In its revised mobile service bundles, SingTel added free wi-fi access for its mobile users in selected locations in Singapore. This is said to be part of its strategy to alleviate data congestion on its 3G and 4G networks.
The trend is set to continue across the globe as telcos wrestle to cope with the increasing demand for mobile data. To enable wi-fi access, they need to purchase wi-fi test equipment, creating strong opportunities for Wi-Fi test equipment manufacturers globally.
According to Frost & Sullivan, the wi-fi test equipment market earned revenues of US$528.9 million in 2013. This is expected to more than double to reach US$1.09 billion in 2020.
“More than 55 percent 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. Wi-fi technology 802.11ac and robust test and monitoring solutions are critical to achieve correct offloading and minimize overall customer churn,” said Olga Yashkova-Shapiro, Measurement & Instrumentation Program Manager of Frost & Sullivan. “
Thus far, .11ac testing equipment has been used in the R&D and QA testing phases. However, as the market shifts towards manufacturing and field tests, a new set of intelligent testing solutions is required to address the performance and testing of .11ac products for consumers.
However, IEEE 802.11ac technology poses many challenges from the test and measurement perspective. For instance, the multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) antenna used in .11ac products requires channel emulation for testing radio performance. Vendors will need to set up a testing chamber for controlled RF conditions.
Lack of fixed protocols for testing new standards in the wi-fi industry also causes ambiguity in the global wi-fi test equipment industry. 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.
“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 till the final standard is released,” noted Yashkova-Shapiro.