Wi-Fi usage expected to double in 2013

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(Photo: John Rensten/Getty)

I was wondering the other day just how many things in my house I had hooked up to Wi-Fi, so I took a quick count. It turns out I’ve got about 15 devices—game consoles, computers, tablets, phones—that are in regular use, with another five or so (e-readers, iPods et al) that periodically connect. If Wi-Fi really does make you sick, like some misinformed parents claimed a while back, then my head should be about ready to explode.

More to the point, I couldn’t help but think about how my poor little router is able to handle all that traffic. Truth be told, I’ve had some issues over the past few months, with my Internet connection periodically experiencing hiccups. I tracked at least one of these down to a bizarre, seemingly unique issue—as in I couldn’t find anyone else online who had experienced it—with Apple’s iCloud, which killed my whole connection. The issue was magically solved when I turned the service off. Some of the other mild problems doubtlessly came from my internet provider.

The router, meanwhile, has been soldiering on. But, given that it’s a few years old, I expect it to give out at any time, which is why I’ve got a backup ready to go, just in case.

This little anecdote explains why I took interest yesterday in a press release from John Cioffi, the electrical engineer who was instrumental in creating DSL Internet technology. Besides predicting that fibre-to-the-node and VDSL deployments will accelerate in 2013, he also had some thoughts on Wi-Fi that jibe with my recent ponderings on the subject:

Wi-Fi use for cellular carrier offload will double as mobile devices continue to overload cellular networks. The average number of mobile and machine-to-machine devices in the home will double, as will the over-the-top (OTT) video content consumed. This combination will significantly stress Wi-Fi networks, leading service providers, equipment providers, application vendors, and consumers to focus on improving the performance of residential Wi-Fi networks.

Indeed, it’s already happening. With many people having long ago converted to the wireless N standard of Wi-Fi, which has better speed, throughput and range than its G predecessor, the next generation of the technology is already on its way.

The AC standard, also known as fifth-generation Wi-Fi and is capable of even faster speeds, range and capacity, is already popping up in new routers and laptops. I’m expecting to see lots of the new Wi-Fi at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, in just over a month’s time.

Wi-fi is one of those invisible, innocuous technologies we never think of, but it’s also one that is becoming increasingly vital to our every-day lives. If those 15 devices in my house all went down simultaneously, I can’t imagine the carnage that would erupt. I’d be so bored, I might have to… ick… read a book or something.

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