Over 41% of respondents surveyed globally plan to deploy WiFi 7 by the end of 2024 – indicating the marketplace already sees a strong business case for WiFi 7.
This is one of the key findings of the latest cross-industry report by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), the global industry body for WiFi standards and services.
The WBA Annual Industry Report 2024 is based on input from 200 enterprises, governments, fixed and mobile operators, vendors and other organisations worldwide.
North America was the largest region, in terms of responses, with 44.9% of respondents, followed by EMEA (21.4%), APAC (18.4%), South America (6.6%), the Middle East (4.6%) and Africa (4.1%).
The report shows WiFi technology continues to evolve in ways that anticipate the future needs of consumers, businesses, enterprise verticals, smart cities and service providers.
It shows that WiFi 6, 6E and WiFi 7 top the list of wireless technologies that network operators, internet service providers, device and chipset vendors, enterprises and other companies plan to deploy by the end of 2024.
Furthermore, confidence in investment across the sector is rising, with 58% of surveyed respondents saying they are more confident in investing in WiFi compared to a year ago, even though the business model remains the most pressing challenge for new deployments.
The report also shows major investment in OpenRoaming and city-wide WiFi planned for the next 12 months, as the global hotspot total surpasses half a billion.
Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the WBA, says: “Market momentum is a theme in many of the key findings of the report. For example, 58% are more confident in investing in WiFi now than a year ago – up from 46% last year.
“Specifically, survey respondents are stepping up investment in WBA OpenRoaming, WiFi 7 and city-wide public WiFi.”
WiFi 7, the next evolution of the WiFi network protocol, promises to be a substantial upgrade over its predecessor WiFi 6 – surpassing the speeds of Ethernet cables, and significantly improving connection reliability and latency over WiFi 6.
While WiFi 6E has a maximum speed of 9.6Gbps, WiFi 7 is expected to have a maximum speed of around 46Gbps – which is a 4X increase over WiFi 6E.
According to the report, uptake of WiFi 6E and WiFi 7 will be 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 and Industry 4.0.
The report also explores how WiFi benefits 14 vertical markets, including rural communities, connected transportation, healthcare, aviation and manufacturing. It provides an update on WiFi’s technology evolution, such as IEEE 802.11bf WLAN sensing, 802.11bh randomised MAC addresses and 802.11bi enhanced data privacy.
It further points out that by the end of 2024, over 47% of respondents plan to add WBA OpenRoaming or Passpoint to a new or existing WiFi network.
Another 33% have already made these deployments, which is why OpenRoaming is currently available at over 3.5 million hotspots worldwide.
“All of these figures highlight the strong perceived value of a framework that enables users to connect automatically and securely, instead of constantly remembering and re-entering credentials.”
OpenRoaming is a wireless network roaming technology that allows seamless connection to WiFi networks without the need for passwords or additional credentials. It is a roaming federation service enabling an automatic and secure WiFi experience globally, that creates the framework to connect billions of users and things to millions of WiFi networks globally.
Enabling seamless interoperability between WiFi and LTE/5G is the top reason for deploying OpenRoaming.
It is an initiative of the WBA that aims to create an open connectivity framework for all organisations in the wireless ecosystem to power new opportunities in the 5G era.
The report states 6GHz spectrum availability also remains front of mind for surveyed business leaders, with two-thirds deeming it an important issue for 2024.
Nearly 70% of respondents say they are either involved with a city-wide public WiFi deployment or plan to be in 2024 or 2025.
“This activity highlights the ubiquity of WiFi devices (including for internet of things), the perceived value of using WiFi to bridge the digital divide and the role OpenRoaming plays in making it convenient for residents, tourists and business travellers to connect to public WiFi hotspots,” notes Rodrigues.
“As WBA celebrates its 20th anniversary, we look forward to the next 20 years of pioneering even more WiFi technologies and use cases, and developing a robust trials programme for WiFi 7 to take innovation into 2024 and beyond.”