Before consumers will commonly be able to go to Wi-Fi hotspots and take advantage of 11ac speeds, the technology upgrade process may get even more complex. There's likely to be a chicken-and-egg problem, said analyst Peter Jarich of Current Analysis.
"I have no interest in upgrading my infrastructure in my hotspots to ac if the devices don't support it," Jarich said. "On the other hand, if I'm a device vendor, do I care about putting ac in a device if the hotspot infrastructure isn't out there?"
Mobile Wi-Fi is likely to tap into the additional speed and capacity of 11ac on a case-by-case basis instead of wholesale adoption, they said. High-demand venues and high-end devices will kick it off, and even for them, it may take two or three years, Rehbehn said.
"This is not going to be driven by the number of ac-enabled hotspots out there," he said. "It's going to be driven by something a little bit more subjective, which is, how vital is it for end-user satisfaction to be able to hop on those networks when they come across them?"