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Upcoming 802.11ax Represents Significant Selling Point for Wi-Fi Gear Vendors, Says GlobalData

Published: Jul 19,2018

Just as cellular vendors are working to deliver 5G innovations like multiple antennas and ‘millimeter wave’ technologies, Wi-Fi is poised for its own 5G-like upgrade with the introduction of the 802.11ax standard due this year. The technology has the potential to deliver 5G-like user experiences at a fraction of the cost and represents a significant selling point for Wi-Fi gear vendors, says leading data and analytics company GlobalData.

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Since the first iPhone was introduced in 2007, ‘carrier Wi-Fi’ – adoption of Wi-Fi hotspots by cellular carriers – has taken off. However, Wi-Fi has historically been unreliable, vulnerable from a security perspective, and difficult to integrate with cellular networks. But now, Wi-Fi proponents are close to finalizing a new industry standard that they say will make Wi-Fi more like 5G.

John Byrne, Technology Analyst at GlobalData, says: “The 802.11ax standard will drive a significant boost in capacity, efficiency and flexibility that should make Wi-Fi align closely with emerging 5G priorities. The ability to support up to 12 simultaneous user streams from a single access point, 8x8 multi-user multiple input multiple output, and the use of much larger 80 MHz channels of wireless spectrum represent dramatic upgrades from the current state-of-the-art standard, 802.11ac.”

Wi-Fi proponents think they will still have a head start on 5G cellular devices. That may be true, but the purchasing cycles for Wi-Fi access points are quite different than those for handsets; most cellular operators are unlikely to rip and replace 802.11ac devices, but will likely begin to shift spending on future devices to 802.11ax devices as the cost curve falls through 2022.

Byrne concludes: “However, once the cost curve comes down, 802.11ax Wi-Fi has the potential to deliver 5G-like user experiences at a fraction of the cost of similar cellular gear. The ability to deploy Wi-Fi access points at significantly lower cost than 5G small cells offering similar performance characteristics could represent a significant selling point for Wi-Fi gear vendors.”

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