So another year is upon us and true to tradition so are the endless tech predictions issued by nearly every publication, analyst, and tech company in existence. And at Wi-Fi NOW we shall not disappoint and so here are a few of our own. We will try to keep it short & sweet!
1 – In-home Wi-Fi router wars intensify!
There’s so much value in getting Wi-Fi right everywhere in your house that it’s frankly amazing that the in-home mesh Wi-Fi router bonanza has been so late in getting here. But now it’s here with a vengeance: Eero, Plume, Google Wi-Fi, Luma, Portal, and many others are doing their part. In 2017 the carriers (MSOs) will fight back with a series of launches themselves – all promising to fix your home Wi-Fi forever. This is a big bucks market and a big battle in the making. And it’s not just about connecting your iPad, phone, and TV of course. It’s about getting a foot in the door for anything & everything connected home.
2 – Big cable gets into Wi-Fi First
Well – not exactly a prediction and more a statement of fact. Both Charter and Comcast will activate their MVNO agreements with Verizon and have announced their intentions to launch mobile services. It’s a fairly good bet that these will be Wi-Fi First type services given Comcast (and to some extent Charter’s) big Wi-Fi footprints. We’re guessing that at least the Comcast service will be launched in first half 2017.
3 – Promising baby steps for 802.11ax
We’re bullish on the prospects of 802.11ax being another landslide success for the Wi-Fi industry – and the first (1.0 Draft spec) chipset has already been released by Quantenna. Qualcomm is already hot on this trail and is poised to take significant market share with 802.11ax, as is Broadcom. What do we like about it? Well, pretty much everything but here are two things to highlight: UL OFDMA (this means no more battling for bandwidth!) and range improvements, which will be great for campus and outdoor. 2017 will see tech vendors wrangling for position.
4 – Wi-Fi Offload reloaded – is it hot again?
The world is going mobile data unlimited so will this once and for all kill of the need for public Wi-Fi? The short answer is absolutely not. On the contrary, carriers may well have to start working with Wi-Fi more systematically. Confused? Here’s the logic: There is value in Wi-Fi for carriers, specifically in retention, up sell, indoor coverage (Wi-Fi calling) and not least for capacity. Some carriers (Singtel, Telenet) even charge a premium for their Wi-Fi service.
With 5G years away, more carriers will start taking Wi-Fi seriously because they need the capacity and – as we all know – user experience is king. I can’t think of anyone who would not want more and better Wi-Fi. But this time carriers will need to automate the ‘offloading’ (or convergence) part. That means connection managers will be critical. We will also see more Passpoint deployed as well as more managed Wi-Fi services by carriers (we’re very bullish on the latter opportunity).
5 – We’re banking on WiGig & other unlicensed (or lightly licensed) FWA
So while 5G is still figuring out what to do with itself others are already attacking the fixed wireless market. WiGig will gradually invade home and offices but even more interesting is WiGig for backhaul & City Mesh (think Facebook Terragraph and Google’s Webpass ISP acquisition). We will see more movement in this area in 2017 and we’re also hoping that Starry will get off to an excellent start (28 GHz mmWave from-the-rooftop service).
6 – HaLow may just be the right tech for IoT
We’re also bullish on a lesser-known but super promising IoT technology called 802.11ah or HaLow. And yes, HaLow is in fact a Wi-Fi technology that will be piggy-backing on the multi-billion-device strong Wi-Fi ecosystem. It’s also uses unlicensed bands and will cover a myriad of use cases given a range of up to 1 kilometres or more. We believe success in IoT will be governed mostly by great economics and adaptability. HaLow offers exactly that. We’ll see HaLow hit some headlines in 2017.