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The changing WiFi connectivity landscape

March 10, 2022

Post-COVID life—the way consumers live, learn, work, and play—is unlikely to ever return to the old “normal.” For example, international consulting firm Telecom Advisory Services estimates that 54% of the workforce will be hybrid, working from home at least part of the time. The pandemic also accelerated digital transformation for many businesses, and consumers will not be giving up on the newfound digital experiences that resulted from that transformation.

These tech trends are taking hold just as WiFi 6 builds momentum in the market. Capable of supporting more advanced, bandwidth-intensive use cases such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), WiFi 6 is expected to bring drastic changes, both for consumers and enterprises. While this is exciting, it also presents a challenge for CSPs because they need to ensure their service delivery can support these use cases without adversely affecting the quality of experience for subscribers.

The pandemic already began altering the WiFi connectivity landscape. But the combination of three factors—the changing consumer behaviors, WiFi 6 adoption, and the expectation that regulators will allocate more WiFi spectrum—has the potential to elevate the role of WiFi to levels never seen before. And CSPs need to be ready.

Capable of supporting more advanced, bandwidth-intensive use cases such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), WiFi 6 is expected to bring drastic changes, both for consumers and enterprises.

The combination of these three factors has the potential to elevate the role of WiFi to levels never seen before

WiFi-powered innovation and future tech trends

Some of the potential of the new WiFi technology hinges on access to the 1200 MHz and 6 GHz band (WiFi 6E). Many countries have already made great strides in that direction. The US, for example, approved the 6 GHz spectrum to unlicensed WiFi in April 2020 (in what some have called a historic and monumental decision)—and by December 2020, FCC had already authorized the first WiFi 6E device.

April 2020
The US approved the 6 GHz spectrum to unlicensed WiFi

December 2020
FCC authorized the first WiFi 6E device

While these developments are still in the early stages, the 6 GHz spectrum and future WiFi generations will deliver another wave of AR/VR innovation, IoT expansion, increase in video streaming, and more.

One trend that CSPs should be preparing for right now is the self-optimizing, adaptive home of the future. Simply having smart home conveniences is no longer satisfying for consumers. In the near future, consumers of all ages will be expecting a truly smart home—one that learns from their living patterns and behaviors and adapts to their lifestyles.

As another example, consider the metaverse, one of the hottest ideas that’s making its way from enthusiastic consumer discussions into the business space. A virtual world that mixes digital technologies like VR, videoconferencing, gaming, live-streaming, cryptocurrency, and others, the metaverse is only a fantasy at the moment. What stops it from moving forward is, in large part, the lack of superfast, low-latency connectivity.

If the metaverse does take a leap forward as WiFi speeds and reliability improve, it has the potential to bring millions of people together into a digital world that they can access from anywhere, and not just to play. Shopping, team meetings, concerts—the potential for experiences is unlimited, which explains why technology giants like Facebook and Microsoft want to move the concept of the metaverse forward. The commercial potential is huge.

While this idea is years—and leaps and bounds—away, it’s an illustration of what’s to come. Our future will become more and more connected, and WiFi’s social and economic benefits will grow exponentially.

Benefiting from the digital economy boom

CSPs can take advantage of all these exciting developments by delivering new services to subscribers, such as smart home and IoT services. As all the new WiFi-powered innovation makes it into customers’ homes, managed WiFi will also see high demand. Already, people want to take better control of their home WiFi experience—and this will increasingly become an expectation as their connectivity needs evolve.

But the old business models weren’t designed for these kinds of opportunities. With competition in the space fiercer than ever, only CSPs that are agile and innovative will succeed. Traditional solutions that are based on hardware simply can’t keep up with the fast-paced changes in the digital economy. And they don’t scale to the level that these changes require.

For an industry that’s so critical to digital resilience and to the economy, CSPs have been surprisingly slow to transform. For example, the cloud, among other technologies, has long been driving transformation across numerous sectors, yet CSPs are only just now realizing its transformative potential.

Unlike service delivery that’s based on hardware and software, the cloud enables fast time to market and the ability to roll out services quickly to millions of customers. And that’s just for starters.

With cloud-based service delivery platforms, CSPs can continuously add new services with simple software coding, drastically cutting costs.

What’s next?

Whether the connected future brings us exciting new adventures like the metaverse or simply better digital experiences with the technologies we already have, CSPs can’t afford to sit on the sidelines.

Other WiFi industry players are moving fast to benefit from the digital boom—it’s time for CSPs to do the same. They need to implement forward-thinking ideas and lead some of the innovation instead of trying to catch up with it.

Plume’s cloud-based service-delivery platform can help CSPs to benefit from the changing connectivity landscape and next-generation WiFi trends.

Learn how to take advantage of the agility and scalability of the cloud, combined with Plume’s interoperable, hardware- and vendor-agnostic platform.