Carrier Wi-Fi will get bigger in 2013 as operators expand their 802.11 footprints and look for smoother ways to move between hotspots and 4G. Here's a look at the trends they'll be riding.
Gigabit Wi-Fi: The new 802.11ac standard -- sometimes known as 5G Wireless -- could push Wi-Fi speeds beyond 1 Gbit/s on the 5GHz public band. Chips from Broadcom, Marvell Technology Group Ltd. and others use multiple-antenna arrays and channel-bonding techniques to further bump up the speed of Wi-Fi. Broadcom is expecting that 802.11ac will be interesting to carriers as a means of delivering video traffic over-the-air.
Integrated Wi-Fi & LTE: 3G and 4G small cells that integrate Wi-Fi into their connectivity buffet will make the scene in 2013. Vodafone Group plc is expected to be among the first carriers to deploy the new technology.
Larger deployments: Cisco Systems Inc. has just won a deal to deploy 100,000 access points across Indonesia. KDDI Corp. has already rolled out 120,000 access points in Japan. Expect to see more big numbers of Wi-Fi radios deployed for offload and faster access -- especially in Asia -- in 2013.
Roaming between Wi-Fi & LTE: Asian carriers such as SK Telecom, which already has large Wi-Fi hotspot deployments and 7 million 4G LTE subscribers, are likely to push seamless roaming between 4G and Wi-Fi. The move will require Hotspot 2.0 support in handsets and other devices to enable a smooth move between networks.
Smartphones & tablets driving Wi-Fi in 2013: The Wireless Broadband Alliance reports that smartphones already overtook laptops as the main access method to hotspots in 2012, with tablets already representing 17% of the access devices. This number is likely to grow in 2013, with increased sales of Wi-Fi-only tablets from Apple Inc, Google and others boosting the market next year.
â€” Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile