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Coronavirus: Surge in Wi-Fi upload traffic shows need for advanced Wi-Fi adoption
Prolonged home working will see home networks, based on older Wi-Fi technologies rather than the likes of Wi-Fi 6, put under intolerable strain, warns analyst
As lockdown orders around the world continue, further lengthening the amount of time millions of people will be reliant on home networks, especially for enterprise applications, ABI Research has released a study arguing that users are finding their existing home Wi-Fi network, and the wider broadband infrastructure, incapable of supporting the increase in upload traffic.
In its Taking stock of Covid-19: The short- and long-term ramifications on technology and end markets report, the analyst said there was a general hope that the impact of coronavirus would be short lived, and that people would be able to return to work, school and normality as swiftly as possible.
Yet it noted that in the longer term, current necessities could lead to an increased desire and testbed for flexible and remote working and learning in the future, while companies might shift marketing and business resources away from conference-centric approaches towards new online and virtual marketing tools. This may be further driven as additional concerns grow over the impact of climate change from international travel.
The basis of the analyst’s assertion of existing Wi-Fi infrastructure being inadequate in supporting remote working long term is the assumption that many users are still likely to be using outdated Wi-Fi equipment with legacy Wi-Fi standards, such as 802.11n, rather than the latest Wi-Fi 6, which has been specifically designed to deal with better provision in more crowded networks.
The analyst calculated that the increase in home networking traffic was 80% higher than that observed prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, and said the new working paradigm was creating a need for flexibility that will fuel the future of connectivity with wireless.
Specifically, it argued that there would be incentive for mesh Wi-Fi that can provide sufficient high-speed coverage to multiple users throughout the home. While at the same time, it said companies would need to ensure they had the right infrastructure in place so large numbers of employees could concurrently connect to company virtual private networks (VPNs).
ABI cautioned that it may be the case that many companies do not have VPNs at all, while capacity limitations could put companies at further risk of security breaches or slow down productivity further.
Moreover, if the current abrupt change in working practices rolls on into the longer term, ABI suggested that 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. To achieve this, it said additional resources would need to be devoted to VPNs, secure home networking and remote working/conferencing software. Alongside this, further investment would need to be made to ensure home broadband infrastructure could support high-speed Wi-Fi internet access.
“Education will need to be provided on how to optimise and get the best out of home Wi-Fi networks,” said ABI Research principal analyst Andrew Zignani, explaining what could be incumbent on firms. “Employees will need equipment that can support robust, efficient and low-latency Wi-Fi standards, while various organisations around the globe will need to open up additional spectrum, such as 6GHz, to ensure the capacity of Wi-Fi networks can meet a global increase in demand for video, collaborative tools and other data-heavy traffic going forward.
However, ABI said enterprises needed to be aware that 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, it said, could lead to greater incentives being placed on rolling out high-speed fibre or last-mile networks, better awareness of the need for robust whole-home connectivity via mesh systems, as well as the adoption of the aforementioned 6GHz Wi-Fi and the latest Wi-Fi standards.
Doing this, ABI concluded, could lead to greater home Wi-Fi security, improved cyber security education and a better understanding of the need for additional Wi-Fi capacity in the years to come.
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