By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
A new year will soon be upon us – and the prudent are already hatching a new agenda and business plan for ’24. Thankfully 6G – if it ever happens (hopefully it won’t) – is far away. Instead Wi-Fi is thriving with loads of spectrum available. At Wi-Fi NOW we believe 2024 will be the year where all the outstanding 6 GHz ecosystem groundwork of the past couple of years will come to fruition with plenty of startups & innovation.
Traffic growth may be slowing (it right now stands at about 20-22% per year) but the relevance and importance traffic and connectivity to our lives is not. In my recollection – which in my case and in Wi-Fi terms stretches back to about 2010 – there’s never been more great new technology to work with if you’re an entrepreneur. And Wi-Fi NOW belongs to the small club of organisations who believe that entrepreneurship is what makes the world go around. Our mission is to support exactly that.
The list is long but here are some of the areas that should be teeming with startups & innovation:
Better home Wi-Fi management & quality
The work-from-home boom may have subsided but if you think the home Wi-Fi quality & service delivery issue has been fixed – think again. There’s still lots to do in improving data delivery to each and every device as well as in in addressing underserved segments – like apartment blocks and other forms of MDUs. For example: How can AI be applied to deliver better Wi-Fi in the home? For inspiration also see what Qualcomm is doing here.
Platforms enabling ‘App Stores’ for residential services
Plume’s been doing this for a while – with OpenSync – but we have no doubt that there will be more enablers (platforms) for App-store-like Wi-Fi-based home services. The truth is you don’t need to be a billion-dollar company to deliver an effective home services platform. This means you can deliver high-value services to millions of homes as a startup. We’ll have more to say about that soon.
Are you a Wi-Fi industry startup? Wi-Fi NOW has worked with dozens of startups helping them to get off the ground with effective promotional programs and market advisory – even assisting in securing financing or supporting them in their acquisition by industry heavyweights. We’re ready to work with you based on more than 20 years of industry experience. Contact me at this email.
A sea change in RF components for multi-radio APs
State-of-the-art APs will soon be all tri-band or even quad-band and penta-band – and that complicates matters a lot when it comes to developing the right hardware. RF component providers (FEMs, filters, antennas, etc) are right now bringing their full brain power to bear on complex RF problems that will – eventually – usher in a new generation of APs and devices of previously unheard capabilities. It’s an exciting segment also for startups.
A big year for Wi-Fi HaLow
Wi-Fi HaLow is breaking into the mass market and now it is up to entrepreneurs with a passion for IoT to take this technology to the next level. There’s practically no limit to how and where HaLow can be applied meaning both the variety of use cases and the scale. In time HaLow may very well bring about the kind of IoT that was envisioned when the very phrase ‘IoT’ was coined.
‘Wi-Fi offload’ is roaring back – it was all the rage 10 years ago – but this time it is not about offloading anything. It is really about making carrier-grade Wi-Fi the default indoor coverage solution for mobile services. There are many companies & organisations involved in this already and we’re even launching our own initiative dubbed Orpheus Wireless this week.
Very Low Power (VLP) Wi-Fi
VLP Wi-Fi is Bluetooth on steroids – relatively short range but with huge capacity and speed in the 6 GHz band. We’ve not even started scratching the surface of what this new category of Wi-Fi devices could eventually develop into. XR, wearables, automotive, peripheral connections, short range peer-to-peer – this is a whole new level of wireless. We will see the beginnings of this in 2024.
Location, location, location
Using Wi-Fi for location-based services has been a rough ride so far – but finally there’s just the right new Wi-Fi technology in the pipeline to make the difference. Now it’s up to the industry to launch new & much more accurate location services into the mass market. Once again there is a vast universe of use cases from wayfinding to industrial location to geofencing to you name it. Major vendors are enabling it – now it’s up to entrepreneurs to try their hand at monetizing it.
AFC, FWA, and the great outdoors
Standard power Wi-Fi 6E & Wi-Fi 7 is not only for the outdoors – but AFC will enable 6 GHz Wi-Fi and unlicensed FWA for the outdoors for the first time. How will this pan out, you say? For starters WISPs will have 850 MHz more to work with. And with that much spectrum we might see a revival of sorts for municipal Wi-Fi, smart cities, and more. The number of bits per dollar just took another nose dive and that could and should spark all kinds of interest in connectivity where there’s been none before.
AI is an increasingly important component of enterprise Wi-Fi in particular – but there’s still huge potential to explore. The objective is to drive down the cost of delivery of any residential or enterprise Wi-Fi services another order of magnitude at least. This is done by reducing cost of operations and driving up reliability. AI is well on its track to dominate enterprise Wi-Fi but there is still plenty of work to do within the huge residential Wi-Fi segment (both retail & service provider).
It is still in its infancy but Wi-Fi 7 and 6 GHz spectrum has teed up XR devices and applications in a big way. It is not an easy segment to play in but if there ever was an opportunity for XR to go mass market, all the connectivity technology is certainly in place to make it happen. If you think in devices and 3D this might be a great time to bring your imagination to bear on one of the most open and exciting tech spaces in need of innovation today.
Disaggregated (open) Wi-Fi for emerging markets – and all markets, really
Last but not least OpenWiFi – the disaggregated version of enterprise & carrier Wi-Fi – is making excellent progress and rolling out all over the world particularly with focus on large (or cost-sensitive) projects. There are loads of opportunities here for startups and entrepreneurs to add value by plugging into the OpenWiFi stack. We will be following OpenWiFi and their members closely next year, too.
Did we miss anything? Perhaps – but we’re excited about the direction of Wi-Fi these days! And we believe 2024 will be another record-breaking year for this industry.