In this second installment of the article on trends in home networks, topics such as the evolution of WiFi 6 and 7 and sustainability in the sector are addressed.
By Charles Cheevers*
Consumers will start to see increased retail marketing on Wi-Fi 7 and there is a high probability that every new device design retailed at $100 or more will move to Wi-Fi 7 capability sometime in 2023. A multitude of marketing campaigns around Wi-Fi 7 will determine how quickly consumers value the extra performance, but technology and solution providers like CommScope are already in the process of developing Wi-Fi 7 gateway, extender, and connectivity solutions for service providers.
Retail providers will lead the Wi-Fi 7 wave by enabling higher-capacity, lower-latency, and deterministic software Wi-Fi services. Technology and solution providers will continue with Wi-Fi 7 solutions for PON, DOCSIS and FWA access networks, as well as Ethernet-based Wi-Fi 7 access points for retail two-box service provider architectures.
In many ways, Wi-Fi 6E was an accelerated version of Wi-Fi to ensure Wi-Fi solutions made the first use of the newly granted 6GHz spectrum, but it will be tri-band Wi-Fi 7 devices that will make full use of 6GHz, with Wi-Fi 7 allowing applications to take advantage of full control of Wi-Fi frequency bands, using MLO (Multi-Link Operation). Since the primary application for Wi-Fi 7 and the new 6GHz spectrum is currently the Wi-Fi mesh backhaul network, it is anticipated that most service providers will transition to offering a Wi-Fi 7 extender and gateway experience. Specific use of the 6GHz bands for lower latency and capacity-driven services such as immersive video applications will also emerge, so don't be surprised to see a specific Wi-Fi SSID emerge for differentiated, lower-latency connections.
While much of the focus will be on new emerging Wi-Fi 7 solutions, there is still a need to drive value-added solutions for existing Wi-Fi 6 solution portfolios. A cost-effective dual-band access point will remain key for most deployments in 2023.
A hotly debated question to be answered in 2023 is whether a dual-band access point device will emerge on Wi-Fi 7 to support better use of 2.4/5GHz spectrum with MLO capabilities or most Wi-Fi 7 APs and gateway devices will be tri-band or even quad-band.
Back to the Future with Video Packs
Streaming services will remain the main source of entertainment, with video streaming accounting for 80% of all content consumed by an average household by 2023 (with 10% dedicated to gaming). Increasing the bundling of streaming services will simplify the consumer's shopping and viewing experience as the number of services grows. Service providers will continue to focus on owning the live stream and streaming aggregation point on a single streaming/set-top box device to make the user experience for content browsing as smooth as possible.
New software-based solutions are changing the paradigm of home management: using Gateway Edge with the cloud
Beyond quadruple play (fixed voice, broadband, pay TV services and mobile), service providers are exploring the next generation of immersive video solutions and other areas such as telemedicine, elder care and more.
One of the most important elements of the connected home over the next three years will be the focus on using software solutions to manage and bring services to the home. With new capabilities emerging from broadband CPE open source software (prplOS/OpenWRT and RDK-B), the ability to easily add and remove services to the gateway will increase the cadence in home software services solutions. Along with the ability to get detailed telemetry from home devices to new standards, service providers can enhance their capabilities to manage quality, manage energy, and simplify digital home experiences. With the increased performance of Broadband Gateway, much of the processing can be done locally, reducing latency and costs for cloud-based processing solutions.
As one of the key containerized additive services for the home, we see increasing momentum in 2023 for Matter, the new smart home standard, to become the aggregation standard for all home IoT devices, enabling the preferred smart home applications that consumers want to use.
Building a sustainable future
While attitudes towards sustainability vary around the world, there will be growing consumer awareness and demand in 2023 for sustainable CPE products with lower energy consumption, use of recycled plastics, elimination of single-use plastics and more. Major service providers have set environmental, social and governance goals, and there will be increasing collaboration between technology providers, solution providers and operators to deliver solutions that meet science-based sustainable goals.
How the economic events and influences of 2023 will affect the direction of the consumer's connected home has yet to be determined, but one thing is quite certain: 2023 is poised to be a pivotal year with the ability to truly transform the consumer's home experience. Over the next year, we'll see how service providers partner with technology and solution providers to attract and retain customers, how Wi-Fi 7 will be commercialized and influence buying patterns, how (and how much) service providers' investment and innovation plans will be altered, and what the next generation of home networks holds. As we say goodbye to 2022, it will best be remembered as the year of hybrid work and the recognition that building the next level of human digital experience is a marathon, not a sprint.
Charles Cheevers is CTO Home Networks of CommScope.