5G and network convergence drives growth of carrier-grade Wi-Fi market

The advent of 5G and smart city applications is driving the market for carrier Wi-Fi products, with the market expected to be worth $3.5 billion over the next four years.

By 2022, IHS Markit predicts sales will have reached $725 million a year as fixed and mobile operators deploy Wi-Fi and dual mode (Wi-Fi and cellular) access points to densify their infrastructure.

Carrier-grade Wi-Fi will help operators cope with the anticipated growth in data by allowing them to offload traffic onto fixed networks in busy locations such as city centres or football stadiums.

5G era

“The arrival of the 5G era will gradually transform network architectures, but the requirements for network density mean that Wi-Fi will continue to play a strong support role for mobile broadband end-users and for newer applications such as the Internet of Things and smart city,” said Richard Webb, director of research and analysis for service provider technology at IHS Markit. “We expect an uptick in carrier Wi-Fi investments through 2020, aligned with 5G network development.”

One area of growth is SIM-based access points, which will help facilitate visions of converged networks, which do not distinguish between fixed, wireless and cellular networks.

Last week, BT offered some more details about its vision for convergence, while Vodafone hopes to acquire a number of cable networks in Europe from Liberty Global for the same purpose.

Another trend noticed by analysts is the continued penetration of network function virtualisation (NFV), which could deliver numerous benefits for fixed and mobile operators such as reduced power consumption thanks to better management, richer analytics, and location-based services.

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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.