The Top 3 Emerging Trends in Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi use is growing across all industries, with more and more companies adding hotspots for employees and customers.

According to an Infonetics survey, most companies had plans to increase Wi-Fi capacity by at least 20% in 2014 – and 75% of this increase was to provide Internet access for mobile devices and employees who bring their own devices to work.

The global market for Wi-Fi access points and hotspot controllers is set to grow from $527 million in 2013 to $3 billion in 2018. This growth is being fueled by the combined efforts of broadband and mobile providers seeking to expand their reach and upgrade services to the new 802.11ac standard and Hotspot 2.0 technologies.

In 2014, Wi-Fi carried more than 42% of the world’s mobile data traffic through over 47 million hotspots. Cable providers installed a record number of hotspots in 2014, outpacing mobile companies.

However, mobile companies are actively deploying Wi-Fi hotspots to expand their reach and offer seamless connections between mobile data and Wi-Fi.

The Three Drivers of Change

There are three key trends that are driving change in the Wi-Fi space: Hotspot 2.0, new wireless technology (e.g. 802.11ac), and changes to Wi-Fi for business use. Hotspot 2.0 promises to deliver faster speeds and greater reliability, along with seamlessly integrated Internet access between Wi-Fi and mobile data through mobile wireless providers. The use of the new Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac (also called Gigabit Wi-Fi), is growing and the standard is set to become the industry norm. Finally, Business Wi-Fi is changing in ways that will provide users with increased mobility and allow companies to reach more customers.

Hotspot 2.0

Mobile phone companies have already started deploying Wi-Fi hotspots with Hotspot 2.0 technology in order to grab market share away from the large broadband providers, who currently provide and maintain the majority of Wi-Fi hotspots. These new hotspots deployed by mobile companies are SIM-based, which means that mobile phone users can automatically connect to the Wi-Fi network once they are within range. This way, users can save on expensive data charges while visiting a hotspot, and mobile phone companies can continue to engage with their customers while they use Wi-Fi. You can read more about Hotspot 2.0 in a recent blog post.

802.11ac (Gigabit Wi-Fi)

Gigabit Wi-Fi is many times faster than 802.11 a/b/g standards (and is even three-times faster than 802.11n). It can reach speeds of up to 1,300 megabits per second, while 802.11n can only reach up to 450 megabits per second, and 802.11 a/b/g only up to 54 megabits per second. But Gigabit Wi-Fi offers more than just faster speeds: it introduces a new concept called ‘Beamforming’, which directs wireless signals to Wi-Fi-connected devices. The technology is able to detect which devices are using Wi-Fi and direct wireless resources toward the device rather than circumferentially like traditional wireless signals. Each connected device is sent an individual signal, resulting in less signal loss and wave distortion. Almost all wireless devices released since the end of 2013 are Gigabit-ready.

Wi-Fi for Businesses

New Wi-Fi technology is also a business opportunity. Companies with large public areas, such as coffee shops or restaurants, can use fast and reliable Wi-Fi services to draw customers in. Furthermore, once customers are connected to the network, the company has another opportunity to engage with the customer (through a splash/landing page, for example). Companies also have the opportunity to improve the way its employees work with Unified Communication Technology. Allowing employees to leave their desktop while remaining connected to internal networks can drastically increase employee satisfaction and productivity. Companies that do not offer employees Wi-Fi access may be putting their data at risk: 52% of employees that bring their own devices to work connect to open Wi-Fi networks, which are vulnerable to abuse.

For a more detailed discussion on how these three key trends are affecting the industry, please read our White Paper: Hotspot 2.0, Gigabit Wi-Fi and Business Wi-Fi: How Trends in Wi-Fi are Shaping Business

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