Confidence rises in Wi-Fi as key tech for 5G rollouts: WBA survey

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The level of industry confidence in Wi-Fi investment is at its highest-ever, according to the Wireless Broadband Alliance’s Annual Industry Report for 2017.

As the wireless industry becomes crucial to delivering high quality, high speed, low latency connectivity, the new study – compiled by Maravedis on behalf of the WBA – has revealed that over 80% of those surveyed feel as or more confident than they did a year ago. And when looking at unlicensed spectrum more broadly, almost half (47%) feel more confident. 

According to WBA, the study reflects a growing consensus that the success of 5G, unlike previous generations of standards, will rely on the convergence of multiple radio access technologies (RATs) in unlicensed, shared and licensed spectrum, with Wi-Fi playing the central role. Developments in the latest Wi-Fi standards, including 802.11ax, will improve Wi-Fi performance and capabilities to support 5G use cases – including high density networks, enhanced mobile broadband and aggregation of multiple frequencies, amongst others. 

“Wireless use cases are expanding rapidly, enabled by new technologies and spectrum in the unlicensed and shared bands”, said Adlane Fellah, Senior Analyst, Maravedis. “These innovations are laying the foundations for the 5G era, in which Wi-Fi will play a central role.” 

As industry attention moves toward monetizing Wi-Fi, the study also highlights the drivers of additional traffic over the network, as well as use cases with initial revenue potential in different verticals. In this year’s survey, the services most important to monetization strategies for 2018, according to respondents, included location based services (37.5%), roaming (33%) and marketing analytics (almost 33%). The three Wi-Fi use cases tipped to drive near term revenue potential include: extending internet access and media to a full smart home, richer and more efficient enterprise services driven by cloud managed networks and security, and expansion of the Wi-Fi roaming model.

The report also highlights the power of Wi-Fi, along with low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technologies, to provide a rapid and cost effective deployment of various IoT applications, including the deployment of smart cities.

However, interoperability between different technologies, independent certification of devices and equipment and collaboration between different city stakeholders were identified as areas that connected city ecosystems must urgently address. The WBA’s Connected City Advisory Board produced the second version of its Blueprint in November 2017, which intends to help cities develop their plans to become smart and emphasizes the need to bring together the complex value chain of city stakeholders.

The report also found rising adoption of the WBA’s Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) to support seamless authentication and multi-RAT access. The survey found that NGH had crossed the chasm with 23% of respondents confirming its implementation, and 30% planning to by the end of the year.

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