Wi-Fi 7 on Fast Track with 50% of Organizations Live in 2024

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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. Furthermore, confidence in investment across the sector is rising with 58% saying they are more confident in investing in Wi-Fi compared to a year ago even though the business model remains the most pressing challenge for new deployments. 6GHz spectrum availability also remains front of mind with two thirds deeming it an important issue for 2024.

Those are two keys finding from the latest cross-industry report by the Wireless Broadband Alliance, the global industry body dedicated to improving Wi-Fi standards and services. Based on input from 200 enterprises, governments, fixed and mobile operators, vendors and other organizations worldwide, the WBA Annual Industry Report 2024 showcases how Wi-Fi technology continues to evolve in ways that anticipate the needs of consumers, businesses, enterprise verticals, smart cities and service providers.

Highlights from the report’s other key findings include:

  • Over 41 percent of respondents plan 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 percent of respondents plan to add WBA OpenRoaming or Passpoint to a new or existing Wi-Fi network. Another 33 percent already have, which is why WBA 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.
  • Enabling seamless interoperability between Wi-Fi and LTE/5G is the top reason for deploying WBA OpenRoaming. This feedback shows that the marketplace perceives the relationship between Wi-Fi and mobile as symbiotic rather than adversarial. 
  • WBA OpenRoaming’s unique combination of convenience and security is ideal for use cases beyond just broadband access. “OpenRoaming also offers possibilities for electric vehicle charging stations as well as seamless onboarding,” the report’s authors say. One example is semi- and fully autonomous EVs using charging stations to download the HD maps they need to navigate safely and successfully while uploading diagnostic data for preventative maintenance.
  • Nearly 70 percent 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.

The 63 page report also explores how Wi-Fi benefits 14 vertical markets, including rural communities, connected transportation, health care, aviation and manufacturing. Another section provides an update on Wi-Fi’s technology evolution, such as IEEE 802.11bf WLAN Sensing, 802.11bh Randomized MAC Addresses and 802.11bi Enhanced Data Privacy.

Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance, said: “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. 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 and developing a robust trails programme for W-Fi 7 to take innovation into 2024 and beyond.”