With over 2.6 billion chipsets expected to ship during 2014, Wi-Fi is currently the most ubiquitous wireless connectivity technology for Internet access. As the technology continues to adapt and expand with new protocols such as 802.11ac, 802.11ax, 802.11ad (WiGig), and Wi-Fi Direct, nearly 18 billion more chips will ship cumulatively from 2015 to 2019, according to ABI Research (www.abirsearch.com).
“There will be a roughly even split in 2019 for Wi-Fi chipsets of different integration levels,” says research director Philip Solis of ABI Research. “Standalone, or discrete, Wi-Fi chipsets — increasingly targeting the Internet of Things – will be the largest group, followed by integrated platforms with Wi-Fi targeting mobile devices, followed by Wi-Fi combo chipsets.”
Wi-Fi protocols will continue evolving as well. By the end of the forecast period, dual-band 802.11n/802.11ac will comprise the vast majority of chipsets shipped among all the protocols. Dual-band 802.11n/802.11ac had a strong start in 2013 by surpassing 100 million shipments in the smartphone space alone, which accounted for a sizable fraction of the total shipped that year. There will be a strong ramp of tri-band 802.11n/802.11ac/802.11ad during the next five years as well.
Wi-Fi Direct-enabled products will surpass three billion shipped in 2019 with the highest attach rates in ultraportable PCs media tablets, and traditional laptops. However, the largest category of Wi-Fi Direct-enabled products in terms of units shipped in 2019 will be smartphones.
“Even as the industry starts to move this year from 802.11ac Wave 1 to Wave 2 chipsets that can support larger channels and MU-MIMO, Wi-Fi’s evolution will not stop there. Aside from this shift and pairing Wi-Fi with WiGig (802.11ad), 802.11ax will start replacing 802.11ac towards the end of the forecast period,” adds Solis.
ABI Research predicts that 802.11ax will further maximize efficient use of 5 GHz spectrum by utilizing unused chunks of spectrum, even coordinating this with other nearby access points. Essentially, 802.11ax will be a better version of 802.11ac Wave 2 that will allow for even greater data rates. The proliferation of Wi-Fi in the home will be supported by the technology’s continued evolution.