Top 10 Wi-Fi Predictions for 2024

I share here my top WiFi predictions which are included in the latest industry report from the Wireless Broadband Alliance.

1. Wi-Fi 6/6E

Internet service providers (ISPs) deliver faster internet speeds than ever. AT&T Fiber is already providing 5 Gbps, andComcast is testing DOCSIS 4.0, leading to a future where 10 Gbps speeds will be commonplace. To experience the actual benefits of these advancements, Wi-Fi must follow suit. The rapid adoption of Wi-Fi 6/6E will also be driven by its ability to access additional spectrum in the 6GHz band via the 6E extension as more countries open the band. The 2023 World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC) should bring new developments in the 6GHz allocation. The WRC-23 agenda includes an item about potential 5G operations in the mid-band spectrum, though developing a spectrum pipeline has been a contentious issue in recent years.

2. Wi-Fi 7

Gaming and immersive experiences will drive the need for Wi-Fi 7 capabilities. According to a recent report by Bain &Company, the gaming industry’s growth has accelerated because of the unprecedented engagement of younger teenagegamers who spend about 40 percent more time in video game environments than in using any other form of media. The exact report forecasts that global revenue for video gaming could increase by another 50 percent over the next five years. In a sportwhere milliseconds count, networking equipment will be just as crucial to the game as the speed of the gaming rig. Wi-Fi 7 will becritical for speed and near-zero latency, and game developers will break new barriers with immersive experiences. Wi-Fi 7 client devices have already been released in 2023 with Qualcomm chipset with more to come in 2024.

3.       OpenRoaming

Deployments of Passpoint and OpenRoaming continue to rise as more brands and identity providers recognize the value of the federation to enable seamless connectivity access across different networks. OpenRoaming will reach a critical point ofexponential growth by 2026 when tens of millions of hotspots will be enabled Beyond Wi-Fi, OpenRoaming will extend tointegrate with private 5G and IoT in 2024. OpenRoaming has the potential to remove the friction to connect billions of IoT devices securely. 

4       Network as a Service

Network as a Service (NaaS) is defined as network infrastructure hardware, software, services, management, and licensingcomponents consumed in a subscription-based or flexible consumption model. NaaS is on the rise, and early adopters include managed Wi-Fi in multi-apartment units, soon to spread among traditional enterprises where networks provide cloud-first, software-defined, application-centric environments. The NaaS model is driven by enterprises’ inability to keep up with thepace of innovations in the context of skilled labor shortages and a shortened equipment replacement cycle, which meansfinancial pressure exists to move away from the traditional CAPEX model. The prevalence of security attacks is another reasonmore enterprises will move to NaaS. In a NaaS model, the NaaS provider delivers continuous security updates that prevent and reduce breaches and outages, resulting in higher productivity and customer satisfaction. 

5      AI/ML

The role of AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) cannot be overstated. Adaptive AI usage will explode from enabling AFC coordination to predicting network resources. WLAN vendors are developing their secret sauce versions of AI to differentiate themselves in an environment where the hardware is fully standardized. AI will help enterprises and ISPs speed up troubleshooting; streamline monitoring; and proactively anticipate outages, equipment failures,and performance degradation. In the AFC context, AI will manage radio resource, manage power from the devices and theinfrastructure, and perform cross-network coordination to maximize frequency re-use and, thus, capacity. 

6.       AFC

We expect 6GHz low-power indoor (LP) devices with an average transmit power of 24 dBm to proliferate quickly for indoorapplications such as residential mesh, indoor public venues, and high-density enterprise networks. We also expect 6GHz very low-power indoor (VPI) devices with 14 dBm maximum transmit power to be quickly adopted for short-range indoor applications such as AR/VR/XR, streaming, and gaming. These device classes do not require Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC)coordination with the incumbents. For standard power device classes with a maximum transmit power of 30 dBm, the road toadoption will be slower because there is much to be done on the technology side for the solution to mature and stabilize all theadvanced features and mechanisms that will ensure the lowest possible interference with both incumbents and new users,especially in dense environments. Outdoor AFC will initially be successful in rural connectivity in countries that have opened large portions of the 6GHz to Wi-Fi. 

7.       New IoT Tech

A pain point for consumers has always been that smart home devices manufactured by different companies do not necessarilywork together, which diminishes the home user’s experience with IoT devices. However, Matter— an industry-unifying standard launched in 2023 that provides reliable, secure connectivity across multiple device manufacturers—promises to change that.Matter is an open-source protocol that allows users to connect smart home devices and mobile apps from different manufacturers using Wi-Fi or Thread protocols and Bluetooth LE for easy commissioning. Given the weight of players (e.g., Apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung SmartThings), we expect the adoption of Matter-certified products will be exponential in thenext three years. This will again validate Wi-Fi’s central role in the smart connected home and building. Given the throughput,coverage, and latencies required, we expect Halow to also make its way into the home, with security wireless cameras as one of the primary use cases in the near term.

8.       TIP OpenWiFi

We expect pilot projects and trials to proliferate in developing countries and price-sensitive markets in India and Africa. AsMeta’s support for the initiative dwindled, the pace of innovation and go-to-market effort may be impacted. We expect TIPOpenWiFi to face an uphill battle against well-established wireless local-area network (WLAN) vendors that increasinglydifferentiate themselves and improve their radios thanks to massive investments in machine learning and AI and an integratedWi-Fi + 5G offering to enterprises. Another uncertainty for TIP OpenWiFi is how its community of cash-strapped small vendors willcompete against the HPEs, Cisco and CommScope in the context of the NaaS adoption, ML and 5G convergence.

9.       Metaverse

According to Bloomberg, the metaverse’s economy is expected to generate $800 billion by 2025 and $2.5 trillion by 2030. Thus,the metaverse is the universe of the future. Major brands are making substantial investments in this technology. Augmentedand virtual reality will gain a larger share of our daily lives at home and work. As discussed, indoor broadband networks must adapt to these new requirements. Improvements in user interfaces and network capability will be required to cater to the needs of a larger group of users.

There is a list of essential things that can be done in the metaverse that will lead to exciting business opportunities. The newest technologies power these opportunities and have high realism in many different areas, which include:

  • Shopping in malls and online
  • Virtual learning for students via digital
  • Creating digital twins for manufacturing


10        Wi-Fi and 5G/6G Convergence

Convergence is progressing toward enabling access to private or public 5G services over Wi-Fi. Full convergence requires standardization and a common core network which will only develop in incremental steps. Building a common core simplifies the network architecture and reduces the operational cost with function re-use. In the meantime,interworking between the access systems for realizing IP address preservation across inter-access handovers can be realized insimpler terms by collocating 5G core network elements with WLAN controller and can be the preferred option for most deployments with existing Wi-Fi footprint.

Large enterprises are already deploying private 5G because they want synergy with Wi-Fi. We expect network executives will continue deploying Wi-Fi and cellular in the coming years, with Wi-Fi 6/6E for indoor, on-campus, and fixed network situations and 5G/cellular for outdoor, off-campus, and mobile environments. Wi-Fi 7 may not sufficiently close the gap with 5G enough to persuade some enterprises to select it for more demanding use cases

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