New unlicensed spectrum, standard power 6 Gigahertz (GHz), and Wi-Fi 7 will unleash a new era of industrial 802.11, enabling the technology to finally satisfy the low-latency, high-throughput requirements of mission-critical Operational Technology (OT) applications. ABI Research, a global technology intelligence firm, forecasts that global deployments leveraging the newly available Standard Power 6 GHz APs will multiply almost six-fold between 2024 and 2028, from just over 52,000 to more than 0.3 million. Automated Frequency Control (AFC) Systems certification will facilitate the rollout. These database lookup schemes enable higher power transmissions by preventing interference with incumbents by national regulators worldwide beginning in 2023.
“AFC Systems are especially vital for industrial environments not only because mission-critical applications demand the higher power 36 dBm transmissions, but also because they will permit the finely tuned external antennas that OT requires for optimal operation and avoidance of interference hazards,” says Andrew Spivey, Industry Analyst at ABI Research. “One consequence of the resultant performance and range boosts of Standard Power 6 GHz will be the partial diminishing of 5G’s advantages over Wi-Fi in OT environments.”
The advances brought by Wi-Fi 7 and Standard Power 6 GHz will drive the adoption of Industrial Manufacturing WLAN Aps. ABI Research forecasts annual shipment growth from 3.5 million in 2022 to 5.5 million in 2028. Major Vendors in the Industrial WLAN market include the likes of Siemens and Moxa, with Enterprise WLAN leaders Cisco and Aruba continuing to service the industrial market. These next-generation high-performance WLAN APs will not only support emerging use cases like Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) but also allow machines that have traditionally relied on Ethernet to finally transition to 802.11, helping to reduce network installation costs, operational complexity, maintenance requirements, and the physical footprint. The industrial manufacturing and logistics verticals are desperate for the additional capacity of 6 GHz, and so will be the first OT sectors to adopt 6 GHz-compatible equipment. The mining and oil & gas sectors are comparatively less congested, therefore, will migrate later.
Industry business models are also transforming as OT clients prefer Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) solutions. NaaS models are favored over outright ownership because they offer reduced financial risk, rapid deployment, greater scalability, and negate the need to expand headcount or train staff on new complex equipment. Drivers of this interest are more significant short-term financial pressures, labor shortages, and the fact that the ecosystem has now developed sufficiently to support these offerings. Part of this development is advancements in industrial Network Management Systems (NMSs), which enable the centralized, remote management of dispersed networks powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) automation.
“Strategic partnerships across the entire value chain – from the system integrators delivering NaaS solutions to the AFC System Operators enabling Standard Power 6 GHz operations – are becoming increasingly important for ecosystem vendors,” adds Spivey. “The strengths of these partnerships will ultimately determine a vendor’s ability to deliver end-to-end solutions to their clients, and thus will become a strong vendor differentiator going forward.”
These findings are from ABI Research’s Next Generation Industrial WLAN in OT Environments application analysis report. This report is part of the company’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth & Wireless Connectivity research service, which includes research, data, and analyst insights. Based on extensive primary interviews, Application Analysis reports present an in-depth analysis of key market trends and factors for a specific technology.
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