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Global Wireless Spectrum Policy Impacts Wi-Fi Innovation

Forward-thinking wireless communications policy is essential to every nation's plan to fully participate in the rapidly expanding Global Networked Economy. Faster, more reliable, more efficient, and more widespread Wi-Fi coverage is becoming increasingly vital to progress.

Wi-Fi-enabled devices will increase from 3.3 billion annual unit shipments in 2019 to more than 4.6 billion by 2024, a growth that underscores the need for a more robust Wi-Fi network, according to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research.

While the growing reach of Wi-Fi will be driven by several 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 -- the most exciting change is the anticipated availability of 6 GHz spectrum over the next few years.

Wi-Fi Innovation Market Development

“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 at ABI Research.

Currently, Wi-Fi faces several difficult challenges. Key among them is 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.

On April 23, 2020, the FCC voted to make additional spectrum in the 6 GHz band available for Wi-Fi, with other regions expected to follow suit in the not too distant future.

Once the global regulatory landscape for 6 GHz is finalized, the technology will bring about much higher throughput, much more capacity, greater reliability, lower latency, and better QoS than ever before.

Moreover, 6 GHz delivers much-needed additional wireless spectrum and higher throughputs. 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.

Outlook for Global Wi-Fi Regulation Advancement

There are still challenges ahead. "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.

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