The growth of 802.11ac and 802.11ad will occur in very different ways. 802.11ac will explode into devices, including smartphones, from the start while 802.11ad will see a more modest and staggered growth. 802.11ac is being pushed into smartphones by key carriers’ device requirements that are in sync with 802.11ac hotspot plans for more robust Wi-Fi offloading.
“The push towards 11ac adoption overpowers the minor additional cost of dual-band 802.11n/802.11ac chipsets that will be used in smartphones,” states ABI Research’s director Philip Solis. “Perhaps surprising even to industry insiders, we will likely see 2X2 802.11ac implementations in smartphones in a few years.”
The proportion of various 802.11ac-enabled products will remain relatively consistent from 2013 to 2018, with smartphones making up 40% of those in 2013 and 46% in 2018, where over 3.5 billion Wi-Fi chipsets with 802.11ac will ship. The Wi-Fi Alliance is just about to start certification of products using the protocol, yet its shipments have started and are already on track to distribute hundreds of millions this year. 802.11ac finally pushes Wi-Fi more towards the 5 GHz spectrum which is cleaner and permits for the much larger channel sizes that allow for greater speeds and capacity.
802.11ad will phase from larger to smaller products, starting from peripherals and larger non-handset mobile devices and shift to smaller and thinner devices over time. 802.11ad will make its way into smartphones in 2015, changing the proportion of 802.11ad-enabled products compared to prior to 2015. Smartphones will account for nearly half of all 802.11ad-enabled products in 2018, though with less than half the volume in smartphones compared to 802.11ac. Even so, over 1.5 billion chipsets with 802.11ad will ship in 2018. 802.11ad pushes Wi-Fi into higher-speed, lower-power personal area networking that will be used simultaneously with other Wi-Fi protocols.
“As the complexity of Wi-Fi increases, heading towards tri-band 802.11n/802.11ac/802.11ad chipsets, interesting design tradeoffs can be made to optimize for cost, size, and functionality,” notes Solis. “Choices can be made around the support of 80 MHz or 160 MHz channel and MIMO configurations based on whether or not 802.11ad is included. Smaller antennae arrays can also be used to save space.”