LONDON — According to a Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) cross-industry survey of service providers, equipment manufacturers, and enterprises, almost four out of five (79%) have adopted or plan to adopt the WBA OpenRoaming standard, which was introduced in late May.

The vision for WBA OpenRoaming is that the world will become a single, giant network, allowing billions of people and their devices to connect automatically and securely to Wi-Fi around the world. Users will be able to roam from location to location without the need for logins, registrations, or passwords. Among companies that support the initiative are AT&T, Boingo, Broadcom, Cisco, Commscope, Google, Intel, and Samsung.

This survey finding is one of many insights explained in WBA’s Annual Industry Report. Some other highlights are below.

  • 95% of the communications industry believes Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E will be important to their businesses, with 65% saying they have deployed or will deploy the technology before the end of 2021.
  • 67% said the convergence of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G would be very important or critical to their future business plans.
  • Roaming is the No. 1 monetization strategy for 2021 with 45% placing it in their top three choices, followed by offload (38%) and analytics (32%).
  • 57% believe that multi-access edge computing (MEC) will lead to new use cases for Wi-Fi in the future.
  • Smart cities represents the primary vertical use case being targeted by the communications industry in relation to Wi-Fi, with 56% saying that it is one of their top targets.  This is followed by retail (39%) and education or campus networks (39%).

“There was a time not so long ago that, when we discussed the potential for Wi-Fi roaming or the convergence of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G, we were met with blank stares,” said Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of WBA. “Now, it’s the complete opposite. Across the comms industry, we’re seeing excitement building around these trends. 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, and this reinforces the role of Wi-Fi during the pandemic to keep everyone connected.

“During lockdown, traffic patterns inevitably shifted from an office setting to a home setting, with many cellular and broadband providers seeing massive, sustained increases in traffic across residential areas,” Rodrigues continued. “The stability of Wi-Fi has arguably been the unsung hero of this situation — it has kept a lot of things moving and working at a time when failure would have resulted in a much bleaker situation for people and business.”