Wi-Fi 6/6E deployment set to be diffuse by 2022

Survey of service providers and technology suppliers reveals next-generation wireless communications standards will flourish over the course of the next year

A cross-industry survey by the Wireless Broadband Alliance has found that as many as 83% of service providers and equipment manufacturers and enterprises worldwide will have deployed Wi-Fi 6/6E or plan to do so before the end of 2022.

That is a key finding from the latest WBA annual industry report 2022 – written by analysts Maravedis and Rethink – which aimed to address emerging trends and business models in key vertical markets such as retail, aviation, hospitality, smart transportation, healthcare and general industry.

In addition, it charted the progress of technology trends and developments including standards evolution, OpenRoaming, Mesh Wi-Fi and mobile edge computing.

The study revealed how 6GHz spectrum will enable Wi-Fi to support even more users and new use cases, such as time-sensitive networking (TSN) for Industry 4.0 applications. The survey also showed how almost three-fifths of respondents said 6GHz was critical or very important to their strategy.

This outlook said the WBA also reflected the rapid growth in both global harmonisation and device selection. It noted that 41 countries, representing 54% of the world’s GDP, have authorised 6GHz for use, while more than 338 million Wi-Fi 6E devices will enter the market in 2021. Moreover, nearly 20% of all Wi-Fi 6 device shipments will support 6GHz by 2022.

The report included updates on a variety of technologies, amendments and initiatives, including 5G convergence and Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be). Also known as Extremely High Throughput (EHT), Wi-Fi 7 is projected to support up to 30Gbps throughput, about three times faster than Wi-Fi 6. WBA expects Wi-Fi 7 devices to make their market debut in 2025.

The report also quantifies global momentum for WBA OpenRoaming, which is designed to enables users to connect automatically and securely to millions of Wi-Fi networks around the world — and without the need for logins, registrations or passwords. Respondents said roaming is the second most-important Wi-Fi capability for commercial success, especially for smart city environments.

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The study found two-fifths of respondents have implemented Passpoint/OpenRoaming, such as Adventist Health hospital campuses in the US, or plan to do so before the end of 2022. In addition, 70% of respondents involved in a city-wide public Wi-Fi network, or who plan to be, will support city-wide roaming, joining several municipalities across Europe that have implemented it.

OpenRoaming Release 2 was announced in June and defines important new functionality, including support for service-level agreement via a quality of service tier that guarantees a “silver-tier” HD streaming experience when on OpenRoaming networks. Silver-tier service is already available across 95% of the OpenRoaming ecosystem.

“Service providers, equipment manufacturers and enterprises worldwide see more value than ever in Wi-Fi,” said WBA CEO Tiago Rodrigues, commenting on the report. “Despite all of the uncertainty due to the pandemic, 56% of respondents said they were more confident about investing in Wi-Fi than they were a year ago.

“This confidence also shows up in the number of WBA members participating in various projects – an increase of 15% compared with 2020 – and the record 20 projects in development or already in progress. One example is their strong interest in the convergence of 5G and Wi-Fi 6, including how mobile operators can leverage Wi-Fi as part of their 5G strategy in terms of maximising coverage and capacity.”

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