We’ve been writing about WiFi in IoT connectivity post, but what I’ve noticed lately is that everybody is talking about the NB-IoT, LTE-M, LoRa, Sigfox or BLE, ZigBee, Z-Wave – so I wonder, what’s happening with the good old WiFi?
As written in our earlier post, WiFi in it’s latest ac version can provide more than 1 Gbps, but the range is limited to typically 100 meters, even less than this indoors. Additionally, there are new WiFi standards developed for IoT: WiFi HaLow (802.11ah) published in Q4 2017 and HEW (802.11ax) that’s expected to be finalized in 2019.
For sure, WiFi can’t fight the wide area coverage that the LPWA networks offer and it’s also losing its advantages over cellular when it comes to indoor coverage (houses, buildings). Additionally, MNOs are pushing IoT deployments aggressively. Looking from that perspective, WiFi is not the preferred solution for IoT development if you’re vendor or developer who would like to have no worries regarding connectivity in whichever part of the world, in urban or rural area, in the field or underground, wherever your solution is adapted – it just works and it’s also prepared for 5G that is coming.
Further on, all the IoT market research emphasize a security as a main issue that worries the end users when it comes to IoT implementation. And in regards to security, WiFi system also had their problems – just remember the KRACK or take a look at some widely available WiFi hacking devices. Since this is a known weak spot of the WiFi networks, they addressed this problem by developing HotSpot 2.0 that focuses on securing the 802.11 radio interface – by this it offers equivalent technical level of security as within cellular networks. For sure, cellular networks are not bulletproof secure, but MNOs can’t afford network outages or theft of user data, so they do have a dedicated teams to take care about that part.
Coexistence issues with LTE-U and other unlicensed cellular technologies working in a same band as WiFi could yet prove problematic for IoT solutions that are utilizing WiFi connectivity.
OK, to be honest everything is not so grey for the WiFi, it’s mature technology, well present in our homes, offices, widely used and part of the service bundle that we are already paying for, so it will definitely stay present for a long time . When it comes to IoT application, WiFi will be mostly present as part of smart home solutions (for appliances, entertainment and lighting) and for consumer devices, and both markets are huge.
HaLow (to date no commercial Wi-Fi HaLow access points or routers are available on the market) and HEW (802.11ax) would bring new potential for WiFi for the IoT, but we will see how they will cope in a real world with existing connectivity solutions that are aiming at the same market.