Wireless Broadband Alliance released its annual industry report with an update on OpenRoaming and Wi-Fi 6 use cases and deployments for 2021.

In addition to reviewing the year, the report addresses emerging trends and business models in key vertical markets such as Retail, Aviation, Hospitality, Smart transportation, IoT, healthcare and general industry.

The report also charts the progress of technology trends and developments including standards evolution, OpenRoaming, Mesh Wi-Fi, and Mobile edge Computing.

According to the cross-industry survey of service providers, equipment manufacturers and enterprises, almost four out of five (79%) have adopted or plan to adopt the WBA OpenRoaming standard.

As the Wi-Fi roaming standard was only introduced in late May 2020, this demonstrates a very rapid and widespread acceptance of WBA OpenRoaming in less than six months, the WBA said.

“The vision for WBA OpenRoaming is 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,” the WBA said in a media.

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 organisation said.

More key findings

The survey found that 95% of the communications industry say that Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E will be important to their business, with 65% saying they have deployed or will deploy Wi-Fi 6/6E before the end of 2021. More than a third of the respondents (67%) also said that the convergence of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G would be very important or critical to their future business plans.

The survey found that roaming is the number one monetization strategy for 2021, with 45% placing it in their top three choices, followed by offload (38%) and analytics (32%). Additionally, 57% of the respondents believe that multi-access edge computing (MEC) will lead to new use cases for Wi-Fi in the future

Smart cities represent the primary vertical use case being targeted by the communications industry in relation to Wi-Fi, with 56% saying that it is one of their top targets. This is 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 communications industry, we’re seeing excitement building around these trends.”

Rodrigues noted that 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone and this reinforces the role of Wi-Fi during the pandemic to keep everyone connected.

Response to COVID-19

Speaking about the communications industry’s response to COVID-19, which is also analysed in the report, Rodrigues added that 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. “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,” he said.

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