It’s about five years away, but 2018 is already looking like it’ll be a good one for Wi-Fi. Berg Insight recently reported that by the end of 2012, telecom operators deployed over seven million Wi-Fi access points around the globe, and that, given the 13.5 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), 2018 will see over 15 million units.
Of course, it seems that Wi-Fi usage couldn’t become any more popular than it is now, as smartphones have quite literally kept it in the palm of just about everyone’s hand. Furthermore, most people already employ the technology at home and at work. Still, Wi-Fi enabled handsets are predicted to grow to more than 4 billion units in 2018. As of 2012, the access only covered about 1.5 billion units.
Due to the positive numbers coming with Wi-FI in the future, mobile operators and vendors are beginning to further look into network capacity solutions to support the inevitable data traffic influx. Many mobile operators already offer free Wi-Fi to PC and smartphone users.
Berg Insight Senior Analyst André Malm notes that the challenge for most mobile operators is being able to “integrate Wi-Fi with the mobile network in a way that enables control over the network selection and connection process.” He also recognizes that the industry has to put effort toward providing seamless Wi-Fi integration, as currently, such a thing does not exist between base stations or when roaming between networks internationally.
Yet, seamless solutions appear to already be in the works, as is evident by technology like Wi-Fi Alliance's (News - Alert) Hotspot 2.0 and the Wireless Broadband Alliance Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) program. As Malm observes, these products’ features will “enable mobile operators to control where, when, and how data traffic is steered between cellular and Wi-Fi networks to make more efficient use of resources and improve the user experience for subscribers.”
So it would appear that in 2018, if nothing else, users will be able to ring in the new year with a strong connection.
Edited by Blaise McNamee