Will IEEE 802.11ax be a “5G” Contender?

Note:  Neither IEEE 802.11ax or 802.11ay have been presented to ITU-R WP 5D for consideration as an IMT 2020 Radio Interface Technology (RIT), which will be first evaluated at their July 2019 meeting.  Hence, those future IEEE 802.11 standards will be orthogonal to IMT 2020 (the only real standard for mobile 5G).  There are no official standards for 5G fixed Broadband Wireless Access (BWA).  Despite what you may have read, all such “5G” BWA deployments (e.g. Verizon, C-Spire, etc)  are proprietary.

IEEE 802.11ax-2019 will replace both IEEE 802.11n-2009 and IEEE 802.11ac-2013 as the next high-throughput WLAN amendment.

Summary:

The future IEEE 802.11ax standard will provide users with 5G-level speeds over Wi-Fi networks and be more economical, says a report from GlobalData. Equipment that supports a pre-standard version of IEEE 802.11ax is rolling out this year.

“The 802.11ax standard will drive a significant boost in capacity, efficiency and flexibility that should make Wi-Fi align closely with emerging 5G priorities,” GlobalData Technology Analyst John Byrne said in a press release. “The ability to support up to 12 simultaneous user streams from a single access point, 8×8 multi-user multiple input multiple output, and the use of much larger 80 MHz channels of wireless spectrum represent dramatic upgrades from the current state-of-the-art standard, 802.11ac.”

Byrne continued: “However, once the cost curve comes down, 802.11ax Wi-Fi has the potential to deliver 5G-like user experiences at a fraction of the cost of similar cellular gear. The ability to deploy Wi-Fi access points at significantly lower cost than 5G small cells offering similar performance characteristics could represent a significant selling point for Wi-Fi gear vendors.”

IEEE 802.11ax Carrier Wi-Fi:

The forthcoming IEEE standard will address challenges faced by carrier-provided Wi-Fi, including unreliability, suspect security and difficulty in integrating with cellular networks. The shift from 802.11ac to 802.11ax access points will begin as the cost curve falls through 2022. The equalization of 5G and Wi-Fi technology and 802.11ax’s lower cost could “represent a significant selling point for Wi-Fi gear vendors,” Byrne said.

Technology vendors believe that IEEE 802.11ax could be a big commercial success . In January 2018, Starry and Marvel said they would team to develop fixed wireless technologies. The deal includes the Starry millimeter wave integrated circuit and cloud management software and Marvel’s 802.11ax chipsets.

Aerohive plans to deliver its first 802.11ax access points in mid-2018. PCTel said in January that it haddeveloped a reference design for 802.11ax antennas for an unnamed “major 802.11ax Wi-Fi chipset manufacturer.” There’s a lot of chipset activity in particular, with Qualcomm already having launched its “802.11ax-ready” Atheros WCN3998 chipset in February and other companies like Intel laying out plans to begin offering chips this year. Chip company Skyworks is collaborating with Broadcom with modules integrated into Broadcom’s Max Wi-Fi 802.11ax solution and claims that its 2.4 and 5 GHz 802.11ax modules and Broadcom’s Max WiFi solutions “provide four times faster download speeds, six times faster upload speeds, enhanced coverage and up to seven times longer battery life when compared to 802.11ac Wi-Fi products available in the market today.” ABI Research has noted that in addition to those vendors, Marvell, Quantenna and Celeno  have also made 802.11ax chipset announcements — mostly targeting the access point space — and that AP companies such as Asus, D-Link and Huawei have already put out 802.11ax-ready APs and gateways.

References:

http://en.ctimes.com.tw/DispNews.asp?O=HK27J9UJV4CSAA00NT

http://www.ieee802.org/11/Reports/tgax_update.htm

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7792393/

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7422404/

https://www.rcrwireless.com/20180322/wireless/802-11ax-is-on-its-way

IHS Markit: $3.5 Billion to be spent on Carrier Wi-Fi equipment between 2018 and 2022

by Richard Webb, IHS Markit

The carrier Wi-Fi equipment market continued to grow in 2017, driven by ongoing broadband demand and a strong role within 5G era. Revenue reached $626 million for the full-year 2017, increasing 1.3 percent from the prior year.

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. However, 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

  • Dual mode 3G/Wi-Fi equipment revenue totaled just $17 million in 2017, a decline of 66.4 percent from the prior year
  • Meanwhile, subscriber identity module (SIM)–based Wi-Fi access points are experiencing solid adoption growth (+21.6 percent in 2017 from 2016), driven by the desire to have closer integration between Wi-Fi and the mobile network
  • Network functions virtualization (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

Carrier WiFi Equipment Market Tracker – H2 2017

This report tracks Wi-Fi equipment deployed by operators in public spaces for wireless internet access. It provides worldwide and regional market size, vendor market share, forecasts through 2022, analysis and trends for Wi-Fi hotspot controllers and carrier Wi-Fi access points.

Reference:

https://technology.ihs.com/602686/cumulative-35-billion-to-be-spent-on-carrier-wi-fi-equipment-between-2018-and-2022

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In a separate report, Markets & Markets forecasts the Wi-Fi Market to be worth $15.60 Billion by 2022:

The rapid adoption of Wi-Fi technology is expected to make North America the largest region in market.

North America consists of developed economies, the US and Canada. In this region, Wi-Fi solutions and services are gaining traction within the businesses. The region’s strong financial position also enables it to invest heavily in the Wi-Fi technology. These advantages have provided North American organizations a competitive edge in the market. Moreover, the region has the presence of several major Wi-Fi vendors. Therefore, there is strong competition among the players. The number of enterprises adopting Wi-Fi solutions and services is quite high in North America as compared to the other regions.

The major vendors offering Wi-Fi solutions and services across the globe include Cisco (US), Aruba (US), Ruckus Wireless (US), Juniper Networks (US), Ericsson (Sweden), Panasonic (Japan), Huawei (China), Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (France), Netgear (US), Aerohive Networks (US), and Riverbed Technology (US). These vendors have adopted various organic and inorganic growth strategies, such as new product launches, partnerships, and collaborations, to enhance their position in the Wi-Fi market.

Qualcomm to ISPs: Mesh WiFi networking via IEEE 802.11ax is the future of smart homes

Mesh networking can centralize IoT and other devices in smart homes and make them easier to manage, according to Qualcomm’s Connectivity Business unit lead, Rahul Patel.  Carrier-class mesh networking could resolve connection issues, said Patel  who strongly suggests internet service providers (ISPs) offer a mesh networking service.

  • Market research firm Gartner predicts that 8.4 billion connected “Things” will be in use in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016.
  • GMSA report “The Impact of the Internet of Things: The Connected Home”   suggests that up to 50 connected or Internet of Things (IoT) devices will be in use in the average connected home by 2020.

According to Qualcomm’s Wi-Fi router consumer survey of 1500 respondents from the UK, France, and Germany this year, 50% said they use a device in three different rooms simultaneously.  [Those folks must have a lot of people living in their homes with separate rooms!]

Today, home broadband networks sometimes find themselves buckling under the weight of numerous mobile, IoT, and connected devices. Information streams can become confused, bottlenecks occur, and ISP throttling can cause too much strain for efficiency or reliability (expect more of this as FCC has just repealed net neutrality rules).

Qualcomm’s mesh technologies, including Wi-Fi SON, are already used by vendors including Eero, Google Wi-Fi, TP-Link, Luma, and Netgear.

Qualcomm is directing its mesh WiFi standards efforts within the IEEE 802.11ax task group which it serves as co-vice chair.  That specification is being designed to improve overall spectral efficiency, especially in dense deployment scenarios. It’s predicted to have a top speed of around 10 Gb/s and operate in the already existing 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum bands.

Qualcomm has created a 12-stream mesh WiFi platform powered by a quad-core iCMOS micro-processor with a 64-bit architecture.

Editor’s Note:

IEEE 802.11ax draft 3.0  is scheduled to go out for IEEE 802.11 Working Group Letter ballot in May 2018 with Sponsor Ballot scheduled for May 2019.  Please see references for further details.

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Patel says that development is already in play to use the platform, and mesh will be the “next big thing” for the Wi-Fi industry, with products expected to appear in the market based on Qualcomm technologies in the second half of 2018.

Carrier-class mesh networking could be used to map entire neighborhoods, in which connectivity problems can be quickly detected and fixed without constant customer reports, complaints, and costly engineer footfall.

As consumers expect more from their home Wi-Fi, however, they also expect ISPs to make sure systems are in working order and deliver what they promise.

“The operator is shouldering the burden of fixing issues in the home,” Patel says. “If they don’t, cloud providers such as Google will take over.”

If ISPs do not rise to the challenge, consumers may choose to go to a cloud provider instead.

“That [home] traffic is getting piped into their clouds rather than BT or Sky, and so ISPs are losing out on the traffic they are piping into someones home,” Patel added. “You as an operation are perceived to be the one to support the Wi-Fi in the home.”

“If you (ISPs) don’t move fast, you lose out on the home becoming a cloud providers’ and have no control over what happens in the home,” Patel said.

References:

http://www.zdnet.com/article/mesh-networking-is-the-future-of-iot-smart-homes/

http://www.ieee802.org/11/Reports/tgax_update.htm

http://www.ieee802.org/11/Reports/tgax_update.htm#nov2017

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_802.11ax

Wi-Fi hotspots in Cuba Create Strong Demand for Internet Access

by Alexandre MeneghiniSarah Marsh of Reuters

The introduction of Wi-Fi hotspots in Cuban public spaces two years ago has transformed the Communist-run island that had been mostly offline. Nearly half the population of 11 million connected at least once last year.

That has whet Cubans’ appetite for better and cheaper access to the internet.

“A lot has changed,” said Maribel Sosa, 54, after standing for an hour with her daughter at the corner of a park in Havana, video chatting with her family in the United States, laughing and gesticulating at her phone’s screen.

She recalled how she used to queue all night to use a public telephone to speak with her brother for a few minutes after he emigrated to Florida in the 1980s.

Given the relative expense of connecting to the internet, Cubans use it mostly to stay in touch with relatives and friends. Although prices have dropped, the $1.50 hourly tariff represents 5 percent of the average monthly state salary of $30.

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