Top 5 Reflections about Wi-Fi 7 from MWC and beyond – what’s happening now?
by Kajsa Arvidsson
MWC 2023 (Mobile World Congress) is an important industry event and essential to take stock of key observations and plan for what lies ahead for Communications Service Providers (CSPs). Something that really stood out this year was the presence of Wi-Fi. In conversation with Patrick Ribardiere, senior director, product marketing, Qualcomm France, here are some key reflections about Wi-Fi 7.
1. Adoption of Wi-Fi is a fact and CSPs need to adjust to it – with Wi-Fi 7
It’s not surprising that Wi-Fi is here to stay, and it is ubiquitous as Wi-Fi access meets people’s basic needs – such as searching for a job, working from home, getting an education and staying connected to family and friends. According to Wi-Fi Alliance, Wi-Fi is expected to contribute nearly USD 5 trillion to the global economy by 2025. With Wi-Fi 7 on the horizon, we can expect significant improvement in technology and a key feature of Wi-Fi 7 is Multi-Link Operation (MLO) functionality. This means innovation and user experiences will be transformed. Wi-Fi 7 can deliver more immersive gaming experiences like extended and augmented reality and alleviate the strain on home networks for video calls and remote work.
2. MWC confirmed CSPs’ interest and how Wi-Fi 7 can solve many challenges they have right now.
Among the challenges are the demand for higher bandwidth at home from consumers, latency, and quality of service.
“Their priority is to meet the increasing demand for broadband and the evolution of consumer needs such as video, new gaming experiences and remote work. Wi-Fi has to be able to push more data, particularly for home users. Gaming, streaming, and videos combined with the increasing number of Wi-Fi devices put stress on the quality of services. The current generation of Wi-Fi will quickly experience problems. The average household in the US now has 22 connected devices and we can only expect this number to increase. This is one of many contributing factors to moving to Wi-Fi 7,” added Ribardiere.
3. It’s a fact that CSPs are transitioning to Wi-Fi 7; the question remains how soon?
“As a leader in the Wi-Fi 7 transition, with more than 175 Wi-Fi 7 design wins across product lines, we see a lot of behind-the-scenes work being done and projects being developed. CSPs monitor their CAPEX costs very carefully, but at the same time, they want to be first to market with Wi-Fi 7-ready products. As a result, they will have a competitive advantage.
At MWC, we saw that CSPs visited our demo area first to experience Qualcomm’s powered Wi-Fi 7-ready products, met with us and then circled back to the demo area again. This is usually not the case at a big event like MWC. That small behavior change reinforced for us at Qualcomm that we were right to move fast with Wi-Fi 7 to meet CSPs’ accelerated adoption. We are in constant dialog with CSPs to ensure that our solutions meet their requirements and timelines,” noted Ribardiere.
4. CSPs are rolling out various Wi-Fi products requiring different software.
According to Wi-Fi Alliance, more than 660 Wi-Fi 6E devices have been Wi-Fi CERTIFIED. The diverse and rapidly growing Wi-Fi 6E ecosystem includes various smart TVs, smartphones, enterprise and residential access points (APs), and laptops.
CSPs are considering separating software from hardware to manage the complexity and coexistence of different Wi-Fi generations of gateways and routers. By separating the two, CSPs can deploy a single unified software where the homogeneous software layer applies to all routers CSPs offer for the home. In addition, with a unified software approach, adding third-party applications requires only ONE integration versus one for any router. The application remains when the consumer upgrades to a next-generation router. An additional benefit is an ability to consider alternate sourcing options in customer premise equipment manufacturers. Finally, unified software is cost-efficient and improves the average revenue per user (ARPU).
“We work with IOPSYS to ensure that their software IOWRT* supports our Immersive Home and Networking Pro platforms. We know that CSPs need a full open-source operating system that gives them the flexibility to manage all their devices, regardless of the Wi-Fi generation. This is why we are committed to our support for an open-source ecosystem,” explains Ribardiere.
5. The market potential for fixed wireless access (FWA) with complementary technologies of Wi-Fi and 5G for connected homes.
Another interesting takeaway from MWC is the market opportunity for CSPs in terms of fixed wireless access (FWA) or also known as fixed mobile convergence (FMC). This is considered an underserved market. Connecting every home with the digital world will require a multi-access broadband strategy that combines an expanding range of fixed broadband such as xDSL, cable, fiber, and mobile broadband technologies such as LTE and 5G.
“Qualcomm offers a 5G Fixed Wireless Access Platform Gen 3. It is the first fully-integrated 5G advanced and Wi-Fi 7-ready solution for connected homes. We see big market possibilities with FWA and Wi-Fi 7 in the coming years,” concludes Ribardiere.
*IOWRT is an open-source operating system combining technology from the OpenWrt** community with carrier-grade requirements for broadband and IoT.
**OpenWrt is a trademark owned by Software in the Public Interest, Inc.