By David Schnaufer, Qorvo
Consumers expect a high standard of network connectivity. Even though our global data consumption has risen from petabytes per month to exabytes per month, users do not want to experience any issues, such as increased cost or a substandard experience. Wi-Fi is used to offload the cellular network, but high-demand applications like video continue to cause strain.
Smartphone manufacturers, developing products that allow uninterrupted voice/video, continue to pressure carriers to make network enhancements to offload data traffic. The voice/video calling experience now can happen almost anywhere, and it has companies like Cisco predicting massive gains in this form of communication.
Wi-Fi has moved into the spotlight with iPhone FaceTime calls using video and voice, but video/voice calls are not just for the home, business, or coffee shop. Such calls now are on Wi-Fi and cellular airwaves in automobiles speeding down the road at 70 MPH. Sounds crazy, but it’s true!
Many mobile users are familiar with the high-speed Wi-Fi experience, enabled by roaming technologies such as Passpoint Wi-Fi. This technology allows wireless devices to seamlessly connect between public hotspots, instantaneously logging in the users’ credentials as they pass from one access point to the next, even at roadway speeds. To extend the reach of Passpoint Wi-Fi, Hotspot 2.0 was set into motion in 2014. Hotspot 2.0 is a Wireless Broadband Alliance standard, allowing compatible phones to shift seamlessly and automatically between Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
Wi-Fi 802.11ac dual-band (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) and Passpoint technologies are a good first step for carriers and mobile manufacturers to keep up with this voice/video data demand. Mobile device manufacturers already have jumped to react to this dual-band Wi-Fi trend and now offer it in about 68 percent of mobile devices. Analysts predict 96 percent of mobile devices will be dual-band by 2019. Cloud-based storage and systems also are growing quickly. As large businesses migrate toward cloud-based storage and systems, the amount of data on wireless uplink and downlink networks will require strategies beyond dual-band Wi-Fi.
So what should network carriers do? They are pursuing strategies using multiple standards. Their goal is to create an integrated cellular/Wi-Fi network that intelligently provides a load balance between technologies. Wi-Fi’s security, compatibility, and ease-of-use make it ideal for a carrier platform strategy of multi-standards, especially in highly populated areas. But the real reason behind such a strategy is to enable the Internet of Things (IoT) — a network of physical objects or things embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity that enable these objects to exchange data.
The IoT will be the next big challenge for carriers and device manufacturers alike. Seamless wireless coverage — largely with Wi-Fi — in homes and automobiles, and on highways and city streets, will be part of the IoT network. With the Wi-Fi TAM (total available market) approaching $1 billion from routers, white goods, access points, mobile devices, and automobiles, the IoT is becoming reality.
The latest IoT market forecast predicts that there will be 50 billion new IoT-connected devices by 2020, driven by smart body wearables, city infrastructure sensors, smartphones, and smart home devices. Whatever the actual market number is, connections will increase indefinitely and billions of users can expect to benefit from more connectivity — while traveling at any speed, and with any device.