Wi-Fi Turns 20

Wi-Fi is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and is not expected to slow down anytime soon. Faster, more widespread coverage is on the horizon, which will facilitate growth in mesh networking systems, smart home, automotive, and IoT applications. Over the next five years, device shipments are forecasted to surpass 20 billion, with nearly 25% of those occurring in 2024. 

802.11ax, also known by its more marketing-friendly name, Wi-Fi 6, will soon become the new standard of connectivity in both networking and client devices. There's an obvious and increasing "need for speed" on a global scale when it comes to Wi-Fi, so the its introduction into the mainstream is highly anticipated. 

Wi-Fi’s expansion into the 60GHz and sub-1GHz bands through WiGig and HaLow have not materialized as quickly, although ABI Research projects that these technologies will eventually find their own niche. WiGig still has considerable potential for point-to-point applications such as wireless video streaming, virtual reality, and docking, and has recently seen considerable traction in fixed wireless access applications. HaLow chipsets and IP are finally coming to the market thanks to efforts from start-ups as Newracom, Morse Micro, and Palma Ceia SemiDesign among others, and the inherent flexibility of the technology could make it very attractive in LPWA type applications.

It Doesn't End There

Running parallel with the extended reach of Wi-Fi 6 is the addition of a possible 1.2GHz of spectrum over the next 12-18 months, with pending regulations that have not yet been globally implemented. What's significant about this enhancement is not necessarily an increase in overall speed, but the added coverage provided to the end user. The Wi-Fi 6 standard is adding support for 6GHz capabilities, and work is already underway for the next generation that will take full advantage of the new spectrum. These enhancements in tandem will ensure that Wi-Fi will continue to drive value well into its 30th anniversary and beyond.

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