44% WiFi consumers look to tap latest technology

Financial Express, June 15, 2023

Around 44% of households having access to Wi-Fi want to upgrade to the latest technology like 6E that offers higher speed, provide better quality experience and supports high-end devices, according to a study by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society.

The 6E Wi-Fi technology uses 6GHz band and deliberations are on whether the spectrum should be allocated for mobile telecommunications or delicensed for Wi-Fi, similar to countries like the US, Canada and Brazil.

According to the study by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), the Wi-Fi penetration across tier-I and tier-II cities stands at 74%, of which 49% preferred Wi-Fi on 6 GHz spectrum over existing 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz.

While the current technologies offer limited connections as well as congestion issues, the Wi-Fi on 6 GHz band offers features such as higher speed, reliability, new security protocols and ability to connect to multiple device connections.

“There is a lot of ground to cover the digital divide, internet access and pull consumers out of the Wi-Fi exclusion trap. Decisions (on 6 GHz band) must be made thinking of not just previous or existing Wi-Fi consumers but future Wi-Fi consumers,” said Amol Kulkarni, director research at CUTS.

Issues with regard to Wi-Fi connectivity also persist with public Wi-Fi. According to the study, 61% of consumers who had accessed public Wi-Fi expressed the need for better security, higher speed, reliable connectivity and simpler log-in. “Consumers also highlighted that greater publicity was necessary. Therefore, there is a need for sustained efforts to ensure greater accessibility to the internet,” CUTS said.

Further, of the people who do not have access to Wi-Fi, 63% wanted to explore the possibility of Wi-Fi installation. “Many consumers had been unable to install Wi-Fi since they were caught in a vicious Wi-Fi exclusion trap. The trap consisted of low income consumers having more family members. It was found that those in the trap were unable to benefit from a home Wi-Fi connection due to cost, awareness and availability constraints,” the Consumer Unity and Trust Society said.

In line with the demand of associations such as the Broadband India Forum (BIF), CUTS also suggested that Wi-Fi at newer bands can help extract those in the trap by providing more public Wi-Fi access points, reliable and multiple connections with additional bandwidth.

The study said around 437 million Wi-Fi 6E compatible devices are being shipped to the market this year. Therefore, consumers should be given an option to access latest devices and utilise the benefits of Wi-Fi 6E.

A supporting ecosystem must be made available for the same otherwise networks would have limited compatibility and consumers would not be able to reap benefits effectively, the study said.

Besides, 6 GHz band will provide additional bandwidth to support public Wi-Fi and proliferation of schemes such as PM-Wani to provide broadband connectivity for all, the Consumer Unity and Trust Society said.

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