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 latest cross-industry survey of service providers, technology vendors and enterprises by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), the global industry body dedicated to improving Wi-Fi standards and services.
According to the industry body, Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), Wi-Fi 6E has now become the de facto industry standard, with 53% having already deployed the technology and a further 44% already working on plans to adopt Wi-Fi 6E in the next 12-18 months.
But as expected, technology and standards are not taking any rest.
The WBA Annual Industry Report 2023 reveals that 33% of service providers, technology vendors and enterprises already have plans to deploy Wi-Fi 7 by the end of 2023.
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.
Driving W-Fi 7 adoption
The uptake of Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 is 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.
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 experiences.
The report detailed 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 monetising their Wi-Fi services.
The report noted that 61% of respondents identified services such as high-definition video streaming, AR, VR and potential metaverse applications as key revenue opportunities.
Adlane Fellah, a senior analyst at Maravedis says 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,” he added.
WBA OpenRoaming gathering pace
Global momentum for WBA OpenRoaming, which reached a milestone of one million hotspots in early 2022, was also underlined by the 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 WBA report says 62% 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 is critical
Other key findings from the 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% said Wi-Fi and 5G 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
According to Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance the industry is identifying increasing value in Wi-Fi technology in the wake of highly anticipated new use cases. He added that 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.
“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 maximise coverage and optimise capacity – it’s all about the user experience.”Tiago Rodrigues
“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,” he continued.
Hold your horses
But before you even start debating whether to upgrade straight to Wi-Fi 7, since it is backwards compatible, to reap the benefits of speed, you will need to upgrade literally all of the devices connected via Wi-Fi. That may be too steep a price to pay even during the early days when the standards are still finding roots - sometime in 2024.