Investment in Wi-Fi network testing needed to meet ‘explosion’ in data traffic

Out-Law News | 26 Sep 2014 | 4:15 pm | 1 min. read

More than 55% of all mobile data is expected to be offloaded to Wi-Fi networks in 2017, making it “imperative” for mobile operators to ensure that Wi-Fi networks are of carrier-grade quality, according to a new report.

The report by technology consultancy Frost & Sullivan, which covered research and development, quality assurance, manufacturing and field testing application segments, said investment in Wi-Fi network testing is needed to respond to “exploding data traffic”, which the report said has been “primarily created by smartphones”.

The report said: “Cellular networks will face a tremendous challenge to cope with a limited and licensed spectrum. Wi-Fi, which utilises the unlicensed spectrum, is the most favourable technology for offloading demand as it is inexpensive, pervasive, gives high performance, and has constantly improving standards”.

According to the report: “The risk to service providers of using Wi-Fi for cellular offload is that unsatisfactory user experiences with Wi-Fi will result in a loss of high-margin smartphone customers. The challenge will be to test offload solutions thoroughly to provide the best service. This trend will encourage new innovations in testing for Wi-Fi.”

There are also “strong opportunities for Wi-Fi test equipment manufacturers globally”, the report said. The global Wi-Fi test equipment market earned revenues of $528.9 million in 2013 and this is estimated to reach more than $1 billion in 2020, according to the report.

However, a “lack of fixed protocols for testing new standards in the Wi-Fi industry also causes ambiguity in the global Wi-Fi test equipment industry”, the report said. “Often the final standard the Wi-Fi Alliance approves is very different from earlier drafts used to develop many products, making it difficult for test equipment vendors to manufacture compliant products.”

Frost & Sullivan measurement and instrumentation programme manager Olga Yashkova-Shapiro said: “Test equipment vendors must ensure that their products can be updated continuously to avoid becoming obsolete within a few months of the launch. While some vendors are rolling out such products, many prefer holding off until the final standard is released.”

The Wi-Fi Alliance, the worldwide network of companies that delivers Wi-Fi, marked its 15th anniversary this month. Latest figures show consumer demand for Wi-Fi has continued to grow since the alliance came into being, with sales figures of around two billion Wi-Fi devices sold in 2013 alone and a forecast exceeding four billion in 2020.