The Next Frontier in the Test Equipment Market: A Complete Wi-Fi Testing Solution

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With a growing number of Internet subscribers and greater broadband penetration, the increasing demand for non-voice traffic, such as data/video streaming, places tremendous pressure on a communication industry that has issues with limited and licensed bandwidth.

Wi-Fi technology stepped forward as the most popular solution for wireless Internet traffic. Apart from being one of the most widely adopted technologies, Wi-Fi  has also evolved from a convenience service offered in coffee shops and hotels into a rugged, scalable, and resilient carrier-grade network service.

Wi-Fi technology is expected to offer tremendous opportunities to test equipment vendors. According to Frost & Sullivan’s latest analysis, the global Wi-Fi test equipment market reached $159.4 million in 2011 and is expected to reach $442.6 million in 2018, growing at CAGR of 15.7 percent from 2011 until 2018.

Chart 1.1 represents the global revenue forecast for the Wi-Fi test equipment market for 2011 and 2018.

Although Wi-Fi technology offers tremendous opportunities to test equipment vendors, it brings along a number of challenges that must be addressed. Rapidly developing technologies, multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO), focus on performance and not convenience, as well as a shortage of complete Wi-Fi testing solutions are among such challenges.

Rapidly Developing Technologies

Rapidly developing technologies and standards continue to challenge the test equipment market, as the increasing complexities of improved standards lead to new products that need testing. Continuous innovation and updates are required in the product line to ensure the best quality.

Focus on Performance, Not Convenience

From its origins as more of a convenience service, Wi-Fi technology is now in critical markets, such as healthcare and industrial automation, and is used in carrier-grade solutions for mobile operators. Test equipment vendors are tasked with ensuring rugged, scalable and resilient networks with a focus on performance and quality.

Lack of Complete Wi-Fi Testing Solutions

According to independent test laboratories, there is currently a need to build Wi-Fi test equipment that would operate at Layers one through three simultaneously. This equipment would be a combination of a spectrum analyzer, protocol analyzer and an Internet protocol (IP) traffic generator across multiple virtual clients in a single product. Co-relating events across the three domains is crucial; when verifying core performance issues at Layer three, the real concern could also be found at Layer one or Layer two. Thus, the industry requires more sophisticated tools that are capable of isolating the location of the problems.

MIMO

MIMO requires channel emulation for testing radio performance. However, channel emulation is still a very expensive solution. An average selling price for a 4X4 MIMO channel emulator is currently $200,000. With increased adoption of the 802.11ac standard, three new technologies are being introduced: 8X8 MIMO, beam forming, and multi-user MIMO. These technologies will first be adopted by the access point companies, such as Cisco and NETGEAR, and then later by the mobile phone/laptop companies, such as Samsung, Apple, Dell.

For more information or any questions regarding this article or test & measurement research, please contact Jeannette Garcia at jeannette.garcia@frost.com or at 210-477-8427.

 




Edited by Brooke Neuman

Program Leader for the Frost & Sullivan Test & Measurement Practice

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