Wi-Fi update 802.11ac set to take over in 2016

The latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac, is set to take over the wireless market next year, according to analysts.

The specification, finalized in 2013, is quickly becoming the prevailing wireless LAN (WLAN) standard, market research firm IDC, based in Framingham, Mass., reported last week. As of this year, 802.11ac accounted for almost 50% of access point (AP) shipments and nearly 63% of AP revenues. Next year, the standard is expected to make up the majority of revenue and shipments. This represents a noticeably faster adoption rate than the 802.11n transition several years ago.

The latest standard has rolled out in two waves. Wave 1 offers speeds of 1.3 gigabits per second (Gbps). Now Wave 2 is available and jumps in bandwidth speed to 7.8 Gbps. Wave 2 also has a perk called multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO), which can handle communications from several mobile devices at once.

Despite the big difference in speed, businesses have been adopting Wave 1 because they view it as a short-term fix that won’t require the expensive infrastructure changes of Wave 2. As a result, many enterprises are waiting until the economy regains strength before investing in the second iteration of 802.11ac.

“We’re kind of in a quiet period where economic indicators are somewhat uncertain globally,” said IDC analyst Nolan Greene, who co-authored the report.

Wave 2 maturing

Greene points out that Wave 2 remains nascent and enterprises are waiting for it to develop more fully in the market.

“Within the whole universe of wireless LAN, there are only a few thousand Wave 2 access points shipped in the last few months,” Greene said. Shipments and deployments are expected to rise in 2016.

As of now, only three major vendors are selling Wave 2 APs, these include Ruckus Wireless, Inc., Aruba Networks Inc. and Cisco.  Additionally, vendors have only been distributing APs since May.   

“From the customer side, I don’t really see a huge demand for it,” Greene said. “The Wave 2 discussion is very vendor led.”

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