Design™ brings enterprise design practices into the home, enabling builders to offer built-in Wi-Fi networks with comprehensive coverage throughout the home as well as outdoor living spaces. Users benefit from a turnkey approach to professionally designed and installed Wi-Fi home networks. This year, Wi-Fi Alliance will introduce a new program to address multiple access point environments, which will bring a standards-based approach to Wi-Fi networks that organize and manage themselves. Whether used independently from or along with Wi-Fi Home Design, this new technology will allow users to have a better home Wi-Fi experience and enable service providers to deliver services to customers with a mix of equipment from multiple vendors.
Managed network features typically associated with stadium, airport, or hotel environments are increasingly making their way into the home through fixed operator networks, offering better customer experience. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Vantage is a program from Wi-Fi Alliance that elevates the user experience in managed networks – of which home networks are becoming increasingly associated –to help service providers differentiate customer experience and provide a better experience to users in their own homes.
Wi-Fi technologies deliver new capabilities
2018 will bring new enhancements to Wi-Fi technologies and Wi-Fi Alliance certification programs. The ongoing Wi-Fi security evolution will continue with enhancements to Wi-Fi Protected Access® coming throughout the year. Users can also expect to see new Wi-Fi protocols to provide simplified onboarding of Wi-Fi devices to home networks, helping more easily connect Wi-Fi devices including sprinklers, light bulbs, and water heaters. Additionally, more devices will incorporate power saving features to further increase Wi-Fi efficiency in Internet of Things scenarios. Wi-Fi Aware™ will incorporate new capabilities to enhance peer-to-peer communications by enabling information exchange without a network infrastructure.
WiGig® will extend its multi-gigabit speeds and expanded capacity to network infrastructure equipment, enabling service providers to use millimeter wave spectrum for point-to-point connectivity as an alternative to fiber. Recently, Facebook announced multiple new partnerships designed to bring Terragraph – based on a modified version of WiGig – to market and deliver fiber-like speeds and high-capacity connectivity to dense urban areas. The 60 GHz space is less congested and plentiful in most parts of the world so it’s no surprise that this spectrum is ramping up quickly. Terragraph represents just a fraction of the innovation possible in 60 GHz. Other possibilities include multimedia streaming, virtual reality, and demanding enterprise applications.
The next generation of connectivity emerges
The next generation of Wi-Fi, 802.11ax, has begun to emerge in an era where nearly everyone and a growing number of “things” are connected to the internet. 802.11ax will deliver greater capacity and the ability to provide more users access to high-bandwidth applications and services. 802.11ax builds on existing Wi-Fi techniques and was specifically designed to ensure high-quality user experience even in the most demanding network environments. Major silicon vendors have already announced 802.11ax chipsets and announcements of access points and PCs coming later this year indicate 802.11ax momentum is mounting.
Wi-Fi will continue to take center stage this year as the industry prepares for 5G. As a broader wave of next generation connectivity arrives, including the deployment of 5G networks expected by 2020, Wi-Fi Vantage™ will bring capabilities existing in cellular networks into the Wi-Fi sphere. However, Wi-Fi will play a much broader role in delivering next generation connectivity over the next decade in scenarios beyond those commonly associated with wireless operator networks. Wi-Fi Vantage will enhance Wi-Fi’s ability to service dynamic, high-density environments and deliver a standardized approach to manageability, mobility, and performance. Wi-Fi Vantage trials in Tokyo earlier this year demonstrated a 10 times faster connection and 30 percent increase in network efficiency in Shibuya Station. Additionally, existing Wi-Fi technologies including WiGig and Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ ac are already positioned to bring multi-gigabit speeds and high-performance connectivity to enable a range of next generation opportunities.
The future of Wi-Fi is bright. Wi-Fi has accomplished more in its nearly 20 years than most technologies, and it will continue its momentum into the next decade.
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