Wi-Fi is a decades-old technology, but it remains as relevant as ever because it continues to evolve in ways that benefit vendors, service providers and their customers. The Wi-Fi Alliance’s 2015 annual report is a convenient opportunity to look back and forward at some of the latest ways, such as how the organization has developed new technologies and membership tiers to ensure Wi-Fi remains highly competitive in the Internet of Things (IoT) market.
First, some statistics that quantify Wi-Fi’s relevance:
- The global installed base of Wi-Fi devices topped 7 billion by the end of 2015.
- Alliance membership grew to 698 companies, with Cablevision and Telstra among the roughly 130 that joined in 2015. Companies don’t join a trade association unless they believe its technology has years of upside in terms of market share and mind share.
- In a Harris Poll, more than half of Americans said they wouldn’t want to give up Wi-Fi for a month. Nearly three quarters of respondents said always having access to Wi-Fi is important in their daily life
Despite these successes, the Wi-Fi ecosystem isn’t resting on its laurels. For example, cellular is and will remain the biggest threat to Wi-Fi’s market share, particularly in the IoT space. So it’s no surprise that the Alliance spent 2015 working to mitigate those threats by:
- Introducing HaLow, which uses the 900 MHz band to provide twice the indoor coverage of other Wi-Fi technologies. Based on 802.11ah, HaLow also is highly power efficient. These two features are among the reasons why HaLow should help Wi-Fi compete with multiple new types of cellular-based IoT technologies, including LoRa, RPMA, UNB, EC-GSM, LTE-M and NB-IoT. For our analysis of HaLow and its cellular rivals, see wi-fi360.com/wifi-alliance-launches-halow-brand-for-802-11ah-sub-ghz-wifi and www.wi-fi360.com/why-cellular-and-iot-need-lpwa.
- Working with the cellular community to develop ways that LTE and Wi-Fi can co-exist at 5 GHz. This is key because if the addition of LTE to this already crowded band comes at the expense of Wi-Fi performance and reliability, it will prompt some Wi-Fi users – such as those with IoT applications – to migrate to LTE. To avoid that scenario, the Alliance will release its first “LTE Coexistence Simulation and Testing Guidelines” sometime this year.
- Stepping up efforts with regulators and lawmakers, including advocating for more unlicensed spectrum. Trade associations for cellular and other rival technologies already heavily lobby governments worldwide, so it makes sense that in 2015, the Alliance increased the amount of staff and time spent making sure Wi-Fi isn’t an afterthought.
- Creating the Implementer Member category for companies that want certified interoperability and security protections for their products in IoT and other markets. This initiative helps encourage vendors to choose Wi-Fi over alternatives such as ZigBee for applications such as smart homes.
- Launching the Wi-Fi Aware certification program for energy-efficient, proximity-based service discovery among Wi-Fi devices. Like HaLow and Implementer Member, this program helps make Wi-Fi an attractive alternative to cellular, Bluetooth and other technologies.
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