According to ABI Research, COVID-19's impact on WiFi infrastructure indicates that existing infrastructure is inadequate. Wireless networks are now facing higher demand with more traffic, and users are finding their existing home WiFi networks, and the wider broadband infrastructure, inadequate or incapable of supporting the recent 80% increase in upload traffic.
"The outbreak of COVID-19 is creating a need for flexibility that will fuel the future of connectivity," said Andrew Zignani, principal analyst at ABI.
Many users are still using older WiFi equipment with legacy WiFi standards, such as 802.11n, rather than the latest WiFi 6, which has specifically been designed to deal with better provision in more crowded networks.
"There will be renewed incentive for mesh WiFi that can provide sufficient high-speed coverage to multiple users throughout the home," Zignani said.
At the same time, companies will need to ensure they have the right infrastructure in place so large numbers of employees can concurrently connect to company virtual private networks (VPNs), ABI says. Many companies may not have VPNs at all, while capacity limitations could put companies at further risk of security breaches or slow down productivity further.
"The hope, of course, is that the impact of COVID-19 will be very short-lived, and that people will be able to return to work, school, and normality as swiftly as possible. In the longer term, today's necessities could lead to an increased desire and testbed for flexible and remote working and learning in the future, while companies may shift marketing and business resources away from conference-centric approaches toward new online and virtual marketing tools, particularly as additional concerns grow over the impact of climate change via international travel," said Zignani.
"In the longer term, it could lead to a reassessment of how many modern workplaces and working relationships are structured, reducing the impact of long commutes and travel, enabling more flexible working and remote collaboration. In order to achieve this, additional resources will need to be devoted to VPNs, secure home networking, and remote working/conferencing software," Zignani said. "Alongside this, further investment will need to be made to ensure home broadband infrastructure can support high-speed WiFi Internet access."
Education will need to be provided on how to optimize and get the best out of home WiFi networks. Employees will need to be equipped with equipment that can support robust, efficient, and low latency WiFi standards, while various organizations around the globe will need to open up additional spectrum, such as 6 GHz to ensure the capacity of WiFi networks can meet a global increase in demand for video, collaborative tools, and other data-heavy traffic going forward, ABI says.
However, all these longer-term transformations require a deep understanding of the need for high-speed, highly secure wireless infrastructure to and within the home.
"This could lead to greater incentives being placed on rolling out high-speed fiber or last-mile networks, better awareness of the need for robust whole-home connectivity via mesh systems, and the adoption of 6 GHz WiFi and the latest WiFi standards. In addition, it could lead to greater home WiFi security, improved cybersecurity education, and a better understanding of the need for additional WiFi capacity in the years to come," Zignani said.