Vera Luz (Associate Analyst, EMEA Enterprise Networks)
Roz Parkinson (Research Manager, EMEA Enterprise Networks)

WiFi 6, or 802.11ax, is the latest WiFi connectivity standard developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). IDC predicts that WiFi 6, which was ratified late last year, will become the de facto WiFi standard in the next three years.

Its key differentiator is that it enables more efficient management of network traffic for a large number of simultaneous users.

Main advantages:

  • Increased network capacity through more efficient management of network connections to large numbers of concurrent users
  • Increased data speed and throughput of traffic
  • Enables upstream multiuser, multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO), enabling large data sets to be uploaded in highly dense environments
  • Provides power efficiencies through scheduling transaction times to and from devices, which reduces the time that device radios need to be online

The adoption of WiFi 6 is predicted to be fast from the moment network equipment vendors start adapting their products to the standard. Devices will be gradually standardized to support and complement it. IDC estimates that the European WiFi 6 market will grow from $61.75 million in 2019 to $1.6 billion in 2024, at a CAGR of 91%.

Despite the opportunities, the European wireless networking market is very competitive and crowded, so network vendors will need to develop strategies to differentiate themselves. It will be important to clearly define customer targets by focusing on specific verticals and use cases, and to develop offerings tailored to these that focus on aspects such as end-to-end experience, interoperability, security, price, and customer support.

Specific use cases where WiFi 6 adoption will create a tangible improvement include:

  • Large public venues — such as stadiums, auditoriums, and schools — where there is a high density of users simultaneously using the wireless network
  • Large enterprises, where communications and networking are now mostly done wirelessly and many applications are cloud based
  • IoT use cases, particularly in verticals such as manufacturing and retail; these will benefit from WiFi 6, not only because of the more efficient way it enables a large number of devices to transfer data simultaneously, but also due to the power management optimization that WiFi 6 devices offer

Besides the fierce competition faced by network providers, there are other challenges.

First, there are other wireless connectivity types coming to market, notably 5G, which could threaten the WiFi 6 market. Despite this, IDC predicts rapid adoption of WiFi 6, driven by uptake in key verticals to begin with before it becomes the de facto standard across all enterprises in the next three to four years. 5G is still in the early days of deployment, whereas WiFi 6 devices are already being shipped, and there are many use cases where WiFi connectivity will be enough.

Second, as the amount of data flowing across the network and away from enterprise branch environments grows, enterprises will need to upgrade other parts of their network. This could delay some enterprises’ move to WiFi 6, while they wait till their network equipment is ready for a more complete refresh.

In conclusion, IDC sees WiFi 6 as not only a growth opportunity for wireless network vendors, but also an opportunity for vendors with a broader networking portfolio to sell software-defined networking solutions into the enterprise. Given this, IDC expects 2020 to be a dynamic year for the campus networking environment, with many vendors leveraging WiFi network refresh projects to sell SD-branch solutions. To stand out in this competitive market, vendors should focus on key use cases where WiFi 6 will make an impact, then leverage this to open up further network transformation opportunities.

If you want to learn more about this topic or have any questions, please contact Roz Parkinson and Vera Luz or head over to https://uk.idc.com and drop your details in the form on the top right.

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