The pace of change is accelerating across the public Wi-Fi ecosystem. Last year’s report on the state of the Wi-Fi industry detailed some quite significant shifts, but the contrasts which can be seen this year are even more dramatic. These are driven by several overall trends:
- The increasing shift from best effort public Wi-Fi to full carrier-grade Wi-Fi, enabling many new business models (see Chapter 3 for details).
- The use of Wi-Fi as a strategic platform by an increasing variety of service providers including pure-plays, aggregators, MNOs, MSOs and vertical market operators.
- A wider applicability of Wi-Fi technologies as standards evolve and the needs of service providers change e.g. the move of Wi-Fi into the internet of things (IoT).
- Development of new technologies to support those carrier-grade and integrated models, from extensions to the 802.11 family, to evolutions of Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) and Passpoint.
- The start of the process of defining 5G standards and Wi-Fi’s role in the next generation multi-technology wireless platform.
These big shifts mean that the three themes which chairman JR Wilson outlined for the WBA in his 2020 Vision statement are equally applicable to all Wi-Fi stakeholders. Vendors, service providers, regulators and industry alliances need to:
- Accelerate – develop their technologies, business models and rules to keep pace with the changing ways that consumers and enterprises use wireless networks, and so encourage the deployment of carrier-grade Wi-Fi networks.
- Diversify – apply the expanding Wi-Fi platform to a wider range of target applications and businesses, with significant opportunities in the IoT, big data, multiplay services, smart cities and many more.
- Increase – invest as much resource as possible in developing, testing and deploying systems and services, and in pushing the technology to the limits, even towards 5G.
In this rapidly changing landscape, as Mr Wilson outlines in his interview (see page xxx), the role of the WBA will be central in driving and enabling progress, and helping to secure Wi-Fi, and its stakeholders, a pivotal role in the new wireless world. That will present challenges as well as opportunities for the WBA and its members. In particular, at a time of significant change, there is a difficult balance to strike between continuity – building on what has already been achieved and consolidating successful platforms and services – and looking ahead to new, but less certain, new horizons like the IoT and 5G.
Both elements are seen in this year’s snapshot of the Wi-Fi ecosystem, in which companies are building mainstream commercial platforms on foundations laid in earlier years – such as NGH/Passpoint deployments – while also starting to deploy or develop new technologies.
We will be providing more insights ahead of the release of the new report on carrier Wi-Fi sponsored by the Wireless Broadband Alliance to be released at the Wi-Fi Global Congress next month.