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802.11ac, Hotspot 2.0 Help Fuel Growth of Carrier WiFi Revenues

New technologies and service opportunities, such as analytics, small cells and WiFi roaming, will be drivers in the market, Infonetics analysts say.

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The carrier WiFi equipment market is continuing to see rapid growth due in large part to such technologies as 802.11ac and Hotspot 2.0 and the increasing demand for such capabilities as data analytics, according to analysts at Infonetics Research.

In a recent report, Infonetics analysts said that revenue for the global carrier WiFi equipment market jumped to $336 million in the second half of 2014, a 23 percent increase from the first half. For the full year, revenues in 2014 grew 16 percent over 2013.

The analysts expect strong growth to continue, with revenues in 2015 increasing by 88 percent, and that the market—which currently is led by Cisco Systems, Huawei Technologies and Ruckus Networks—will continue to expand over the coming years.

"Several strong growth factors are feeding the rapid acceleration of the carrier WiFi market," Richard Webb, research director for mobile backhaul and small cells at Infonetics, said in a statement. "In addition to the demand for offload and broadband enhancement, there are technology innovations such as 802.11ac and Hotspot 2.0, and service opportunities like data analytics, location-based services and WiFi roaming that are driving deployment. The market will get another push from mobile operators deploying small cells with integrated WiFi over the coming few years."

The market for 802.11ac-compliant products—including wireless access points(APs) and routers—is expected to grow rapidly, with analysts from ABI Research saying in a report in April that by the end of the year, about 71 million consumer WiFi devices based on the newer 802.11ac standards will ship worldwide. The WiFi standard will offer up to three times the speed and more bandwidth over 802.11n. More devices will be able to connect to the network without significantly impacting the network performance. In addition, 802.11ac also can work in the 5GHz band, which will be important for such high-performance applications as video.

The Hotspot 2.0 protocol is designed to let users automatically connect to WiFi networks as they move around, similar to how cellular networks operate now.

Infonetics found that most of the carrier WiFi revenue last year came from access points, with another 22 percent of sales coming from WiFi controllers. In the second half of the year, 802.11ac APs accounted for 17 percent of WiFi AP revenue, and will drive spending on hotspot upgrades through at least 2019.