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Industrial WLANs Drive Efficiency and Agility

The market for industrial facilities networking is undergoing a significant transformation. Operational Technology (OT) networks, traditionally reliant on wired connections, increasingly embrace wireless solutions.

This shift is driven by several factors, including the need for greater flexibility, improved efficiency, and the emergence of new applications fueled by the Internet of Things (IoT). 

At the forefront of this transformation lies a utilization of the 6 GHz band in industrial Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs), a communication innovation.

Industrial WLAN Market Development

According to the latest worldwide study by ABI Research, they forecast a surge in industrial WLAN access points supporting the 6 GHz spectrum, with shipments rising from 2 percent in 2023 to 71 percent by 2030.

The growth of industrial WLANs can be attributed in large part to the limitations of traditional wired networks. Dense deployments of sensors, robots, and other connected devices create a constant demand for bandwidth.

Furthermore, existing Wi-Fi technologies operating in the crowded 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands struggle to meet these demands, leading to network congestion and unreliable connections.

The introduction of the 6 GHz band offers a much-needed solution. This wider spectrum provides significantly more bandwidth, translating to faster data speeds, lower latency, and the ability to support a greater number of connected devices.

"Of all the innovations within Industrial WLAN, the opening up of the 6 GHz band has the broadest appeal because it addresses the most pressing challenge faced by the industrial sector – spectrum congestion," says Andrew Spivey, principal analyst at ABI Research.

The adoption of a 6 GHz band will translate into smoother operation of industrial processes, improved reliability of data transmission, and the potential to unlock entirely new applications.

The benefits of industrial WLANs extend far beyond simply alleviating bandwidth congestion. ABI Research's study highlights a projected Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.5 percent for annual shipments of industrial WLAN access points from 2024 to 2030.

This robust growth indicates a fundamental shift in how industrial facilities are approaching connectivity. Wireless solutions offer significant advantages – they improve floor space efficiency by eliminating the need for extensive cabling.

Additionally, they reduce installation and maintenance costs compared to wired networks. This newfound flexibility empowers companies to adapt their facility layouts more readily, accommodate future expansions, and optimize factory workflows.

The 6 GHz spectrum further unlocks the potential of emerging technologies like Industrial IoT (IIoT). With faster data transfer and greater reliability, industrial facilities can leverage a wider range of sensors and connected devices.

This enables real-time monitoring of industrial equipment health, predictive maintenance, and enhanced automation capabilities – ultimately leading to increased productivity and reduced downtime.

Outlook for a Connected and Intelligent Factory

The projected surge in 6 GHz-enabled industrial WLANs offers a significant step towards a more connected and intelligent factory floor. As the technology matures, we can expect further advancements:

  • Standardization: Continued development of protocols specifically designed for industrial applications will further enhance network performance and reliability.
  • Security Enhancements: Robust security solutions tailored to the unique needs of industrial environments will become crucial.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): The fusion of AI with industrial WLANs will enable real-time data analysis and anomaly detection.

The industrial landscape is on the cusp of a wireless transformation. By embracing 6 GHz technology and the broader shift towards WLANs, business leaders can explore a new era of operational efficiency, flexibility, and data-driven decision-making.

That said, I believe this digital transformation holds the potential to optimize resource utilization and help propel more industrial facilities to a fully automated environment.

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