David Henry, President and GM of Connected Home Products at NETGEAR.
The pandemic has irreversibly accelerated the world’s reliance on Wi-Fi. From the global shift to remote and hybrid ways of working to unprecedented rises in gaming, streaming and AR/VR adoption, Wi-Fi has been at the center of it all and isn’t going away. Without reliable smart home connectivity, our personal and professional lives can be made increasingly difficult, making the need for powerful networking equipment more crucial than ever.
In this article, we detail the impact and opportunities for new evolutions in Wi-Fi networking and internet use in the new year, along with a warning of what to watch out for when defending against attacks on a connected home network.
1. The seventh generation of Wi-Fi will become standard.
Internet service providers (ISPs) are delivering faster internet speeds than ever before. AT&T Fiber is already providing 5Gbps, and Comcast is testing DOCSIS 4.0, leading to a future where 10 Gbps speeds will be commonplace. To experience the true benefits of these advancements, networking equipment and Wi-Fi must evolve.
The seventh generation of Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 7) connectivity will be standard with 320MHz channel bandwidths and will enable extremely high-speed Wi-Fi, including 5Gbps, to phones which is more than double the speeds they’re capable of today. Wi-Fi 7 will also resolve latency issues, forever changing the gaming and streaming experiences for smart environments everywhere.
Core to Wi-Fi 7’s impact will be advancing the capabilities and opportunities for video streaming, both in personal and professional use cases. As the influx of video streaming demands continues to rise, so too does the need for better bandwidth, especially for live-streamed events, which require strong, consistent Wi-Fi performance.
Since Wi-Fi 7 will have five times the capacity to handle more devices and improve AR/VR latency performance by 15 times, this further points to connectivity becoming the new standard.
In the coming year, we’ll see more entertainment and cultural events live-streamed, and viewers will need to upgrade networking services and equipment, often beyond the standard modems and routers provided by ISPs, to enjoy. We’ll also see client devices, starting with smartphones in 2023, adopt the new Wi-Fi 7 standard at a record pace to take advantage of these performance advantages.
2. 5G will help close the digital divide.
The “digital divide” continues to be a modern societal issue spurred by a lack of affordable and reliable connectivity. Despite recent advancements, regions around the country are still left behind due to a lack of reliable internet access. There are about 19 million Americans—6% of the population—that still lack access to fixed broadband services at threshold speeds of just 25 Mbps.
The continued, widespread rollout of 5G will pave the way for a new generation of internet accessibility, especially for rural communities that, unfortunately, are still on the wrong side of the digital divide. 5G is already available in 58 countries, and we expect that number to increase dramatically over the next two years, ultimately leading to more than three billion subscribers by 2026. Robust fixed and mobile networking devices will help level the playing field for the next generation of workers and learners, and carriers will adapt their data plans to facilitate.
3. Online gaming will be the largest and fastest-growing form of entertainment.
The gaming industry’s growth has been accelerated by the unprecedented engagement of younger teenage gamers, who spend about 40% more time in video game environments than with any other form of media, according to a recent report by Bain & Company. The same report forecasts that global revenue for video gaming could increase by another 50% over the next five years.
In a sport where milliseconds count, networking equipment will be just as important to the game as the speed of the gaming rig. Wi-Fi 7 will be critical for speed and near-zero latency, and game developers will break new barriers with immersive experiences.
4. As smart homes become more innovative, so will attempts to exploit them.
Around a third of consumers in the U.S. have a smart gadget at home, and we’ll see continued adoption of smart devices in 2023. Homeowners are choosing smart home options like refrigerators, doorbells and lightbulbs to improve their lives. Most new technology devices on the market for holiday shopping this year have some sort of internet connection. The average home will soon have an average of 20 connected devices at any given time.
The issue is that smart home technology, like any technology, can be hacked. Any smart, connected device runs the risk of exploitation thanks to sophisticated cyber criminals who often prioritize home networks over business or corporate networks with superior security infrastructure.
In response, there will be a growing need for network-based approaches to security in 2023. This means expanding security options that are built into the Wi-Fi router, so any device in the home is protected, even for those who are only temporarily using it.
The world’s reliance on strong Wi-Fi and internet connectivity remains one of the most critical elements of everyday life. Without it, seemingly every industry is negatively affected, making access to reliable Wi-Fi an imperative need.
In 2023, we expect this trend to accelerate, largely thanks to advancements in Wi-Fi 7, 5G, online gaming and smart home security offerings. I believe that Wi-Fi in 2023 will be synonymous with innovation, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.