Shipments of Wi-Fi 6E access points for enterprise users will grow from 1.5 million in 2022 to 5.2 million in 2024, analyst firm ABI Research predicts. A real revolution is underway, where enterprise Wi-Fi networks, IT/OT and 5G/Wi-Fi private networks are intertwining and merging. The technological foundations of Wi-Fi will soon be upgraded with Wi-Fi 7, the ABI further predicts.
“The adoption of Wi-Fi 7 access points will accelerate after standardization in 2024, and just two years later most shipments of 6GHz access points will support Wi-Fi 7,” said Andrew Spivey, industry analyst at ABI Research . “Another area to watch is IT/OT convergence. While there remains a large gap between the two areas, strategies to pursue convergence are beginning to materialize, which will drive further Wi-Fi innovation.”
The report also highlights the pace of convergence of Wi-Fi and private 5G networks. “We are now moving to a world where it is not only technically possible for Wi-Fi and cellular to co-exist on the same private network, but where it becomes a vital solution for many applications,” Spivey said. “The leading network solutions of the future will be those that can use both technologies in an interoperable way.”
According to analysts at ABI, private networks that include Wi-Fi and 5G can benefit from the best of both technologies – ultra-low latency, extended range, security and “flawless” reliability, reduced deployment costs and reduced complexity, inverse compatibility between generations and better knowledge of technology.
Still, the analyst cautioned that converged private networks won’t be adopted everywhere. He predicts that traditional enterprises will continue to rely on familiar and reliable Wi-Fi technology, as will verticals that operate in mostly indoor environments with few mission-critical applications, especially education, hospitality and retail. At the other extreme would be industries covering vast external environments – for example, agriculture. They will be more oriented towards cellular services.
The three industry verticals identified by ABI as having the greatest potential for converged Wi-Fi/5G private networks are manufacturing, warehousing and healthcare. “The sweet spot for converged networks will be those industries that rely heavily on mission-critical applications requiring long distances and ultra-low latency,” Spivey sums up.