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WiFi 6 won’t gain significant foothold in Africa yet

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 14 Feb 2022

While companies across the globe are expected to accelerate their deployment of WiFi 6, to innovate with advanced networking, Africa will be the region with the lowest adoption.

This is one of the key findings of the Deloitte Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) 2022 predictions, released during a local virtual event.

According to the report, the next generation of WiFi is set to play a pivotal role, as organisations worldwide look to innovation to boost their market position and sales.

WiFi 6, or 802.11ax, is the next-generation technology solution following the current WiFi standard.

Deloitte Global predicts more WiFi 6 devices will ship in 2022 than 5G devices, to the tune of at least 2.5 billion WiFi 6 devices, versus roughly 1.5 billion 5G devices. And for good reason – WiFi 6, just as much as 5G, has a significant role to play in the future of wireless connectivity, not just for consumers but also for the enterprise, it says.

While some African organisations are set to benefit from the release of WiFi 6, it will not gain a significant foothold on the continent this year, notes the study.

“Over the last two years, the world has seen the adoption of the next generation of wireless connectivity, WiFi 6, as a move from 5G. As a result, WiFi 6 devices are now quietly outselling 5G devices by a large margin and will likely continue to do so for the next few years.

“In Africa, WiFi 6 uptake is likely to be slower. This is because taking up WiFi 6 requires a hardware, not software, update through purchase of routers and compatible devices. These are now available in South Africa, although in limited supply,” says Mark Joseph, TMT leader for Deloitte Africa.

WiFi 6 offers better connectivity speed and battery life, can host multiple devices, and has improved latency. The combination of lower inter-device interference, the ability to scale up more easily and higher bandwidth, among others, makes WiFi 6 an improved WiFi standard to support high-density user environments.

In SA, industry pundits had anticipated that while the majority of industries are expected to benefit from the release of WiFi 6, it is industries that are the highest users of internet of things devices that will reap the rewards.

Similarly to WiFi 6, in SA, 5G networks are still in their infancy, with mobile operators deploying the technology in metropolitan areas.

However, 5G is set to go mainstream after the country auctions the much-needed high-demand spectrum this year, according to industry players.

Complementary 5G, WiFi 6 uses

Deloitte notes that while a lot of publicity has been devoted to 5G, one might think next-generation wireless networks in the enterprise will revolve almost exclusively around 5G, with WiFi 6 playing a supportive role, that is not the reality uncovered by its previous research (TMT2021).

Projected company investments reflect co-adoption of both 5G and WiFi 6. Over the next three years, on average, company leaders will allocate 48% of their enterprise wireless network spending to WiFi and 52% to cellular technologies.

“Both technologies enable higher speeds, lower latency, and increased device density and network capacity. The differences lie in areas such as range, support for mobility and cost. WiFi 6 and its predecessors tend to be used for smaller, less expensive local area networks, often for connectivity inside homes and offices, while cellular networks such as 5G are used for both indoor and outdoor wide area networks, often for devices that move across large geographic areas,” notes the report.