|With more than three billion Wi-Fi devices expected to ship in 2018, 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. 2018 will present numerous exciting Wi-Fi enhancements, further improving security, capacity and performance.
With the emergence of popular personal assistants and everyday connected ‘things’ to next-generation technology such as cordless virtual reality (VR), high-performance Wi-Fi in the home will become even more critical. Wi-Fi Alliance is actively working on a program that will enable Wi-Fi networks to become more sophisticated, bringing a standards-based approach to networks that organize and manage themselves and allowing for greater flexibility and choice in the way Wi-Fi networks are deployed. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design, delivering professionally-designed, builder-installed Wi-Fi networks, will bring enterprise design practices to more new home developments. With fixed operators using their own Wi-Fi networks to better control customer experience, managed network features typically associated with stadium, airport, or hotel environments are increasingly making their way into the home.
While Wi-Fi is nearly ubiquitous around the world, not everyone has high-speed – or even basic – access to Wi-Fi. The Wall Street Journal reported that about 39% of the US rural population, or 23 million people, lack access to broadband Internet service, compared with 4% of urban residents. Microsoft’s Rural Airband Initiative and Google’s Project Loon are just two examples of the way organisations are addressing the digital divide, while initiatives like LinkNYC will offer free public Wi-Fi to deliver connectivity to more users. Understanding the broader economic value enabled by Wi-Fi around the world, more companies like Facebook will continue to offer low-cost data packages for fast internet via local hotspots, allowing users to participate in the global economy. As Wi-Fi network deployments increase, availability of unlicensed spectrum will become even more critical to support the best user experience and ability to innovate. Enterprises, governments and users around the world will begin to benefit from $5 trillion in cost savings per year with the adoption of smart city technologies, and new research coming in 2018 will further quantify the value of Wi-Fi by identifying economic contributions across the globe.
According to the Data & Marketing Association, 80% of millennials use smartphones in-store as part of their purchase process, and recent App Annie data shows that the total time spent in retail apps on Android phones increased by nearly 40% over the past 12 months. With operators offloading more than 60% of mobile data traffic onto Wi-Fi and its availability in major retail stores, updates to existing Wi-Fi programs will further improve the technology behind emerging shopping experiences. Consumer trends such as voice command purchases through home personal assistants and location-based shopping experiences increase the need for Wi-Fi. Augmented Reality (AR) is elevating the consumer experience with its overlay capabilities, enabling shoppers to try on clothes virtually, determine if new furniture will fit and even test out paint colours on walls. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac brings high-performance to deliver AR capabilities and Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Location further optimises retail experiences by providing location-based information for retailers and consumers. Wi-Fi Aware will bring even more benefits for applications to create more personalized retail experiences.
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 on-boarding of Wi-Fi devices to home networks, helping more easily connect Wi-Fi devices. 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 millimetre wave spectrum for point-to-point connectivity as an alternative to fibre. Power saving features will increase Wi-Fi efficiency in Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios. New enhancements will enable Wi-Fi to expand to new markets and be used in more scenarios than ever before.
The next generation of Wi-Fi – 802.11ax – will begin 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. In 2018, 802.11ax will make its way into Wi-Fi chipsets and will help meet growing demands on Wi-Fi networks. As a broader wave of next generation connectivity arrives, including the deployment of 5G networks, Wi-Fi Vantage will bring capabilities existing in cellular networks into the Wi-Fi sphere.
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 5G opportunities.