The global economic value of Wi-Fi® will reach $1.96 trillion this year and increase to $3.5 trillion by 2023, according to a new study commissioned by Wi-Fi Alliance®. It’s important to note that this report is the first time such a study is focused exclusively on the economic value of Wi-Fi alone. Earlier studies have examined the role of all unlicensed technologies combined.
The outsized contribution of Wi-Fi is no surprise given its ubiquity around the world. This new study reinforces other earlier research on the subject (WifiForward released a report on the economic value of technologies that use unlicensed spectrum in the United States). With more than 20 billion Wi-Fi connected devices around the planet in 2018, and projections that there will be 50 billion connected wireless devices by 2022, it is clear that Wi-Fi plays a central role in our society and the global economy.
So how do we keep this economic engine going? How do we power Wi-Fi to do even more? We need more unlicensed spectrum. Study after study proves that we are hitting a Wi-Fi spectrum crunch. More mid-band spectrum is needed to support the high throughput and low latency applications that consumers crave (i.e. Facebook Live) and make businesses more efficient (i.e. cloud-based computing and services). The European Commission recognized this first, with its Wi-Fi mandate in the bottom part of the 6 GHz band. The U.S. responded admirably by exploring whether the entire 6 GHz band can be made available for Wi-Fi. Thank you to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for its decision to vote on this proposal later this month.
The race is on to see who will make 6 GHz available first for Wi-Fi. For both the U.S. and the E.U., however, adopting the right rules will make the difference between bringing their citizens a powerful new band for Wi-Fi, and undermining investment through unnecessary restrictions. Fortunately, the proposed U.S. framework is on the right path, but a few improvements are required to truly harness the benefits of this band. The most important of these changes is enabling low power indoor use throughout the 6 GHz band, which is likely to be a common sharing approach throughout various regulatory regimes and enable global equipment harmonization. Harmonization leads to scale, which in turn leads to higher value at lower costs. I look forward to working with FCC and EU Regulators to ensure that all the hard work associated with opening this spectrum for Wi-Fi leads to maximum consumer benefit while ensuring protection for incumbent users of these frequencies. We’re lucky that we have an FCC that understands this, and I hope that the final rules strike the right balance and bring consumers and businesses the spectrum they need to do even more amazing things with Wi-Fi.
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