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Industry to drive Wi-Fi 6 investments up by 17% in next decade to underpin IoT charge

Global investment in Wi-Fi infrastructure in the industrial space will grow from $1.7 billion in 2021 to $6.9 billion in 2030 at a compound rate of almost 17 percent per year, as the latest Wi-Fi 6 generation of the technology is deployed to support new industrial IoT applications.

Analyst house Guidehouse Insights said factories, warehouses, plants, mines, refineries, and transport hubs are looking to network industrial machines with Wi-Fi 6, as an alternative often to cellular LTE and 5G.

Interest in Wi-Fi 6 – offering faster speeds, improved security, and more devices – will drive the popularity of Wi-Fi outside of residential and enterprise settings for the first time, with investments jumping by 16.8 percent at a compound rate over the next decade.

Until now, Wi-Fi has not delivered the right “capacity, latency, reliability, or security” to support machine-based industrial IoT applications, it said.

The company said Europe and North America, with higher “square footage and numbers” of industrial sites, plus greater investment in industrial IoT, will lead the market for Wi-Fi 6 in the forecast period. Lower labour and equipment costs will depress major investments in Asia Pacific, by comparison.

But Asia Pacific and Latin America will show the highest growth rates for Wi-Fi 6, with sharpest growth in the second half of the forecast period.

Richelle Elberg, principal research analyst at Guidehouse Insights, commented: “The latest generation of Wi-Fi protocols, formerly known as 802.11ax but more simply called Wi-Fi 6, has a variety of technical upgrades supporting faster download and upload speeds, longer battery life, the ability to connect many more end devices, and improved security.”

Elberg added: “As such, it has the potential to support the IIoT in a variety of harsh environments where Wi-Fi has historically been considered unsuitable.”

At the start of the year, ABI Research poured water on the idea Wi-Fi 6 will gain mass adoption in the IoT space in the near-term. It also said a few dominant chipset vendors will squeeze out new entrants in the IoT market, so low-power wide-area tech standards will not align, and that the large number of IoT platforms will not consolidate any time soon.

ABI Research forecasts a tripling in Wi-Fi 6 chipset shipments in 2020, to nearly 383 million units globally. But growth will come in mobile, computing, and network applications. The rise of Wi-Fi 6 in the industrial space, in support of IoT sensor networks, will be delayed, until 2021 at least.

The balance has tipped in the traditional devices market, notes ABI. Smartphones from the likes of Samsung and Apple already feature Wi-Fi 6, already; momentum will splill over into tablet devices, too.

The Wi-Fi Alliance has launched a Wi-Fi 6 certification programme, with certified chipsets available from Broadcom, Cypress, Intel, Marvell, and Qualcomm. MediaTek has unveiled a number of 5G system-on-chips (SoCs) with integrated Wi-Fi 6 support, adding to Broadcom and Qualcomm’s mobile Wi-Fi offerings.

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