COVID-19 has had an immediate impact on Wi-Fi infrastructure, proving existing infrastructure is inadequate. Wireless networks are now facing a higher capacity with more traffic and users are finding their existing home Wi-Fi network, and the wider broadband infrastructure, is inadequate or incapable of supporting the recent 80% increase in upload traffic, states global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 is creating a need for flexibility that will fuel the future of connectivity,” says Andrew Zignani, Principal Analyst at ABI Research. Many users are still likely to be using outdated Wi-Fi equipment with legacy Wi-Fi standards, such as 802.11n, rather than the latest Wi-Fi 6, which has specifically been designed to deal with better provision in more crowded networks. “There will be renewed incentive for mesh Wi-Fi that can provide sufficient high-speed coverage to multiple users throughout the home,” Zignani explains. At the same time, companies will need to ensure they have the right infrastructure in place so large numbers of employees can concurrently connect to company Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). Many companies may not have VPNs at all, while capacity limitations could put companies at further risk of security breaches or slow down productivity further.
“The hope, of course, is that the impact of COVID-19 will be very short lived, and that people will be able to return to work, school, and normality as swiftly as possible. In the longer term, today’s necessities could lead to an increased desire and testbed for flexible and remote working and learning in the future, while companies may shift marketing and business resources away from conference-centric approaches toward new online and virtual marketing tools, particularly as additional concerns grow over the impact of climate change via international travel,” says Zignani.
“In the longer term, it could lead to a reassessment of how many modern workplaces and working relationships are structured, reducing the impact of long commutes and travel, enabling more flexible working and remote collaboration. In order to achieve this, additional resources will need to be devoted to VPNs, secure home networking, and remote working/conferencing software,” Zignani recommends. “Alongside this, further investment will need to be made to ensure home broadband infrastructure can support high-speed Wi-Fi Internet access.” Education will need to be provided on how to optimize and get the best out of home Wi-Fi networks. Employees will need to be equipped with equipment that can support robust, efficient, and low latency Wi-Fi standards, while various organizations around the globe will need to open up additional spectrum, such as 6 Gigahertz (GHz) to ensure the capacity of Wi-Fi networks can meet a global increase in demand for video, collaborative tools, and other data-heavy traffic going forward.
However, all these longer-term transformations require a deep understanding of the need for high-speed, highly secure wireless infrastructure to and within the home. “This could lead to greater incentives being placed on rolling out high-speed fiber or last-mile networks, better awareness of the need for robust whole-home connectivity via mesh systems, and the adoption of 6 GHz Wi-Fi and the latest Wi-Fi standards. In addition, it could lead to greater home Wi-Fi security, improved cybersecurity education, and a better understanding of the need for additional Wi-Fi capacity in the years to come,” Zignani concludes.
For a clearer picture of the current and future ramifications of COVID-19 across technologies and industries, download the whitepaper Taking Stock of COVID-19: The Short- and Long-Term Ramifications on Technology and End Markets.
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