A new report from the Wi-Fi Alliance assesses whether available spectrum resources will be sufficient to support Wi-Fi connectivity in the future, and suggests that by 2020, Wi-Fi networks will need access to significantly more mid-band spectrum than is currently available in the 5 GHz range to satisfy expected growth in Wi-Fi data traffic brought about by new applications, ranging from low-throughput, high-latency IoT to streaming 4K video.
It also indicates that, given it’s been 20 years since the first IEEE 802.11 standard in 1997, there is still plenty of life left in Wi-Fi innovation, and that there is a lot of life left in the technology yet. With 8 billion Wi-Fi devices already connected around the world, that figure is expected to reach nearly 12 billion by 2020, as users become increasingly reliant on Wi-Fi as the primary means for internet access, due to its low cost for users and the fact that its performance is well suited for current and emerging applications.
The ‘Wi-Fi Spectrum Needs Study’ is a comprehensive analysis to determine the number of channels required to support Wi-Fi traffic by taking into consideration existing and future Wi-Fi device capabilities and deployment needs for business, residential and public locations.
It evaluates two demand scenarios: the expected traffic growth and the potential unexpected increase that may come from novel applications, and finds that, unsurprisingly, the ever growing number and diversity of Wi-Fi devices along with increased connection speeds and data traffic volumes will exceed the capacity of spectrum currently available in the 5 GHz band by 2020.
The study also finds that between 500 MHz and 1 GHz of additional spectrum in various world regions may be needed to support expected growth in Wi-Fi by 2020, and if demand for Wi-Fi exceeds expected growth, then between 1.3 GHz and 1.8 GHz more spectrum may be required by 2025.
“Over the years, the Wi-Fi industry has developed innovative solutions to overcome bandwidth limitations and regulatory constraints to deliver wireless connectivity to billions of users,” said Alex Roytblat, Senior Director of Worldwide Regulatory Affairs at Wi-Fi Alliance. “As demonstrated by the Spectrum Needs Study, we have now reached the point where, simply put, more unlicensed spectrum needs to be available... and soon.”
Less throughput, more capacity?
As new standards under development reach 10–20-plus Gbps, the issues and opportunities surrounding the future of Wi-Fi have less to do with throughput, and more to do with capacity, cost, management, and support for every application, whether low-throughput IoT devices or mission-critical, low latency streaming applications.
It means that whether its the upcoming 802.11ax standard, which seeks to achieve 10Gbps in the 5-GHz bands, but which will also (unlike 802.11ac) be deployable at 2.4 GHz, or other technologies such as 802.11aq (Pre-Association Discovery) and 802.11az (Next-Generation Positioning), there is still much innovation to come from Wi-Fi.
That’s why it’s so important to attend the upcoming Smart Mobility Summit being held in Lisbon on May 3–4, 2017. Our unique event will explore the types of connectivity technologies that will be required to meet the demands of smart cities, the IoT and other new user applications that will be enabled by 5G.
Come and find out how all of these technologies are being deployed around the world to meet the demands of future applications. With dedicated themes ‘Smart Cities and the IoT’ (Day 1) and ‘The Road From 4G to 5G’ (Day 2), can you afford to miss out?
We offer a range of different Day and Event passes, and discounts. Register now at www.smartmobilitysummit.com/register.