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.
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.
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.
- A 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.
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.
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.
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.
“A lot more could change still,” said Sosa. “Why shouldn’t we be able to have internet at home?”
A tiny share of homes has had broadband access until now, subject to government permission granted to some professionals such as academics and journalists.
The state telecoms monopoly has vowed to hook up the whole island and connected several hundred Havana homes late last year as a pilot project. In September, it said it would roll that service out nationwide by the end of 2017.
Cubans say previous promises for such access have not been fulfilled, so their expectations are not high. They also say the cost is prohibitive, with the cheapest monthly subscription priced at $15.
Cubans use their mobile devices to connect to the Internet via WiFi Hotspot near their street.
Havana says it has been slow to develop network infrastructure because of high costs, attributed partly to the U.S. trade embargo. Critics say the government fears losing control.
Cubans who can afford it flock to Internet cafes and 432 outdoor hotspots where they brave ants, mosquitoes and the elements.
Here they laugh, cry, shout, and whisper. Black market vendors weave in and out among them, trying to hawk pre-paid scratchcards allowing Wi-Fi access. The ping of incoming messages and ring of calls fill the air.
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“There’s absolutely no privacy here,” said Daniel Hernandez, 26, a tourist guide, after video chatting with his girlfriend in Britain.
“When I have sensitive things to talk about, I try shutting myself into my car and talking quietly.”
The quality of connections is often good only at specific spots, he said, and when fewer users are connected. Otherwise, the screen tends to freeze mid-chat.
Hernandez said he also uses the internet to search for news. In Cuba, the state has the monopoly on print and broadcast media.
A few meters further on, Rene Almeida, 62, sat in his taxi checking email. He said he felt lucky that his two children had moved to the United States where communications are better than ever. It was only in 2008 that the government first allowed Cubans to own cell phones.
He, too, complained of the lack of privacy and the expense.
“It’s better than nothing,” he said. “But it should improve. It will.”
Reporting by Alexandre Meneghini and Sarah Marsh, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien