The use of dual-band Wi-Fi devices using 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum has surpassed that of single-band 2.4 GHz devices, according to an ABI Research study.
Dual-band Wi-Fi long has been used in the enterprise, but widespread adoption of Wi-Fi certified ac products in smartphones, tablets and consumer electronics pushed 5 GHz into the spotlight as a critical frequency band for Wi-Fi in homes today, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance.
"I think a lot of people still think of Wi-Fi as being a 2.4 GHz technology only," said Kelly Davis-Felner, vice president of marketing at the Wi-Fi Alliance. "Enterprises have been doing dual-band forever, but what has really happened now is the consumer market has hit an inflection point." Most popular smartphones are dual-band, along with routers on store shelves.
"There's no question we can't do it without both 2.4 and 5 [GHz]. 2.4 alone would never even begin to satisfy the connectivity needs that folks have now," she said. "People are connecting so many devices they really need both."
The 5 GHz band is far less prone to crowding and interference than the 2.4 GHz band, and more importantly, it has a lot more spectrum available to use, ABI notes in its report.
Just this week, House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders announced that they're initiating a series of meetings to explore the feasibility of expanding access to more 5 GHz unlicensed spectrum for consumer use. They're working with the FCC, the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Transportation to discuss efforts to increase availability of unlicensed spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band. So far, the automobile industry has been opposed to sharing spectrum due to fears of interference with emerging intelligent vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications.
The demand for Wi-Fi is so great that the industry needs to look at other spectrum bands, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance. "Our industry is doing everything we can to kind of innovate our way to get the most bits we possibly can through the pretty limited unlicensed spectrum that we have now, but I think there's also the sense that we need to be doing everything we can to foster sharing and really ultra-efficient use of all the spectrum that we have," Davis-Felner said.
According to ABI's report, 68 percent of all Wi-Fi devices shipped in 2015 will use the 5 GHz band. "The growth of Wi-Fi devices has been consistent over a number of years and has shown an ever-expanding presence in 5 GHz," said ABI research director Phil Solis in a release. "More than half of Wi-Fi devices last year used 5 GHz, and that will grow to close to one hundred percent saturation in the next five years."
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