Wireless communications around the globe has been greatly enhanced by Wi-Fi technologies and the associated unlicensed radio bands. Many consumer electronics devices use Wi-Fi to gain access to the public internet and a variety of cloud-based services.
Wi-Fi technology and associated telecom regulation continues to evolve to meet the growing demand. As the 2.4 gigahertz band became saturated in many dense urban markets, vendors and users switched to routers and access-points that utilized the 5 gigahertz band.
Wi-Fi access points based on the 802.11ac global standard have steadily gained momentum over the past year, rising to represent 39 percent of total Wi-Fi access points shipped in 2015.
According to the latest market study by ABI Research, adoption will continue to accelerate in 2016 as more 802.11ac Wave 2 products enter the market, along with the introduction of tri-band access points.
Evolving Market Development for Wi-Fi Innovation
"Wave 2 access points are based on a richer set of technologies in the 802.11ac specification," said Sam Rosen, vice president at ABI Research.
This includes MU-MIMO, which supports better efficiency for high density wireless environments. ABI analysts now forecast that Wave 2 access points will drive 802.11ac shipments, with those shipments representing nearly 65 percent of total Wi-Fi access points in 2016.
In addition to the emergence of Wave 2 product this year, tri-band access points are likely to hit the market in the first half of 2016.
Tri-band Wi-Fi products use 802.11n, 802.11ac, and 802.11ad in the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 60 GHz bands, respectively, and are backward compatible to the older protocols within each band.
Priming the Wi-Fi Market for Tri-Band Technologies
"If all goes according to plan, TP-Link's Talon AD product line will kick-start the market for tri-band access points with WiGig (802.11 ad)," concludes Rosen.
The access points, however, are likely to take an additional one to two years time before they gain significant market share in the overall Wi-Fi CPE market.
Moving beyond the scope of this year's market data to take a look at the overall market, ABI Research predicts Wi-Fi access point shipments to surpass 204 million units in consumer applications and 19.3 million units in enterprise in 2020 -- with the majority of those shipments supporting the 802.11ac standard.