Wi-Fi predictions for 2021
New applications supporting COVID-19 guidelines, global Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 6 momentum and greater WPA3 security adoption expected
Wi-Fi played a critical role in providing digital infrastructure to support increased connectivity demands during the global pandemic. With greater worldwide availability of 6GHz, wider adoption of WPA3 security, and global momentum of Wi-Fi 6 across more enterprise and vertical markets expected in the coming year, Wi-Fi is ready to deliver innovation and advanced connectivity when and where users need it most.
As the world reflects on a challenging 2020, Wi-Fi Alliance looks ahead at five Wi-Fi predictions for 2021 that will help people safely resume their normal activities, achieve better performance in their home networks, and deliver greater reliability and latency for telehealth, virtual learning, and telepresence.
Wi-Fi Alliance predictions for Wi-Fi in 2021 include:
- Wi-Fi 6 global momentum
Wi-Fi 6 is the latest generation of Wi-Fi offering greater capacity, efficiency, and performance for advanced connectivity. Wi-Fi 6 will see strong global adoption across PCs, access points, smartphones, and IoT devices in enterprises, homes, and public arenas – with nearly 2 billion Wi-Fi 6 device shipments expected in 2021. The pandemic has proven a strong need for state-of-the-art networks to support more online activity. Wi-Fi 6 networks will become more widely deployed in the home and see steady rollout in the enterprise to ensure all networked devices perform at an optimal level and support environments with greater capacity and coverage.
Wi-Fi 6 will be deployed in market verticals, such as industrial and hospital networks, delivering wireless efficiency and low latency connections. New connected use cases facilitated by Wi-Fi 6 will emerge to meet health and safety guidelines amid COVID-19 at transportation hubs, airports, and stadiums to deliver social distance measurement, security checkpoints, mobile concessions, health check screening, and passenger communications.
- Wi-Fi 6E will deliver 6 GHz to users
Regulatory momentum around 6 GHz will lead to greater availability of unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi worldwide in 2021. The U.S. recently cleared unlicensed access to 1200 MHz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band. The U.K., Europe, South Korea, Chile, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates are expected to deliver 6 GHz to their citizens before the end of the year, and many other countries are following their lead. Users will see worldwide rollout of Wi-Fi 6E devices as multiple vendors embrace 6 GHz. Up to seven superwide 160 MHz channels can be used with this newly available spectrum, triggering development and innovation for higher bandwidth applications including unified communications, AR/VR, and even holographic video.
New use cases will emerge to support telemedicine, virtual learning, and telepresence that rely on Wi-Fi 6E’s speed and latency benefits. With features like OFDMA extended into the less congested 6 GHz band, Wi-Fi 6E will help address the reliability and deterministic needs demanded by industrial applications, helping facilitate the transition from wired to wireless in Industrial IoT environments. Wi-Fi Alliance certification for Wi-Fi 6E will ensure Wi-Fi CERTIFIED devices operating in 6 GHz worldwide are secure and interoperable, and will serve as an inflection point for greater adoption.
- Passpoint bridges the gap between Wi-Fi and cellular
Solutions such as Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint will help bridge the gap between cellular and Wi-Fi to make Wi-Fi more accessible and secure. Passpoint streamlines Wi-Fi access and eliminates the need to reauthenticate to networks previously visited, enabling users to focus on productivity without manually switching their device between cellular and Wi-Fi to determine the best connection.
The industry will see greater Passpoint adoption through initiatives such as Wireless Broadband Alliance OpenRoaming and Aruba Air Pass, to provide seamless Wi-Fi connectivity beyond a user’s home, automate roaming between cellular and Wi-Fi networks, and deliver next generation services to enterprises – all with advanced security. Passpoint, along with other Wi-Fi Alliance programs like Wi-Fi Vantage, will help enable Wi-Fi and cellular to be stronger complements and provide enterprise-wide, citywide, and global wireless services.
- Strong adoption of WPA3 security
The latest generation of Wi-Fi security, WPA3, brings critical updates to personal and enterprise networks to protect users wherever they connect. Wi-Fi Alliance now requires all new Wi-Fi CERTIFIED devices to support WPA3 security, and in 2021 the industry will see greater adoption of WPA3 across more devices, networks, and environments – including sensitive environments like governments and financial institutions. The number of devices connected to the internet, including machines, sensors, and smart home devices is forecast to reach 41.6 billion in the next four years. With that tremendous growth comes demand for strong security mechanisms to protect the increasing amount of user data generated by IoT devices.
- Wi-Fi is critical link to keep businesses and individuals connected
Wi-Fi has played a key role in helping reduce the negative impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic. As the world maintained social distance, Wi-Fi limited the impact of social isolation by enabling business, education, healthcare, and other services to move online. The way users work, socialize, and communicate may never be the same as in pre-pandemic times, and Wi-Fi will now be acknowledged for delivering a strong digital foundation that enables the world to maintain productivity and economic prosperity. In 2021, Wi-Fi will help further mitigate economic damage resulting from the global pandemic.
Wi-Fi will keep economies running, supporting telecommuting needs, distance learning, telemedicine, and delivering connectivity to remote or underserved areas. The need for strong, reliable multi-device connectivity highlighted during the pandemic will generate permanent effects as we continue to adapt to more of our daily activities moving online. Wi-Fi will be seen as an indispensable technology providing a key resource in many aspects of our daily lives. Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E, Passpoint, and other Wi-Fi technologies will drive a surge in technology innovation continuing well after the pandemic is behind.
For 2021 Wi-Fi Alliance member predictions from AirTies, Aruba, ASSIA, Boingo, Broadcom, Cisco, CommScope, Extreme Networks, Intel, Laird Connectivity, LANCOM Systems, Linksys, ON Semiconductor, Qualcomm Technologies, and Texas Instruments.