Analyst ABI Research has claimed enterprises are set to see rapid rates of Wi-Fi 6E adoption, with shipments of Wi-Fi 6E access points rising from 1.5 million in 2022 to 5.2 million in 2024.
The Enterprise Wi-Fi and the path to IT/OT and 5G/Wi-Fi private network convergence application analysis report noted that spectrum expansion was just one facet of the market revolution, as the technological underpinnings of Wi-Fi are soon to be upgraded with Wi-Fi 7.
“The adoption of Wi-Fi 7 access points will accelerate following the standardisation in 2024, and just two years later, most 6 GHz-enabled access point shipments will be supporting Wi-Fi 7,” said Andrew Spivey, industry analyst at ABI Research.
“Another area to keep an eye on is IT/OT convergence. While a large chasm remains between the two domains, strategies to pursue convergence are beginning to materialise, which will stimulate further Wi-Fi innovation.”
The report also highlighted the maturing of the convergence of Wi-Fi and 5G private networks.
“We are now transitioning to a world in which it is not only technically possible for Wi-Fi and cellular to coexist in the same private network, but one that is becoming a vital solution in many applications,” said Spivey. “The market-leading private network solutions of the future will be those that can leverage both technologies in an interoperable manner.”
ABI also said that private networks which incorporate both Wi-Fi and 5G stand to benefit from the best of both technologies – from 5G’s ultra-low latency, extended range, impenetrable security and what it called “impeccable” reliability, and from Wi-Fi’s reduced deployment costs and complexity, generational backward compatibility, and a greater existing market familiarity with the technology.
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Yet the analyst cautioned that converged private networks will not be adopted across the board. It predicted that traditional carpeted IT enterprises will continue to rely on familiar and trustworthy Wi-Fi technology, as will verticals that operate in predominantly indoor environments with few mission-critical applications, notably education, hospitality and retail.
ABI said that on the other side of the spectrum, industries spanning vast outdoor environments, such as agriculture, will be better suited for cellular services.
The three industry verticals identified by ABI as having the greatest potential for Wi-Fi/5G converged private network penetration were industrial manufacturing, warehousing and healthcare. The best-suited applications span automated guided vehicles, autonomous mobile robots, visual fusion, augmented reality and virtual reality.
“The sweet spot for converged networks will be those industries which have a high reliance upon mission-critical applications that require long ranges and ultra-low levels of latency,” said Spivey.
“Wi-Fi innovation over the next half-decade will be multi-faceted, spanning both protocol and spectrum upgrades on one hand, to new applications of the technology and advancements in cellular convergence on the other. Keeping a finger on the pulse of these developments is vital for vendors at all levels of the supply chain.”