1 Billion Shipments of Wi-Fi 6 Chipsets Expected by 2022

Set to be commercially introduced in 2019, 802.11ax or Wi-Fi 6 chipsets have already been forecasted to touch the 1 billion shipments mark by 2022. The findings were published in ABI Research’s Wireless Connectivity Technology Segmentation & Addressable Markets market report. The report is part of the company’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Wireless Connectivity research service, which includes research, data, and Executive Foresights.

Although it has taken several years to develop and ratify, market adoption of this standard is anticipated to be swifter than the rollout of 5G technologies. For example, while it took only a couple of years to ratify the first 5G standard, shipments of 5G enabled devices are expected to reach 1 billion six years after the first commercial launches. Technology adoption of Wi-Fi 6 will be driven predominantly by the smartphone market as it transitions away from 802.11ac beginning in 2019. However, significant adoption is not expected to happen until 2020, once the standard is fully ratified and becomes increasingly leveraged in flagship devices from key smartphone vendors.

According to ABI’s Senior Analyst, Andrew Zignani, Wi-Fi 6 pre-standard chipsets are readily available from a number of vendors including Broadcom, Qualcomm, Marvell, Quantenna, Intel, and Celeno. The enormous growth in Wi-Fi-enabled devices, increased per-user traffic demand, greater number of users per Access Point (AP), increased cellular offloading, higher density Wi-Fi deployments, growing use of outdoor Wi-Fi, heterogeneous device and traffic types, and a desire for more power and spectral efficiency are all major driving forces behind 802.11ax’s introduction. As a result, Wi-Fi 6 is already seeing strong traction in networking and enterprise applications due to its ability to enhance performance in dense environments.

In addition, the FCC recently voted in favor of opening 1200 MHz of spectrum for unlicensed devices in the 6 GHz band. The 802.11ax working group is currently determining how best to incorporate 6 GHz support into 802.11ax in anticipation of the spectrum becoming available. This will help pave the way for smoother adoption of 6GHz chipsets and devices if it is granted. The rollout of the 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. If additional spectrum is made available, many stakeholders anticipate that most of the station and AP devices going forward will have tri-band capabilities that support 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz. The increased spectrum is also likely to form the foundation of the next Extremely High Throughput standard that goes beyond 802.11ax with the primary objective of increasing throughput through wider 320 MHz channels, more spatial streams, and multiband aggregation.

The Wi-Fi Alliance’s recent introduction of generational branding for different Wi-Fi standards has been well received by the industry and will likely better advertise the Wi-Fi capabilities and enhancement to end-users looking forward. For some time, ABI Research has identified the need for Wi-Fi to strengthen its branding and market message to better convey the new features and functionalities supported in the latest Wi-Fi standards, particularly among consumers.

The greater awareness of Wi-Fi devices strengths and limitations could also drive competition and greater incentivization in the market – people may no longer be happy with legacy connectivity in their broadband providers default supplied router and may be willing to spend more on a device with Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 5, in a similar vein to 3G vs 4G and soon to be 5G in the cellular space. This could lead to a more competitive market in which Wi-Fi is increasingly leveraged as a key differentiator between different device types and becomes a more important factor in a consumer’s purchase decision than ever before, states ABI.

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