The Progressing Issue of Overloaded Wi-Fi Consumption
Wireless connection has become the norm. Throughout the country, homes depend on their Wi-Fi router to deliver Internet connectivity for each member of the family and this load is forecasted to increase each year. An average household used to have only 10 Internet-connected devices in 2013 and within a few short years this is projected to rise to 50. Home networks don’t have the capacity to handle this kind of volume and without innovation and action, daily life will be severely interrupted due to poor Wi-Fi performance.
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An Increasingly Wi-Fi driven World
The first devices that had Wi-Fi capability were introduced almost 20 years ago. The technology quickly became popular as it provided a compelling alternative to network cables. Computers could finally connect to a local area network without being restricted in one place. Owners could maximize their laptop’s portability. They could also do away with all the clutter associated with physical cabling around a house. Setup was much easier, especially for large homes and offices. The technology has kept improving in terms of range and speed. There is rarely a need for repeaters today in an average home.
Web browsing on one or two devices requires less a data rate of than 5 megabits per second. However, now there are typically 7 Internet-connected devices in US households. Some of them may be using their PCs and phones to watch HD streaming videos. This leads to a consumption of over 100 megabits per second. Systems are buckling under the weight of their load. About 34% of consumers report problems with streaming services and video downloads at least half of the time. This leads to a high dissatisfaction rate. Something must be done to remedy the situation.
Right now, 25 million people are subscribed to video streaming services like Netflix. Those who use free sites like YouTube are in the hundreds of millions. There are more screens inside homes today than at any other point in time such as televisions, desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. The advent of wearable devices such as fitness trackers and smart watches adds more pressure on home networks. The Internet of Things is another potential issue. Wireless networks need better performance to handle these increasing connections. Everything must be able to co-exist without experiencing problems with speed and reliability.
A Look at Current Wi-Fi Shortcomings and Future Wi-Fi Needs
According to a study, the demand for wireless bandwidth in homes has increased a hundred times in the last 5 years. We are simply getting hungrier for more because of the quantity of the devices we have and the quality of content that we expect to get out of them. This trend is only going to continue. A 2013 estimate by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development pegs the average household’s use of connected devices at 10. This figure is projected to rise to 17 in 2017 and 50 in 2022. There is no stopping the upward push.
The inclusion of wireless technology in more electronic devices has a direct impact on Internet use. It was forecasted that these would be responsible for 86% of broadband data usage among households by 2017. The trend will hold on an overall level as well. A Cisco research says that 67% of IP traffic will be from Wi-Fi and mobile networks by 2019. The 2014 level was only 42% so this represents a substantial change in a space of just a few years.
The world’s dependence on the Internet just keeps rising. Many of the things that we do on a daily basis are now aided by online tools. Our preference for mobile computing puts pressure on wireless systems to perform. Smartphones are now doing a lot of the tasks that used to be exclusive to full-sized personal computers. Even laptops are shrinking in bulk and weight while increasing in power. The LAN connectors that used to be standard are now extremely rare in newer models. Nobody is buying these thin and light machines only to be forced to work in one spot. Wireless networking and mobility go hand-in-hand.
How Companies are Handling Wi-Fi Consumption and Load Issues
The tech industry recognizes that network congestion is a serious issue. Various initiatives are seeking to find solutions and prepare for the forecasted demands of the future. For example, Google has started the OnHub project, which uses innovative hardware and software to provide constant optimization. It has 13 antennas, which are able to sense where the fastest Wi-Fi connections are. Twelve of them are used for optimal coverage while one evaluates congestion. These antennas enable it to prioritize devices and improve speed when needed. OnHub monitors the number of devices connected to the network and the bandwidth they consume. Users can modify settings to prevent streaming interruptions and other interferences.
Wireless standards are also continuously being enhanced to keep up with the times. In 2013, the newest one was approved by the consortium called 802.11ac. Coverage was improved and dead zones were minimized. The range was extended considerably as well. Another key change was the shift to the 5 GHz frequency spectrum which is less crowded and, therefore, less prone to interference from other signals. Startups are trying to make a name for themselves by solving the home-spectrum crunch. For instance, Plume is promising to create a new kind of Wi-Fi that uses 14 patented technologies to minimize congestion. It will be composed of several cheap antennas and retail for roughly $100.
The 802.11ac wireless standard boosts the speed and reliability of connections. Wider frequency bands, multiple antennas, and faster processing all contribute to this result. The larger bandwidth capacity allows devices to get data at a faster rate than ever before. Users of demanding applications like video streaming and online gaming are the ones who benefit the most. People have come to expect nothing less than HD quality. The emergence of 4K, 8K and higher resolutions will create challenges. Right now 4K content is rare but this should change in time. After several years, another standard will be drafted to cope with even greater demands.
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