Monday, February 1, 2016

Blueprint: The Path to an All-Wireless World

by Dirk Gates, executive chairman and founder, Xirrus

An all-wireless world is within our grasp. No matter where we go or what device we are on, connectivity is an expectation. Getting on a plane? No problem; Wi-Fi is accessible thousands of feet in the air. Taking a road trip across the U.S.? Pull off at a rest stop and watch Netflix from the passenger seat.

The advancements taking place in the Wi-Fi space are unprecedented and the future of connectivity remains an exciting one. With the surge in video streaming, gaming, IoT devices and bandwidth-consuming applications in general, our networks are being put to the test. The questions we continue to face are vast: Where will Wi-Fi be deployed in the coming years? How will Wi-Fi impact the use of cellular data? What can we expect in terms of evolution in the Wi-Fi spectrum and what challenges will we face? 2016 will see a shift toward an all-wireless world with connectivity moving beyond personal devices, even less cellular data usage, ease of use becoming more important for business users and consumers, and Wave 2 Wi-Fi gaining traction.

Connectivity moves far beyond personal devices

Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), in less than five years the number of connected devices is projected to top 25 billion. A movement that is beginning with connected homes, connected cars and sensors everywhere, will evolve to include more autonomous Wi-Fi devices – such as thermostats, lighting controls, security cameras and more – as opposed to personal Wi-Fi devices. The connected home will be a new selling point in real estate.

Voice – particularly Wi-Fi calling – and video will continue to be the largest drivers of traffic, but storage synchronization, and ultimately IoT traffic, will also start to give voice and video a run for their money in 2016.

Wi-Fi has surpassed cellular data and continues to grow

Wi-Fi will never replace cellular data – there will always be a mix of LAN and WAN networks. But Wi-Fi traffic has already surpassed cellular traffic, and this trend will only continue. No one wants to worry about data overages or poor connectivity. In the last several months we’ve seen big travel businesses like hotels, airlines and cruise ships announce free Wi-Fi for guests and travelers. Carriers charge us for every byte of data we send or receive from the Internet so we turn to Wi-Fi when it’s available. As Wi-Fi becomes accessible across even more locations and Wi-Fi calling continues to take hold, expect cellular data to fall further behind in 2016.

Ease of use will be one of the biggest challenges for Wi-Fi

Users expect Wi-Fi at any location. Onboarding these users, however, is not considered an easy feat. In 2016, ease of use will be the primary checklist item for both Wi-Fi vendors to provide and businesses to consume. College campuses, hotels and coffee shops are among the many locations that experience nomadic users connecting and disconnecting from the network regularly. Making a seamless, secure connection from anywhere a reality, without having to put thought into it, is the next major step for the Wi-Fi industry.

Wave 2 will become the norm in 2016

Expect to see 802.11ac Wave 2 become the norm for client devices and the infrastructure in 2016. More and more devices will be Wave 2 compatible and users will want to take advantage of the 5 GHz band to experience greater speed. Not far off, we also have 802.11ax and 60GHz technologies; so don’t expect the 802.11 standards to slow down for a long time.

About the author

Dirk Gates is Executive Chairman & Founder at Xirrus, bringing more than 15 years of executive management experience as well as a track record of success evolving a high-tech startup into a world class, publicly traded company. Having founded Xircom, Inc. in 1988 on the premise of delivering Ethernet connectivity to mobile computers, he attracted venture funding from Greylock, grew the company to 2,000 employees, and achieved revenues of $500 million and a market cap in excess of $2 billion. During his tenure as chairman and CEO, Mr. Gates led Xircom into the wireless arena through partnerships and acquisitions that positioned the company to deliver mobility solutions based on IEEE 802.11, GPRS and Bluetooth technologies. He subsequently negotiated the sale of Xircom to Intel Corporation in March of 2001. Mr. Gates holds a BS in electrical engineering from California State University at Northridge and an MBA from Pepperdine University.

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