Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, the use cases of various new-age technologies have expanded exponentially. One such technology solution is Wi-Fi and its variants. Remote working and work-from-home due to the pandemic have led to an increase of over 80 per cent in the use of Wi-Fi over the past two years. A Wi-Fi Alliance study found that global Wi-Fi traffic increased by over 80 per cent and there was a 70-94 per cent increase in Wi-Fi use during the day.
The Wi-Fi Alliance study predicts that the global economic value of Wi-Fi will rise to a staggering Rs 362 trillion ($4.9 trillion) by 2025, up from Rs 232 trillion in 2021. This economic value includes contributions from the use of Wi-Fi by consumers, businesses, service providers, and others.
A look at some of the key use cases and benefits of Wi-Fi and its variants…
Use cases of Wi-Fi technologies
Modern Wi-Fi use is characterised by a large number of devices, diverse device types, multiple Wi-Fi generations, and a variety of wireless applications running in a single coverage area. This is true for single-family and multi-family residential networks, office networks and managed networks in shopping malls, hotels, stadiums and transportation hubs.
Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E devices provide a better user experience and performance in a wide range of connectivity scenarios, from basic functionalities to bandwidth-intensive tasks in dense networks that require high throughput and low latency.
Wi-Fi 6 technology has lower latency, which translates into better performing applications. Owing to this feature, the technology can be of immense value for industries that have heavy throughput demand and high-density requirements. For instance, airports have a large number of users at any given time and the provision of a seamless Wi-Fi connection to these users is a key goal. This purpose can be fulfilled by Wi-Fi 6.
In the education sector, too, universities and colleges can deploy Wi-Fi 6 technology to facilitate efficient use of the various applications, devices and services offered on the premises, which require robust connectivity. Further, the healthcare sector is seeing a growing adoption of various new-age technology solutions such as blockchain-based data management systems and IoT-based monitoring devices. Given the criticality of solutions deployed in hospitals, it is imperative that they be supported by seamless connectivity, which can be provided by technologies such as Wi-Fi 6.
Wi-Fi 6 can also be of great use in smart cities. The different components that sum up to make a city smart are dependent on a robust connectivity system. Be it a command and control centre, a traffic monitoring system, or a CCTV camera surveillance system, they all require constant connectivity and a robust network. Thus, any network that provides support for high-throughput applications in a high-density environment will benefit the most from Wi-Fi 6.
Wi-Fi 6E significantly increases the overall network capacity, determinism and performance by leveraging up to 1200 MHz of greenfield spectrum. This enables the successful implementation of advanced use cases in virtually any connectivity market segment – home Wi-Fi, IoT and managed networks everywhere.
Wi-Fi 6E extends all the Wi-Fi network capabilities of Wi-Fi 6, with mechanisms to effectively handle different types of traffic from multiple users simultaneously. This provides users with higher throughput and improved device battery life in the 6 GHz spectrum band, enabling new use cases and enhancing existing ones.
A key emerging use for Wi-Fi 6E in enterprises is the ability to harmonise computing and unify the communications systems that today’s digital workforce uses. Unified communications help network managers to cohesively package the many different platforms on which employees communicate and collaborate to simplify the way teams work. This can result in increased productivity and reduced costs because these systems operate in the cloud. Unified communications can include applications such as messaging platforms, voice and videoconferencing, collaboration tools and file sharing. These can be managed through Wi-Fi locally or in cloud-based computing environments. Wi-Fi 6E can provide superior capacity and lower latency for these enterprise applications, as well as data storage and backup, training and more by optimising frequency reuse with wider bandwidth channels.
Key roadblocks and the way forward
The current regulations in India permit Wi-Fi in only the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. These two bands have only about 600 MHz of spectrum for all users as compared to the over 2 GHz that is needed. With work and study from home becoming the norm during the pandemic and with an extremely high population density, the problem of shared Wi-Fi spectrum shortage needs to be addressed urgently.
Internationally, more than 35 countries have delicensed the 6 GHz frequency band. These include the US, the UK, Canada, Korea, Brazil, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and countries in the European Union. The rationale for delicensing has been to enhance the benefits to citizens while reaping the benefits of economic growth.