Monday, March 4, 2024

5 Top Wireless Networking Trends

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Wireless and cellular networking is so popular than landlines may soon become obsolete. 40% of users have stopped using a landline phone completely according to a survey from Uswitch. Demographically, 95% of over-65-year-olds still have a traditional phone while about half of under-25s don’t have one installed. About three quarters of homes still have a landline, but one quarter don’t have a handset connected – landline service was just part of a broadband service bundle. 

In light of this shift, here are some of the top trends in wireless networking: 

Wireless Building Out Along with 5G 

Private wireless LTE networks and 5G deployments are not occurring as rapidly as analysts previously expected. But both are making progress. The slowdown is partly due to enterprises deciding to get more familiar with these technologies before deploying them broadly. 

But the upsurge is expected soon. According to Dell-Oro Group numbers, private wireless RAN revenues are projected to double between 2022 and 2026.

“Private wireless is a massive opportunity,” said Stefan Pongratz, Vice President at Dell’Oro Group.  “But the enterprise and industrial play is a long game as the standalone LTE/5G market is developing at a slower pace than previously expected.” 

Wireless Shortages 

Another factor in the slower than expected uptake of the latest wireless technologies is related to larger issues with the global supply chain. Fuel prices have skyrocketed, sanctions exist in places like China and Russia, and the pandemic has caused shutdowns or layoffs in many facilities. All of this has backed up the supply chain severely. To make matters worse, shipments from Asia to the U.S. have been subject to some delays due to contract negotiations between the West Coast dockworkers union and the Maritime Association as well as newer California laws that have resulted in a big shortage of truck drives. Thus, containers, some of which are full of wireless gear, are not getting out of ports rapidly.

Dell’Oro Group noted, in particular, that the wireless local area network (LAN) was prone to these shutdowns. In fact, supply constraints plagued the Wireless LAN market in 1Q22, and are expected to worsen as the year progresses. Several U.S.-based wireless LAN manufacturers even announced that backlogs were reaching levels ten-to-fifteen times higher than normal.

“Many enterprises have planned network upgrades and the popular connection is Wi-Fi. The trouble is getting it. Several manufacturers announced that components from second and third-tier suppliers became the bottleneck in 1Q22,” said Tam Dell’Oro, Founder, CEO and Wireless LAN Analyst.

“Supply constraints have resulted in highly volatile quarterly performance vendor-to-vendor depending on whether or not they have all the components. For example, sales may be up 20 percent in one quarter and down 20 percent the next.” 

Wireless 6E Emerges

Despite these challenges, wireless technology continues to advance. The latest innovation is Wi-Fi 6E.

According to Intel, earlier Wi-Fi generation shared a small number of available channels. This caused problems such as interference and congestion. Wi-Fi 6E opens up exclusive channels for Wi-Fi use, beyond the crowded 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Instead, the 6 GHz band can be used, but only by Wi-Fi 6E connections. Older wireless products and devices can’t use this network. Thus, enterprises are willing to upgrade to the latest 6E routers, and switches in order to free up their connections from congestion and interference. 

6E Sales Boom

Dell’Oro reports that Wi-Fi 6E sales are booming as more manufacturers launch products. Extreme Networks, Intel, HPE Aruba, and others are broadly promoting new tools and sales are trending well. 

Those businesses on early Wi-Fi devices, and even those using Wi-Fi 6 devices, are unable to take advantage of the benefits of the 6 GHz spectrum used by Wi-Fi 6E. Equipment providers, therefore, are seeing faster adoption rates than usual. Businesses no longer want to see their wireless networks having to compete with a host of other devices vying for attention on lower frequency Wi-Fi networks. 

The benefits are alluring to enterprises. The dedicated 6E spectrum has up to seven additional 160 MHz channels compared to only two shared between all Wi-Fi 4, 5, and 6 devices. This means that Wi-Fi 6E devices can experience gigabit speeds far more easily. 

The good news is that Wi-Fi 6E devices are backward compatible with legacy wireless technologies like Wi-Fi 6 and Wireless-AC. Additionally, they can connect to legacy Wi-Fi 4, 5, and 6 networks in legacy 2.4/5 GHz bands when needed. Thus, businesses can pick and choose where they need to deploy the newest wireless tools to best advantage. Other areas of the enterprise can manage on older gear until they, too, are ready for upgrade. 

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