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ABI Research: Wi-Fi 6 Adoption Will Outpace 5G

By Alex Braelow

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On November 20th, 2018, ABI Research published some good news for the Wi-Fi enthusiasts out there. According to their findings, Wi-Fi will retain the connectivity crown even in the 5G era.

Hooray to that!

Indeed, ABI forecasts that 1 billion Wi-Fi 6 (aka 802.11ax) chipsets will be shipped annually by 2022. This would be a mere three years after the first commercial deployments expected for 2019. By comparison, 5G devices are expected to reach the 1 billion mark six years after the first commercial 5G launch.

These predictions seem to jibe with the general narrative around Wi-Fi 6. This past November, for instance, Cisco presented a forecast at Wi-Fi NOW Europe in Berlin that suggested 11% of new devices will be Wi-Fi 6 enabled by 2019. That number is expected to reach 56% in 2022.

So, what’s driving these adoption predictions?

ABI points primarily to the smartphone market, which is set to begin transitioning from 802.11ac in 2019. However, their report does indicate that significant adoption is not expected until 2020. That is, once the Wi-Fi 6 standard is fully ratified and integrated into flagship devices from key smartphone vendors.

Nonetheless, Andrew Zignani, a Senior Analyst at ABI Research, points out that Wi-Fi 6 pre-standard chipsets are already available from a number of vendors.

In addition, Zignani cites an enormous growth in Wi-Fi enabled devices, increased per-user traffic demand, increased cellular offloading, and Wi-Fi 6’s ability to enhance performance in dense environments as major driving forces behind the introduction of Wi-Fi 6.

Zignani also used the report to sing the praises of the FCC, who recently showed interest in releasing up to 1.2 GHz of additional unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum in and around the 6 GHz band.

Zignani said: “The rollout of 802.11ax in conjunction with extra spectrum availability will enable better Wi-Fi service and performance than ever before, allowing it to scale up to the next billion of devices, and enable the technology to support growth and traffic demands for the next decade.”