What’s next for the wireless industry?
By Michael Lok February 16, 2016
- WiFi is best suited to address the ever-increasing demand for data
- Here’s how the wireless experience will change in 2016, and beyond
NO doubt, WiFi technology has become such a pervasive force that it has become hard to imagine what life will be like without wireless Internet access.
The growth of smart mobile devices that feature new, data-hungry applications has undoubtedly shaped the wireless landscape as more users rely on these devices to perform more than just phone calls.
On the enterprise front, the concept of the traditional office and work day has also evolved as more organisations adopt WiFi to boost operational efficiency and productivity, allowing employees to accomplish tasks and collaborate with one another regardless of their location in the workplace.
Given the changes in the way we live and work, no technology is better suited to address the ever-increasing demand for data than WiFi technology.
In 2015, we saw 802.11ac Wave 2 WiFi access points (APs) improve the overall experience for users. These APs support a new capability called multi-user multiple input/ multiple output (MU-MIMO), which allows the simultaneous transmission of multiple client streams to different devices over the same frequency, enabling high performance WiFi connectivity even in congested environments.
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However, in an industry that continuously changes, we can certainly expect further improvements in the coming months as organisations look for continued ways to take WiFi connectivity to the next level.
As we fetch our crystal ball to gaze into the year ahead, here is a look at how the wireless experience will change as we enter 2016 and beyond:
Better end-user experience
Firstly, in the enterprise space, we predict that the end-user experience related to accessing BYOD-enabled (Bring Your Own Device) enterprise networks will be easier and more secure through certificate-based device onboarding solutions.
According to a MicroMarket Monitor report, the Asia Pacific BYOD market is projected to grow from US$13.54 billion in 2013 to US$66.84 billion by 2019, driven by increasing consumption of mobile devices.
Certificate-based device onboarding solutions will allow IT managers to deploy BYOD policies in a scalable and user-friendly manner while eliminating IT support costs and user frustration associated with passwords.
On the home front, whole home coverage will become a reality, and we expect people will be ‘showing off’ their home network capabilities at dinner parties using a smartphone app.
Given that the smart homes market in Asia Pacific is projected to reach US$9.23 billion by 2020, one can expect to see more and more interconnected devices making their mark in the home.
In the public realm, Hotspot 2.0 will become the de facto standard for public access and hospitality WiFi, enabling end-users to seamlessly and securely roam on WiFi networks.
Now that we have Hotspot 2.0 support in all major mobile and laptop operating systems, Hotspot 2.0 deployments will accelerate by service providers and hotel brands.
Carrier WiFi calling, which allows users to make and receive phone calls using a WiFi network instead of the traditional mobile network, will be one driver for this.
Unlike services such as Skype and Hangouts that require users to download applications prior to making calls, WiFi calling lets users use their actual mobile phone numbers to make and receive calls.
This provides users the connectivity they require to make and receive calls where cellular coverage is insufficient.
WiFi and cellular cross-pollination
The biggest innovation will be in the area of WiFi + cellular cross-pollination and convergence (802.11ax, LAA, LWA).
WiFi and cellular are the two most successful wireless technologies in existence and have complemented each other for years. Now they seem to be getting engaged.
And it couldn’t come at a better time as demand for wireless capacity is at an all-time high.
Other possibilities include:
- Mainstream use of analytics to drive user experience, business process optimisation and monetisation;
- Cloud interconnections and service chaining of networking services to seamlessly tie together best-of-breed technologies;
- Secure, manageable and scalable IoT (Internet of Things) platforms that leverage multiple sensor types and wireless protocols to provide business intelligence for enterprises and cities; and
- Continued virtualisation of networking services to enable service providers to more efficiently scale and more quickly roll out new services.
Blurring of traditional distinctions
Many of the traditional distinctions in the wireless industry will be ‘blurred’ due to technology, regulatory and business advances.
Blurring will happen between licensed and unlicensed; service provider and enterprise; and, public versus private.
Specific advances that will affect these include unlicensed LTE, 802.11ax, WiFi calling, enterprise IMS and WebRTC, CBRS, private LTE and Hotspot 2.0.
New business models will evolve to monetise ‘free’ WiFi. Traditionally, monetising free WiFi meant charging for WLAN (wide/ local area network) usage.
In the coming year, we will see more organisations leveraging WiFi and location analytics to monetise their wireless networks. Businesses can utilise these data to gather trends on customer behaviour and WiFi usage, which can drive business strategies.
Web-scale content companies (social media, search, hosted services, etc.) will launch some very-large-scale Public Access WiFi projects in developing markets.
It’s about users
As we move into 2016, we will continue to see technology innovations shaping the wireless industry.
While these innovations relate to various aspects of managing and accessing WiFi networks, ultimately, these result to enhanced connectivity and online experience for end-users as a whole, as well as optimised business processes and monetisation models for enterprises.
Michael Lok is South-East Asia managing director at Ruckus Wireless.
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