The year 2011 witnessed the continued growth and expansion of Wi-Fi to become a key mobility enabler in people’s daily lives, and the same is expected in the year 2012, with new trends and developments emerging around Wi-Fi. Growth in traditional Wi-Fi deployments at enterprises, campuses, and homes already witnessed strong growth in 2011, which is likely to continue in 2012. Several other Wi-Fi trends and developments are emerging and catching up to make a big impact on Wi-Fi unabated growth. Here is a list of 10 such frontline trends and developments:
Gigabit Wi-Fi: With the first draft of 802.11ac getting approved in early 2011, the Gigabit Wi-Fi devices are expected to enter the retail chain in 2012 to further improve upon the speeds achievable via existing 802.11n Wi-Fi devices. Greater speeds (up to Gigabits) will provide seamless wireless experience to users for bandwidth intensive applications, such as video, gaming and live TV. As projected, on account of high adoption rate of smart mobile devices, demands for wireless access for bandwidth intensive applications has been growing exponentially, and therefore provision of Gigabit speeds thru 802.11ac will see tremendous traction in 2012.
Hotspot 2.0 compliant Wi-Fi: Hotspot 2.0 is a certification program recently announced by Wi-Fi Alliance in 2011 to ease the use of Wi-Fi Hotspots from discovery, authentication, provisioning, security and roaming perspectives. At present, users are often required to manually connect and authenticate to hotspots, and there is no provision of Wi-Fi security most of the times. This creates potential difficulties and security vulnerabilities for users while accessing the hotspots. But, with Hotspot 2.0 compliance products arriving in 2012, users will have tremendous ease in securely accessing the hotspot services. This ease will further push up the deployments of Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide in 2012 and will potentially attract more and more mobile users to opt for hotspot services.
Carrier Wi-Fi: Considering the Wi-Fi’s high penetration in mobile devices and low cost, mobile carriers were embracing Wi-Fi lately to offload data services from their strained cellular networks at the congested locations. However, just plain part-time data offload Wi-Fi strategies do not provide any monetizing opportunities to carriers. Moreover, broadband experience through carrier provisioned Wi-Fi, installed just for data offload perspective, is not consistent and devoid of value-added services. In the backdrop of such limitations, experts are now advocating carriers to look Wi-Fi as an integral part of their network. Few carriers have started deploying widespread Wi-Fi sites integrated to their core networks, and providing carrier grade broadband experience to the users. This trend is expected to pick up strongly in 2012, and so is the availability of number of carrier oriented Wi-Fi solutions.
Cable Wi-Fi: Leveraging their existing cable infrastructure, cable MSOs are also considering Wi-Fi seriously to provide broadband mobility to users. This is helping them to be more competitive, provide more services to current subscribers, attract new customers and expand into new markets. The cable Wi-Fi initiatives are also backed up by increasingly availability of cable focussed Wi-Fi solutions, easily installable on cable plants, integrated to back office infrastructure and providing seamless broadband experience to subscribers. The year 2011 witnessed many cable MSOs deploying such solutions to realize their cable Wi-Fi strategy, and the expectation is that the trend is going see good growth in 2012 too.
Cloud Managed Wi-Fi: Managing and monitoring geographically distributed Wi-Fi networks always remained a challenge for businesses and organizations. However, the year 2011 saw the emergence of variety of cloud managed Wi-Fi solutions aimed towards simplifying the same in a cost effective manner. With such a solution in place, a network of Wi-Fi sites can be managed and monitored centrally either through a public or private cloud model. The cloud Wi-Fi solutions are rapidly becoming popular and are gaining strong traction for newer Wi-Fi deployments.
Wi-Fi as a service: With the emergence of cloud managed Wi-Fi solutions, a whole new business model relying on providing Wi-Fi access as a subscription based service has opened up. The Wi-Fi service concept is extremely catchy for the ones, who can afford sufficient CapEx and OpEx bill, but still looking for Wi-Fi access to remain competitive and reap mobility linked benefits. Therefore, Wi-Fi as a service is expected to pick up more in 2012 with more number of vendors offering it and more number of users opting for it.
In-flight Wi-Fi: The concept of in-flight Wi-Fi was introduced in very limited capacities by some selected airline a few years back, but the year 2011 saw some tremendous action in the in-flight Wi-Fi space. Many airlines worldwide announced trials or actual deployments of in-flight Wi-Fi service to give their passengers broadband access while flying. Growth in the in-flight Wi-Fi is expected to continue at aggressive space in the year 2012 also, on account of continuing growth happening in air travel, dependence on everywhere connectivity (for which consumers are willing to pay), and Wi-Fi’s high penetration in consumers’ mobile devices. Also, the related technology with in-flight Wi-Fi is expected to improve more in 2012, to meet the rising demands and make passengers broadband experience seamless.
Wi-Fi Sharing: Trend of sharing broadband connection or digital contents over Wi-Fi is gaining tremendous attention lately and is expected to do so in 2012 too. Many upcoming mobile devices in 2012 are expected to have in-built hotspot capabilities to enable Wi-Fi sharing. MiFi devices specialized for sharing cellular connection over Wi-Fi, after their first launch in 2009, witnessed good growth in the year 2011, and this is likely to continue in 2012 with more carriers’ worldwide adopting and executing MiFi strategy with variety of MiFi plans and improved MiFi devices. Support of recent standard, Wi-Fi Direct, meant for peer-to-peer Wi-Fi, is also expected to arrive in a variety of consumer devices in 2012 for seamless Wi-Fi sharing. Concept of Wi-Fi sharing has also given rise to unique business models lately where users willing to share their broadband bandwidth (with others) are offered earning opportunities or reward points. Such models are also expected to flourish and witness growth in 2012.
Transit Wi-Fi: The year 2011 already witnessed many announcements /deployments around mass transit Wi-Fi, to provide seamless Wi-Fi access to mass passengers while using mass transit modes, such as buses and trains. Providing the transit Wi-Fi access adds to the passengers comfort and operational ease, attract more riders and opens up potential revenue earning opportunities. Therefore, more number of mass transit agencies across the world is expected to opt for Wi-Fi services in the year 2012.
Retail Wi-Fi: With in-store Wi-Fi, retailers can ride on consumers’ increased adoption of smart mobile devices and can interact with them effectively. Retailers can help consumers in their purchase decisions, with ways, such as providing details about product description, discounts applicable, etc. In-store Wi-Fi can also add to customer’s convenience by providing them free Internet access for their connectivity demands and option of mobile payments for their purchases. Further, to add more to consumers’ convenience and interaction, retailers can deploy wireless digital kiosks, digital signage boards and mobile POS terminals, easily monitored and managed through in-store Wi-Fi. The same Wi-Fi can also be used for effective inventory management. All such benefits eventually led many retailers in 2011 to deploy or announce for Wi-Fi access in their store. This is likely to continue in the year 2012 also, with much more pace.