Confidence in Wi-Fi continues to grow: report

Monday, 22 January, 2024

Confidence in Wi-Fi continues to grow: report

The latest report from the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), the global industry body dedicated to improving Wi-Fi standards and services, showcases how Wi-Fi technology continues to evolve in ways that anticipate the needs of consumers, businesses, enterprise verticals, smart cities and service providers.

Based on input from 200 enterprises, governments, fixed and mobile operators, vendors and other organisations worldwide, the WBA Annual Industry Report 2024 shows major investment in OpenRoaming and city-wide Wi-Fi planned for the next 12 months, as the global hotspot total surpasses half a billion.

The report found that Wi-Fi 6, 6E and 7 top the list of wireless technologies that network operators, ISPs, device and chipset vendors, enterprises and other companies plan to deploy by the end of 2024 — ahead of CBRS, DAS and private 4G/5G — with over 41% of respondents planning to deploy Wi-Fi 7 by the end of 2024. That amount is in addition to the 7.5% that already have and shows that the marketplace already sees a strong business case for Wi-Fi 7.

By the end of 2024, over 47% of respondents plan to add WBA OpenRoaming or Passpoint to a new or existing Wi-Fi network. Another 33% already have, which is why WBA OpenRoaming is currently available at over 3.5 million hotspots worldwide. 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, the report says.

Enabling seamless interoperability between Wi-Fi and LTE/5G is the top reason for deploying WBA OpenRoaming, showing that the marketplace perceives the relationship between Wi-Fi and mobile as symbiotic rather than adversarial. The report authors noted that WBA OpenRoaming’s combination of convenience and security is suitable for use cases beyond just broadband access, with the technology also offering possibilities for electric vehicle charging stations as well as seamless onboarding (for example, semi- and fully autonomous EVs using charging stations to download the HD maps they need to navigate safely while uploading diagnostic data for preventative maintenance).

Nearly 70% of respondents are either involved with a city-wide public Wi-Fi deployment or plan to be in 2024 or 2025. This activity highlights the ubiquity of Wi-Fi devices (including for IoT), the perceived value of using Wi-Fi to bridge the digital divide and the role that WBA OpenRoaming plays in making it convenient for residents, tourists and business travellers to connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Ultimately, the report finds that confidence in investment across the sector is rising, even though the business model remains the most pressing challenge for new deployments. It explains how Wi-Fi benefits 14 vertical markets, including rural communities, connected transportation, health care, aviation and manufacturing.

“The WBA Annual Industry Report 2024 is a must-read for anyone wanting to know exactly where Wi-Fi is and where it’s headed,” said WBA CEO Tiago Rodrigues. “Market momentum is a theme in many of the key findings. For example, 58% are more confident in investing in Wi-Fi now than a year ago — up from 46% last year. Specifically, survey respondents are stepping up investment in WBA OpenRoaming, Wi-Fi 7 and city-wide public Wi-Fi.

“As WBA celebrates its 20th anniversary, we look forward to the next 20 years of pioneering even more Wi-Fi technologies and use cases.”

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