Co-authored by Vikrant Dolas, Sales Specialist, Cisco India
Wi-Fi is going through another major evolution, now in its 6th iteration since it was introduced and adopted as a worldwide wireless technology standard in 1998. IEEE 802.11ax is the latest Wi-Fi standard, commonly known as Wi-Fi6, employs many features to mitigate quality of service (QoS) issues when hundreds of Wi-Fi devices onboard the network simultaneously. The technological advancements introduced in Wi-Fi6 can drive new age use cases that demand more bandwidth for faster speeds, higher network capacity for more simultaneous users, and lower latency for near real-time applications. As a result, Wi-Fi6 is beginning to be adopted as a complementary technology to cellular 5G, which features similar capabilities.
Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA), an organization that certifies Wi-Fi products for conformity to standards, started Wi-Fi6 device certification in September 2019. Over 1200 devices, ranging from smartphones to computers, and routers to chipsets, have earned the designation Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6™ as of May 2020. It is projected that the industry will witness a massive Wi-Fi6 device proliferation in 2020-21 as consumer and industrial product manufacturers look to incorporate Wi-Fi6 as a must-have in their latest products. Envisaging this massive growth potential in the device ecosystem, many Enterprises & Service Providers are in the midst of upgrading legacy Wi-Fi networks to Wi-Fi 6.
Along with the increased demand for common Wi-Fi use cases like Public-Private Hotspots, Cellular Offload, Small Office Home Office (SOHO), Office IT, etc., the next wave of Wi-Fi adoption will be Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) supporting verticals like manufacturing, education, hospitality, transportation, retail, etc. Existing Wi-Fi network has the bandwidth and throughput limitations and is unable to support applications like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), automated guided vehicles (AGV), Immersive Videos, etc. that require very low latency, higher throughput, and capacity. Several industry-led trials and deployments at high-density venues like stadiums and airports have established that Wi-Fi6, however, is capable of performing under these conditions and is the best-suited technology for these next-gen applications.
Today, Wi-Fi is still looked at as a cost center; service with a source of low revenue, and one that is deployed mainly for functional purposes. However, with Wi-Fi6 refresh or deployment, Enterprises and Service Providers are looking for additional sources of revenue and new incremental business opportunities that have not been possible in the past. To demonstrate the business impact and potential of Wi-Fi6, analyst firm IDC recently presented a “Wi-Fi 6 Technology Spotlight” white paper, sponsored by Cisco. Along with Wi-Fi6 technology features, use cases, and key deployment considerations, IDC illustrated an Airport as a sample use case, to derive incremental business opportunities and calculate Return on Investment (RoI). The report concluded that even with a very conservative hypothetical model, an airport would be able to monetize the enhanced user experience that Wi-Fi6 brings to the table, leading to a 10-year ROI figure of 21% and a positive cash flow by the sixth year of implementation.
An airport is a heterogeneous environment with many Wi-Fi use cases like public Wi-Fi, retail, Wayfinding, Asset tracking, IT for operations, etc. under one umbrella. Hence, the business model used in the IDC Wi-Fi6 Technology Spotlight can be applied to other high-density public / private Enterprises, and Service Provider use cases to realize similar business benefits.
For more details on various Wi-Fi use cases, monetization with Wi-Fi 6, and details of the Airport Case Study, please refer to the Cisco Sponsored IDC Technical Spotlight white paper.