I can’t connect to the Internet! The Internet is very slow! Is the Wi-Fi working?
Consumers want fast, reliable connection and they don’t care if its via cellular, Wi-Fi or RJ-45 cable. And they want anywhere, anytime and everywhere.
The need for faster, more reliable, more efficient, and more widespread Wi-Fi coverage is becoming increasingly vital in a world filled with more Wi-Fi devices at both ends of the performance spectrum, from high-throughput and low-latency applications to battery-constrained Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
ABI Research forecasts that by 2024 4.6 billion Wi-Fi-enabled devices will hit the market, from the 3.3 billion units shipped in 2019.
However, unless improvements to Wi-Fi standards and technology become commercially available, those 4.6 billion devices will crowd the airwaves, create even more congestion and hard-to-imagine discontent among owners of these devices.
Vendors like Huawei are harping Wi-Fi 6 as the answer to corporate and consumers’ desire for true ubiquitous connectivity.
Dr. Osama Aboul-Magd, chairman of IEEE 802.11ax Working Group, calls Wi-Fi 6 as essential for transforming the way we support applications on today’s Wi-Fi networks. “Its deployment allows a new and improved user experience in dense deployment scenarios compared to that of previous Wi-Fi generations,” he added.
Only part of the story
This is detailed in the ABI Research whitepaper, The Future of Wi-Fi, which acknowledges the contributions of advancements, such as Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi’s expansion into the 60 Gigahertz (GHz) and sub-1 GHz bands through WiGig and HaLow.
However, ABI Research believes the anticipated availability of 6 GHz spectrum over the next few years has potentially more transformation impact over the next few years.
“It is hard to overstate the potential that 6 GHz and Wi-Fi 6E can bring to Wi-Fi networks,” says Andrew Zignani, principal analyst, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Wireless Connectivity at ABI Research.
Currently, Wi-Fi faces several difficult challenges. Key among them are the growing demands being placed on Wi-Fi networks, leading to increased congestion, performance limitations, and reduced Quality of Service (QoS).
Most Wi-Fi devices are using increasing amounts of data per device, including streaming high-resolution music and videos, video calling, application and firmware updates, digital downloads, social networking, data-heavy web content, and online gaming, among others.
“The tremendous surge in active Wi-Fi devices at home in recent months and the resulting increase in traffic due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have reaffirmed Wi-Fi as a vital utility, acutely demonstrating both its importance and limitations,” Zignani explains.
He noted that 6 GHz not only brings about additional spectrum and higher throughputs, but essentially guarantees access to channels with no legacy, resulting in a corresponding improvement in latency and simplifying channel access.
“Wi-Fi 6E takes full advantage of what Wi-Fi 6 has to offer and can open new opportunities for Wi-Fi to better support 5G-class services reliant on high multi-gigabit throughput, low latency, high efficiency, broader coverage, and better mobility,” Zignani adds.
"Perhaps the largest current barrier to 6GHz adoption is still the need to iron out various regulatory challenges and obstacles across different regions,” Zignani points out. Limited chipset availability, cost of supporting the technology, building out the 6 GHz ecosystem, and proximity to Wi-Fi 6 rollout are hurdles. However, ABI Research anticipates that most of these challenges will be overcome and that opening the 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi will address many of the challenges it is facing today and in the next decade.