Future of WiFi

Connecting to WiFi with your mobile device or laptop is simple. We often take our access to the internet for granted when WiFi (and free WiFi) is so widespread. 5G services and unlimited mobile data plans are available so why do we still need to connect to WiFi access points? Will WiFi be around in the future?

Lets start with the simplest reason the future of WiFi looks bright. Connecting to WiFi is required for all tablets, PCs, and other devices that simply have no other way to access the internet. Many new laptops do not have built in cabled options or cellular modems, so WiFi becomes the default. Tablets fall into this category if they don’t have a built in cellular modem. You can get a USB Ethernet dongle for your tablet or laptop, but now you have to carry (and fight with) another cable.

You may ask why a device needs to be connected to the internet. It’s your device after all, you should be able to use it without having an internet connection. This is true and aside from patches and updates, modern devices require internet access for activation and for software installation. Without internet access your device simply won’t have the software on it that make it worth having. Internet connectivity, while not required for a device to power on, it’s required for that device to function properly.

The second major reason: consumption of media content requires a lot of bandwidth (fast internet service) and a lot of data (tens and hundreds of gigabytes). Streaming services have taken the world by storm. Netflix, Spotify and Disney+ to name a few. On average a one hour high definition feed will consume (depending on the service) approximately one gigabyte of data.

Watching a movie or sporting event could consume three or more gigabytes of data. In addition, the theoretical minimum bandwidth you’ll require for this service will be approximately 2.4mbps. You can check Netflix to see their minimum recommendations which are higher than stated here.

This doesn’t seem like a lot of bandwidth as most home internet connections that are 10+ mbps (in cities). However cellular plans often don’t advertise available bandwidth and even if they do, they cannot guarantee that. Even “unlimited” cellular data plans still have caps on fast speed data consumption and will drop your speed below this minimum if you exceed their data consumption thresholds.

The third major reason is that many internet connected devices share a common access point through WiFi. It is simply not feasible to connect each of these devices separately through a cellular network as designed today. Consider Amazon Alexa: without WiFi, these devices would not be able to wirelessly connect to the cloud. These devices would not be as affordable to own and operate and you’d have a data plan for each one. This would make the adoption of IoT connected devices (fridges, door locks, coffee makers, home automation etc.) expensive.

It is our opinion that 5G has the potential to make WiFi obsolete, but as long as cellular network companies continue to bill customers based on data consumption, WiFi will be around for a long time to come.

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