6 GHz Wi-Fi to Aid with the Pressure Associated with the Increase in Home-Based Workers Caused by COVID-19

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3Q 2020 | IN-5916

The added pressure on Wi-Fi networks due to COVID-19 can be alleviated by the increased capacity, greater reliability, lower latency, improved quality of service, and faster connectivity associated with Wi-Fi 6 GHz Wi-Fi. Consumer and enterprise device vendors need to prepare for the arrival of 6 GHz Wi-Fi, develop Wi-Fi 6E devices to remain competitive, and tout the added spectrum’s value.

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What Is 6 GHz Wi-Fi?


Wi-Fi has regularly seen updates, ensuring that the connectivity provided is optimal, with the highest possible speeds and the lowest possible latency. With the growing demands being placed on Wi-Fi networks, there is an increase in congestion, performance limitations, and poor quality of service, with increased use of high-resolution music and video streaming, video calling, updates, downloads, social networking, data-heavy Internet usage, and online gaming.

The planned release of the 6 Gigahertz (GHz) band for unlicensed Wi-Fi use in Wi-Fi 6E devices will aid here, offering use from 5925 Megahertz (MHz) to 7125 MHz, enabling 14 additional 80 MHz channels and 7 additional 160 MHz channels. 6 GHz Wi-Fi will provide higher throughput, more capacity, greater reliability, lower latency, and improved service, solving many Wi-Fi challenges. Legacy, non-Wi-Fi 6 devices will be unable to use the new spectrum, ensuring that the band remains clear for longer. High-density areas, including stadiums, airports, conference halls, offices, industrial areas, and multi-dwelling units, where high levels of congestion prohibit high-quality services, will see great benefits from the additional capacity.

COVID-19 Adds Pressure to Wi-Fi Networks


The addition of the 6 GHz band is coming at a critical time, where home Wi-Fi communications are struggling to cope with the increase in usage due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with huge numbers of people now working and learning from home, requiring wider coverage, lower latency, and support for an increased number of devices. Operators worldwide have reported major surges in Wi-Fi traffic since the pandemic. In the United States, AT&T has reported that Wi-Fi calling is up over 76%, with a 300% increase in remote conferencing applications during work hours. In Spain, five carriers have reported strain, due to a 40% spike in Internet Protocol (IP) traffic, 50% increase in voice calls, 25% increase in data use, and 5X more WhatsApp usage. In the United Kingdom, operators have reported that network usage during weekdays has increased by 30% to 95%. Open Fiber has also reported a 300% increase in upstream traffic compared to before the pandemic, Facebook saw a 70% weekly increase in group video calls via the Messenger app during March, and Verizon experienced a 75% jump in online gaming week-over-week in March.

There are expectations that many people will not return to the office, instead continuing to work from home permanently, which will continue to put strain on the consumer Wi-Fi networks. The addition of the 6 GHz band will help provide faster Wi-Fi with less interference, ensuring that this increased use of Wi-Fi can be supported with high-quality connectivity. Companies within the Wi-Fi market have not seen a negative impact from COVID-19, with certification and interoperability testing still on track and the Wi-Fi Alliance feature releases still expected to occur in December.

The 6 GHz band will provide improved mesh network solutions offering multi-gigabit channel between nodes, eliminating potential dead spots throughout a home, providing the high-speed and low-latency connectivity to devices in multiple rooms. It will also enable optimal placement of routers within a home via a wireless connection from a gateway, rather than an access point at the point of entry with lower signal propagation.

Wi-Fi 6E devices will not be affected by legacy devices slowing them down, as they will not have access to the 6 GHz band, therefore they will not be sharing bandwidth or airtime. This new band will also enable new use cases, or improve previous use cases, such as reliable Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) applications, high throughput in-home backhaul, and better connectivity for new devices. Internet of Things (IoT) devices will have access to better connectivity from this clean band, also improving the battery life.

The Future for 6 GHz Wi-Fi


6 GHz Wi-Fi will clearly be advantageous for the market and will see a steady increase in shipments across a range of device types, increasing from 33 million in 2020 to 1.4 billion in 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11%. There will be limited shipments in 2020, with the first devices expected toward the end of the year, steadily increasing from 2021 onward. There may be some initial limitations for 6 GHz Wi-Fi uptake due to the close proximity to the release of Wi-Fi 6 and the additional cost associated with the extended version. Despite these inhibitors, the benefits, such as increased capacity, greater reliability, lower latency, improved quality of service, and faster connectivity, associated with Wi-Fi 6E will prompt an increasing number of companies to offer the technology and consumers to purchase new devices.

Consumer and enterprise device vendors should prepare for the availability of 6 GHz Wi-Fi, develop Wi-Fi 6E devices to remain competitive, and help to quickly educate the industry about the potential value that the added spectrum will bring. Much work needs to be done to ensure meeting the anticipated short time frame between spectrum release and devices coming to the market. These companies should consider promoting Wi-Fi 6E as a key selling feature within their products, leveraging the branding to boost awareness and market new products.

Post-COVID-19, many service providers are expected to introduce more work-from-home-centric services, designed to incentivize upgrades to Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E networks to provide improved connectivity experiences. Barriers surrounding installing fiber, the availability of certain spectrum bands, and financial issues in rural areas are likely to be reduced, with more support for improving home Wi-Fi with the increased number of people requiring it to work from home. In 2023 to 2024, when Wi-Fi 7 is released, the 6 GHz band will provide even more increased speeds, improved video streaming, higher data rates, longer range connectivity, reduced congestion, more throughput, and minimal latency. This will all aid with the increased number of people working from home, ensuring that all devices have the connectivity they require. The 6 GHz band will also aid with addressing challenges, such as supporting AR and VR use cases, providing better coverage, offering greater reliability, improving battery life, lowering latency in gaming, and increasing streaming resolution.

Wi-Fi chipset vendors, networking product designers, and networking Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) should consider introducing the latest 6 GHz Wi-Fi standards and developing a variety of Wi-Fi 6E configurations and solutions in order to provide this new connectivity to the Wi-Fi industry. These solutions should have the ability to support various ends of the networking value chain for various markets and devices, ensuring that the new features are provided. These companies must also find a balance between providing cost-effective solutions without diluting performance that could negate the impact of Wi-Fi 6E.



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