Wi-Fi 7, 6 GHz Spectrum, Mesh Networking, and Value-Added Services to Drive the Next Wave of Consumer Wi-Fi Innovation

10 May 2022

Many recent developments are converging to create an era of market revolution in residential Wi-Fi. One of these is the sooner than expected arrival of Wi-Fi 7, with early 2022 witnessing Qualcomm’s unveiling of the industry’s first Wi-Fi 7 chipset, followed by Broadcom’s recent announcement of its Wi-Fi 7 ecosystem, which included the residential access point BCM6726/67263 chipsets. ABI Research, a global technology intelligence firm, is forecasting shipments of Wi-Fi 7 chipsets to reach over 16 million this year, rising to nearly half-a-billion in 2026. Alongside this, ABI Research expects the maturing of mesh Wi-Fi networking, with revenue for mesh infrastructure forecasted to undergo a 15% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2021 and 2026, rising from US$2.9 billion to US$4.6 billion. Meanwhile, the flourishing of new forms of Wi-Fi value added services is acting to fundamentally redefine connectivity in the home. One such service is Wi-Fi motion detection, with Cognitive, Origin Home, and Plume all offering innovative solutions.

“From the release of new Wi-Fi protocols and clean spectrum, to the coming of age of mesh networking and value-added services, it is clear that the residential Wi-Fi market is currently undergoing a period of rapid structural transformation,” says Andrew Spivey, Industry Analyst at ABI Research. “In order to remain competitive, industry players need to be wary of not becoming complacent and must begin preparing their business strategies now.”

The rise of innovation in the residential Wi-Fi space is matched by an increase in market complexity. “For example, although the opening of the 6 GHz spectrum for unlicensed use will usher in a new era of residential Wi-Fi, there remains a myriad of factors acting to dampen its adoption in the home, ranging from a current scarcity of 6 GHz enabled consumer devices, the uneven accessibility of the 6 GHz spectrum globally, low levels of service provider support for the protocol, a lack of consumer awareness of Wi-Fi 6E, proximity to Wi-Fi 7 rollout, and supply chain constraints,” Spivey explains. While businesses can take solace in the fact that penetration of 6 GHz into consumer devices will raise rapidly in coming years (in 2026 the proportions of chipset shipments that are 6 GHz enabled for smartphones and portable PCs will reach 49% and 68% respectively), they are still crying out for more clarity on when the other barriers to adoption will be resolved. Challenges likewise exist for other aspects of the residential Wi-Fi market, including determining which mesh Wi-Fi configurations consumers are most receptive to, knowing which value-added services have the greatest revenue potential, estimating the eventual penetration rate of 5G FWA, determining the optimal MIMO strategy, and knowing when the persistent supply chain disruption will finally be alleviated.

Current trends in the residential Wi-Fi market are necessitating drastic adjustments to the business strategies of all industry players. “There are numerous key decisions that must be taken now, ranging from which Wi-Fi protocols they will dedicate resources to, how they will tackle the growing global inconsistencies in unlicensed spectrum allocation, the extent to which they will support mesh networking solutions, which value-added services they will invest in, and what strategy they will adopt to overcome the continuing supply chain crisis,” Spivey concludes.

These findings are from ABI Research’s Residential Wi-Fi and Wireless Infrastructure Update 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 in-depth analysis on key market trends and factors for a specific technology.

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