Less than six months after the standard was first introduced, 79% of service providers, equipment manufacturers and enterprises have adopted or plan to adopt the WBA OpenRoaming standard, according to a cross-industry survey from Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), the worldwide industry body dedicated to improving Wi-Fi standards and services.
The finding is presented in the WBA annual industry report, which puts forward the case for WBA OpenRoaming based on the prediction that the world will become a single, giant Wi-Fi network, allowing billions of people and their devices to connect automatically and securely to millions of Wi-Fi networks around the world.
In this unified network, users will be able to roam from location to location without the need for logins, registrations or passwords. High-profile backers of WBA OpenRoaming include AT&T, Boingo, Broadcom, Cisco, Commscope, Google, Intel and Samsung.
The study revealed that as much as 95% of the comms industry believed Wi-Fi 6 or the forthcoming Wi-Fi 6E standard would be important to their business, with 65% saying they had deployed or would deploy Wi-Fi 6/6E before the end of 2021. Two-thirds (67%) of study participants said the convergence of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G would be very important or critical to their future business plans.
Roaming was the number one monetisation strategy for 2021 for those in the survey, with 45% placing it in their top three choices, followed by offload (38%) and analytics (32%). Almost three-fifths (57%) believed multi-access edge computing (MEC) would lead to new use cases for Wi-Fi in the future. Smart cities represented the primary vertical use case being targeted by the comms industry in relation to Wi-Fi, with 56% naming it as one of their top targets. This was followed by retail (39%) and education or campus networks (39%).
“There was a time, not so long ago, that when we discussed the potential for Wi-Fi roaming or the convergence of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G, we were met with blank stares,” said Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of Wireless Broadband Alliance. “Now, it’s the complete opposite. Across the comms industry, we’re seeing excitement building around these trends.
“2020 has been a difficult year for everyone and this reinforces the role of Wi-Fi during the pandemic to keep everyone connected. During lockdown, traffic patterns inevitably shifted from an office setting to a home setting, with many cellular and broadband providers seeing massive, sustained increases in traffic across residential areas,” added Rodrigues.
“The stability of Wi-Fi has arguably been the unsung hero of this situation – it has kept a lot of things moving and working at a time when failure would have resulted in a much bleaker situation for people and business.”
As the WBA was releasing the survey results, fellow Wi-Fi trade body the Wi-Fi Alliance was commending US regulator the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for voting to adopt new rules to enable unlicensed services, such as Wi-Fi, access to 45MHz in the 5.850-5.895GHz band. The newly available unlicensed spectrum will enable wider channels that can be immediately used by Wi-Fi 6 to support gigabit connectivity with lower latency, improved coverage and better power efficiency.
At a time when so many Americans rely on Wi-Fi for connectivity, this decision is vital, said the Wi-Fi Alliance, which added that the Wi-Fi industry was ready to use this spectrum to deliver expanded connectivity benefits across the US.