Emerging Wireless Technologies Threaten WiFi Existence

WiFi faces multiple threats, and could be rendered obsolete when 5G is deployed. A Bloomberg Technology report explained unlimited cellular data plans, and emerging cellular technologies are aggressively reducing the need for consumers to use WiFi. Craig Moffett, an analyst at MoffettNathanson LLC, explained the situation facing wireless users.

“At Sprint Corp., where unlimited plans are the norm, customers aren’t waiting until they get to a WiFi hot spot to watch the latest video. They are staying on cellular,” he said. With so many unlimited data plans offered by carriers, the rate of users connected to WiFi is expected to decrease from half of all mobile data traffic, to barely a third.

Kevin Robinson, vice president of marketing for the WiFi Alliance defends the continuing existence of WiFi. He said, “WiFi has consistently stayed ahead in terms of performance and its ability to move large amounts of data.” He went on, “The market is going to decide which technology provides the best capabilities for the end user.” The spectrum has been easy to use and open to innovation, mostly because it is unlicensed.

However, the existence of LTE-U, which uses the same airwaves, has threatened to crowd out WiFi users with smartphone and tablet operators, and make its radio bands less efficient. In the industrial world, many airports and factories are turning to Citizens Broadband Radio Service. The spectrum is commonly used by the U.S. Navy, but is more reliable than WiFi, claims the network’s advocates. 

The final nail in WiFi’s coffin could be 5G deployment. Devices connected to the network are expected to operate at speeds capable of downloading a high-definition movie in less than a second. Efforts are currently underway to bring the network online even sooner than expected. If that is the case, traffic on WiFi could decrease dramatically by 2019.

March 14, 2017   

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