Wi-Fi® on track to unlock $3.5 trillion in economic value by 2023 - but first we need more spectrum to maximize societal benefits
October 10, 2018 by Christopher Szymanski
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.
Christopher Szymanski is Director of Product Marketing and Government Affairs for the Mobile Wireless Connectivity Division at Broadcom Inc., where he is responsible for leading Broadcom’s development, and regulatory affairs. As Broadcom’s representative, Mr. Szymanski serves as on the Wi-Fi Alliance Board of Directors and as alternate Director on the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance board. Before joining Broadcom, Mr. Szymanski worked for Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) at its headquarters in Shanghai. He also served as a congressional aide focused on policies related to economic competitiveness, telecommunications, foreign relations, national security, and trade.