The use of Wi-Fi functionality in small-cell base stations will be a game changer for mobile service providers, easing heavily congested data pipes while linking together billions of devices into a single network architecture, according to the IHS iSuppli.
Small cells–low-power base stations each supporting approximately 100 to 200 simultaneous users–will augment wireless coverage and capacity in dense urban areas.
The small cells likely will be installed in public facilities such as malls, railway and subway stations, the sides of public buildings, and on street or traffic lights. IHS expects large-scale deployment of small cells to start in 2014. The integration of Wi-Fi, in addition to 3G and 4G mobile capabilities, will complement residential Wi-Fi.
By 2015, some 725 million households globally will have Wi-Fi access. That will create usage habits that make Wi-Fi access a normal and accepted way of getting access to the Internet.
Shipments in 2013 of Wi-Fi chipsets will reach a projected 2.14 billion units, up a robust 20 percent from 1.78 billion in 2012. This year’s anticipated increase continues the impressive run of double-digit growth that started at least five years ago and will persist for three more years until 2016, after which expansion dips to a still-strong 9 percent. By 2017, Wi-Fi chipset shipments will amount to 3.71 billion units, as shown in the attached figure.
Overall, approximately 18.7 billion Wi-Fi chipset units will be shipped from 2011 to 2017—nearly all of which will belong to the high-performance 802.11n version. To put that number in context, the entire planet has seven billion people—which means that Wi-Fi chipset shipments will outnumber the earth’s population by more than two-and-a-half times.
The devices containing embedded Wi-Fi chipsets are many, but mobile handsets stand out in particular.
By 2015, nearly 1.2 billion handsets out of a total of 1.9 billion cellphones produced that year will include Wi-Fi functionality. Approximately 70 percent of handsets sold worldwide by then—and well over that figure in North America and Western Europe—will be smartphones with embedded Wi-Fi.
Some might also argue that increasingly ubiquitous Wi-Fi might create new opportunities in the device and application space. There might be whole categories of Internet devices designed to work only in the presence of a Wi-Fi signal.
Already, in most developed nations, 80 percent to 95 percent of the time, smart phone users are in zones where Wi-Fi can be the primary Internet connection, when they use the Internet.