ABI Research believes that more than 20 billion WiFi chipsets would be shipped between 2016 and 2021. New usage scenarios, frequency bands, device types and performance requirements will push WiFi usage globally. ABI research also expects more than 95% of devices shipped in 2021 to support 5GHz WiFi, adding to the debate over spectrum sharing with cellular technologies.
“As Wi-Fi technologies begin operating in different bands, operators and OEMs will place greater emphasis on the mixture of efficiency, throughput, range, and power consumption enhancements that these solutions can offer,” says Andrew Zignani, Industry Analyst at ABI Research. “MU-MIMO, narrowband implementations, and other enabling technologies can help to ensure that Wi-Fi is able to operate in both the densest deployments and more power constrained IoT applications.”
A new WiFI standard, 802.11ax is under development that seeks to build upon the 802.11ac standard while incorporating additional features in order to enhance wireless performance in dense deployment scenarios. ABI Research forecasts that 802.11ax will account for 57% of Wi-Fi chipsets by 2021. The increased pressure on the 5GHz spectrum, as both 802.11ac and 802.11ax continue the migration toward 5GHz Wi-Fi, will also be exacerbated by the arrival of LTE-U. This could potentially add to existing challenges and concerns over successful coexistence between the technologies going forward.
Emerging technologies, some of which break away from the traditional evolutionary path of 2.4 GHz and 5GHz, include HaLow, 802.11ad, 802.11ax, and 802.11ay.
802.11ad, more commonly known as WiGig, will remain a premium feature for some time. Yet, while its high cost may hinder adoption, companies such as Intel, Peraso, and Qualcomm that are focusing on 802.11ad should help drive the ecosystem forward. ABI Research data suggests that it will likely take until 2017 for real scale to build, though, as there still needs to be a strong push to get the technology in areas beyond the limited number of access points and routers currently supporting it.
HaLow will also see opportunities in the years’ ahead. However, it will take some time for this technology to gain widespread traction, as it still faces strong competition from other low-power wireless technologies and LPWAN technologies. For this reason, ABI Research predicts HaLow chipsets to only represent 1% of total shipped Wi-Fi chipsets by 2021.