IoT innovation has seen the increasing adoption of Wi-Fi to power everything from factory robots to vending machines.
The higher throughput offered by Wi-Fi 6 demonstrates how this technology can be applied to a range of use cases. In some cases, this makes Wi-Fi a more attractive connectivity option than cellular because it brings the same wireless benefits but at a lower cost.
The main advantage of Wi-Fi 7 is that it provides extremely high throughput utilizing the 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 6GHz frequency bands. The move to Wi-Fi 7 will bring a massive increase in overall capacity while reducing latency and increasing speeds.
Wi-Fi 7 represents a major change from Wi-Fi 6, which itself provided fast connections. The specification suggests that Wi-Fi 7 will deliver speeds of up to 46Gbps to a single client, dwarfing Wi-Fi 6’s already fast 9.6Gbps. However, the Wi-Fi 7 specification won’t be finalized until 2024, and the technology is still under development.
Today, that leaves us with Wi-Fi 6 — which is not a bad thing, as the technology offers connected devices an excellent choice for relatively low latency, fast speeds, high device density, and a future upgrade path. In many ways, Wi-Fi 6 sets the stage for Wi-Fi 7, as it convinces the market that Wi-Fi is an excellent choice for many deployment scenarios.
Wi-Fi 6 is sufficient to support innovative use cases such as automated guided vehicles, industrial robots, and many other applications. In indoor places such as stadiums, large venues, offices, hotels, etc., Wi-Fi 6 has attractive properties. In addition, the technology is being used in the automotive industry to support manufacturers’ applications such as infotainment, monitoring, maintenance and upgrades, while increasing the personalization of vehicle functions.
These advantages have enabled the adoption of Wi-Fi 6 to start dominating deployments. IDC estimates that Wi-Fi 6 will account for 79 percent of all Wi-Fi product shipments within the next two years. The company expects shipments of Wi-Fi 6 devices to reach 2 billion in 2021, accounting for more than 50% of all Wi-Fi shipments. The company expects more than 3.5 billion Wi-Fi 6 product shipments in 2022; nearly 20% of Wi-Fi 6 devices this year will be able to support 6 GHz.
Comparing Deloitte’s 2021 study on advanced wireless adoption with the firm’s 2020 study reveals that the momentum behind Wi-Fi 6 is wobbling. 2020 study finds U.S. network executives still view 4G/Long Term Evolution (LTE) and current or previous versions of Wi-Fi as the most critical wireless technologies for their business; most believe 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will coming in the next few years. Attitudes have shifted rapidly, with network decision makers worldwide now viewing 5G and Wi-Fi 6 as the most important wireless technologies in their business plans.
Deloitte found that Wi-Fi 6 adoption is well past the planning stage, with two-thirds of surveyed organizations already conducting pilots or deploying Wi-Fi 6 solutions, while 58% of surveyed organizations are investigating 5G. Same deployment. Enterprise applications are expected to be a significant part of the Wi-Fi 6 market, and analyst firm ABI Research expects Wi-Fi 6 enterprise access point shipments to increase from 4.3 million in 2021 to 13.4 million in 2026, at a CAGR of 25%.
Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing, connected cars, and infotainment industries all want to take advantage of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G. Therefore, it is important to evaluate both technologies side-by-side and realize that each has compelling properties that it can bring to the enterprise. This means that both technologies will co-exist; each playing an important role in the future of wireless. And, unlike past generations of wireless technology, it’s not an either-or decision.
5G cellular and Wi-Fi 6 — and later Wi-Fi 7 and 6G — networks will be able to interoperate and be considered complementary technologies in the wireless ecosystem. Deloitte research found that organizations say they prefer Wi-Fi 6 in indoor, campus and fixed network situations, while they will move to 5G outdoor, off-campus and mobile networks.
Parallel adoption of these technologies makes sense, with 45% of survey respondents already deploying Wi-Fi 6 and 5G in their business, or conducting pilots/trials, and another 35% actively preparing to use both. Two techniques. Almost all expect their organizations to use both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 within the next two to three years. Projected investments reflect shared adoption, with Deloitte reporting that these organizations expect to split wireless spending between Wi-Fi (48%) and cellular technologies (52%) from 2021 to 2024.
In the automotive market, Quectel sees a lot of adoption of Wi-Fi 6, with access points designed to support Gigabit in-vehicle hotspots and provide efficient Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the vehicle; High-definition (ultra-HD) video streaming, screen mirroring for compatible devices, and wireless backup cameras.
Wi-Fi 6 also features full MIMO client functionality designed to extend range at high data rates to connect to external access points for automotive services such as vehicle diagnostics, software updates and automatic check-in upon arrival at the dealership. Additionally, the technology will provide improved connectivity and an enhanced in-car experience. As vehicle connectivity continues to evolve from 4G to 5G, Wi-Fi 6 is integral to the evolution of connectivity as it enables seamless connectivity between multiple devices in crowded environments.
Even though Wi-Fi 7 is already leading the way in development, Wi-Fi 6 is the next generation of Wi-Fi and thus will exist for a long time in sync with the development of the IoT industry. As IoT device deployments reach massive scale, more and more devices require high throughput, such as virtual reality devices. Other applications require low latency, such as industrial control, or low power consumption, such as battery-powered applications. Wi-Fi 6 is well positioned to meet these needs and handle the dramatically increased device density demanded by the billion-device era.
By using OFDMA, MU-MIMO, TWT, BSS coloring and spatial reuse techniques, Wi-Fi 6 products achieve significantly improved performance, addressing density and interference issues. When aligned with 5G, IoT organizations can adopt Wi-Fi 6 and access the most appropriate connectivity for their deployments, confident that each technology can co-exist and will support devices over the long term.
We are in the era of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 today, but this sets the scene and provides the sound foundation and upgrade path for future 6G and Wi-Fi 7.