As the public Wi-Fi ecosystem grows and evolves, significant technology development must take place to establish and support carrier-grade Wi-Fi. Even as Wi-Fi standards increase capabilities, enhance service, and expand applications, a variety of other improvements are required.
Here are five technology developments that are necessary for the creation of carrier-grade Wi-Fi:
- Physical Layer Upgrades
- Increased Spectrum Capacity
- Heightened Security
- Enhanced Voice and Video Support
- Improved Integration and Manageability
1. Physical Layer Upgrades
Regardless of the direction and speed of Wi-Fi technology developments, the industry’s ability to make carrier-grade Wi-Fi available to the public requires significant upgrades to the physical layer. That’s because the connectors, wires, cables, and fiber optics must be capable of receiving and transmitting data at the speeds and capacity that a carrier-grade Wi-Fi ecosystem demands.
2. Increased Spectrum Capacity
Wi-Fi service providers are facing a capacity crunch as network usage rises over the next five years. The Cisco Visual Networking Index projects that Internet data traffic will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 26% between 2014 and 2019 with Wi-Fi devices accounting for 63% of data traffic by 2020. Unsurprisingly, mobile devices will be driving growth with a compound annual growth rate of 67.5%.
As Wi-Fi data traffic increases, and as the range of Wi-Fi applications grows, there will be a corresponding need to relieve congestion within the spectrums that are currently being used. Now that 2.4 GHz is highly congested and 5G will be overcrowded in the near future, where will the increased spectrum capacity come from?
These are the primary sources of increased spectrum capacity over the next five years:
- Additional 5 GHz frequencies with most made possible by spectrum sharing
- Shared spectrum options including TVWS and 3.5 GHz
- Expansion into 863-868 MHz with the 802.11ah extension
- Expansion into 60 GHz with the WiGig standard (802.11ad).
3. Heightened Security
Although security has steadily improved along with each release of newer Wi-Fi standards, carrier-grade Wi-Fi vendors will require additional security mechanisms. This means that overall Wi-Fi security must be significantly strengthened.
The most likely contributor to improved security is the use of randomly generated MAC addresses. Current Wi-Fi devices have a single MAC that makes them easy to identify, traced, and track the user. Newer devices could enable the vendor to generate random MAC addresses, making it extremely difficult to identify devices.
4. Enhanced Voice and Video Support
True carrier-grade Wi-Fi must support video as well as native voice for VoWi-Fi or Wi-Fi Calling. These capabilities enable fixed and Wi-Fi-only operators to use Wi-Fi Calling to augment and defend their voice and messaging revenue streams from alternatives like Skype and similar services. This technology can also fill in the gaps of LTE voice coverage.
Additionally, because Wi-Fi Calling allows users to make calls with their mobile phone’s native dialer and messaging features, it is a user-friendly solution. That’s because the user is able to keep their mobile number and the person they are calling does not have to be on the same phone service.
5. Improved Integration and Manageability
Improvements in integration and manageability involve the ability to control large numbers of access points and manage them as parts of a multi-technology platform. Mobile operators, cable providers, and broadband providers must be able to deliver seamless access and consumer experiences across all of their access mechanisms. Wi-Fi providers need to ensure a consistent user experience as well as track their subscribers across access points that may be owned by a several of partners.
Additionally, every operator and provider must be able to integrate user information such as movement and network transactions with back office applications such as billing, consumer care, and marketing.
Create Carrier-Grade Wi-Fi Will be a Reality
Establishing and supporting carrier-grade Wi-Fi platform is a complex initiative. Fortunately, Wi-Fi stakeholders in every area of the public Wi-Fi ecosystem are taking steps to ensure that carrier-grade Wi-Fi becomes a reality. 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.