Operators are buying more carrier Wi-Fi gear as 5G approaches

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The carrier Wi-Fi equipment market continued to grow in 2017, with revenue reaching $626 million for the full-year – up 1.3% year on year – driven by ongoing broadband demand and a strong role in the coming 5G era, says IHS Markit.

According to the firm’s Carrier Wi-Fi Equipment Market Tracker – H2 2017, by 2022, the market is forecast to hit $725 million – a cumulative size of over $3.5 billion from 2018 to 2022 – based on two strong segments: standalone Wi-Fi access points (predominantly deployed by fixed-line operators and wireless ISPs) and dual mode Wi-Fi/cellular access points (deployed by mobile operators).

“The arrival of the 5G era will gradually transform network architectures, but the requirements for network density mean that Wi-Fi will continue to play a strong support role for mobile broadband end-users and for newer applications such as the Internet of Things and smart city,” said Richard Webb, director of research and analysis for service provider technology at IHS Markit. “We expect an uptick in carrier Wi-Fi investments through 2020, aligned with 5G network development.”

All regions are seeing strong demand for carrier Wi-Fi, demonstrating evidence of proliferation in developing countries in addition to developed markets where mobile data growth is well documented. That said, the scale of requests for proposals (RFPs) from mobile operators in Asia-Pacific – in particular China and Indonesia currently, with India likely to add to the groundswell closer to 2022 – means the region will be the strongest driver of growth, although all regions see continuous growth through this period.

More carrier Wi-Fi market highlights from the report:

  • Dual mode 3G/Wi-Fi equipment revenue totaled just $17 million in 2017, a decline of 66.4% from the prior year
  • Meanwhile, SIM-based Wi-Fi access points are experiencing solid adoption growth (up 21.6% in 2017 from 2016), driven by the desire to have closer integration between Wi-Fi and the mobile network
  • NFV has strong potential benefits for fixed and mobile operators alike, such as opex and capex efficiencies, service flexibility and creation, reduced power usage and new service environments, including data analytics and location-based services.

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