A new cross-industry survey by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), the global industry body dedicated to improving Wi-Fi standards and services, reveals that Wi-Fi 7 technology introduction is top global priority to further extend Wi-Fi capabilities and drive new use cases in the industrial internet of things (IIoT). WBA notes that Wi-Fi 7 is emerging as one of the most important areas of investment in new connectivity technologies.
That is one key finding from the consortium's cross-industry survey of service providers, technology vendors and enterprises. The survey's larger findings, released as part of the WBA Annual Industry Report 2023, reveal that more than a third (33%) of service providers, technology vendors and enterprises already have plans to deploy Wi-Fi 7 by the end of 2023.
WBA predicts that:
Wi-Fi 7 will supercharge current Wi-Fi capabilities with new technologies, such as multilink operation and time sensitive networking - ideal for Industry 4.0 applications - while leveraging the 6GHz spectrum dynamically with automatic frequency coordination.
The report also reveals that Wi-Fi 6E technology has now become the de facto industry standard -- with 53% of survey respondents having already deployed the technology, and a further 44% already working on plans to adopt Wi-Fi 6E in the next 12-18 months. The survey discerns uptake of Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 technology as being driven by a growing appetite for data-intensive, low-latency applications and use cases, from smart cities and immersive technologies such as the future metaverse to Industry 4.0.
QoE key for monetizing Wi-Fi
WBA contends that newer Wi-Fi technologies offer better scheduling and greater interference management, which respondents to the survey now see as essential in supporting high-quality video, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and other advanced consumer technology experiences. The new report also details a renewed focus on the quality of experience (QoE) delivered to end-users, with 90% of service providers, equipment manufacturers and enterprises now ranking it as a key differentiator in monetizing their Wi-Fi services. Sixty-one percent of respondents identified services such as high-definition video streaming, AR, VR and potential metaverse applications as key revenue opportunities.
OpenRoaming gains momentum
Global momentum for the WBA OpenRoaming technology, which reached a milestone of one million hotspots in early 2022, is also underlined by the new report. OpenRoaming enables users to connect automatically and securely to millions of Wi-Fi networks around the world without the need for logins, registrations, or passwords, facilitating “always on” connectivity. Passpoint technology removes the friction usually associated with onboarding and offboarding between hotspots. The survey found that 62% percent of service providers, equipment manufacturers and enterprises worldwide will have already deployed Passpoint/OpenRoaming technology or are planning to do so by the end of 2023. A further 25% are expected to deploy the technology by 2025. Among those adopting OpenRoaming, 51% said the key driver was improving the overall customer experience.
Convergence deemed critical
Other key findings from the WBA's report reinforce the need for convergence between Wi-Fi and cellular technologies in the interest of creating a seamless user experience. In enterprise markets, 70% of survey respondents said Wi-Fi and 5G technologies will coexist, with 61% claiming convergence would support enhanced flexibility for enterprise services. 53% said that convergence between licensed and unlicensed technologies was critical or important for the current commercial strategy.
The 60-page 2023 Wi-Fi Market Report is an annual report written by analysts Maravedis and Rethink and published by the Wireless Broadband Alliance.
As well as reviewing 2022, the new report addresses emerging trends and business models in key vertical markets such as retail, aviation, hospitality, smart transportation, healthcare and general industry. In addition, it charts the progress of technology trends and developments including standards evolution, OpenRoaming, Mesh Wi-Fi, and Mobile Edge Computing technologies.
Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance, commented:
“What we’re seeing here is the industry at large identifying increasing value in Wi-Fi technology in the wake of highly anticipated new use cases. What’s more, service providers, equipment manufacturers and enterprises around the world know that those use cases are best served in a converged environment, where Wi-Fi and 5G complement each other. Therefore, we’re seeing the industry advance at breakneck pace toward Wi-Fi 7, with mobile operators leveraging Wi-Fi as part of their 5G strategies to maximize coverage and optimize capacity – it’s all about the user experience. This includes how people and things connect to the networks - automatically, securely and with privacy assured and that is where OpenRoaming provides the essential ingredient.”
Adlane Fellah, senior analyst Maravedis, concluded:
“Ensuring a predictable quality Wi-Fi experience has become the main driver of innovation and collaboration in the industry. In a post-pandemic world, consumers and businesses expect more from Wi-Fi and rely on it more than ever. Immersive experiences, low latency applications and seamless roaming will drive the Wi-Fi industry for the foreseeable future.”