Wi-Fi’s socioeconomic impact around the world

Wifi’s socioeconomic impact around the world

18 June 2021 | Kevin Robinson

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Kevin Robinson

Blog Author | SVP, Wi-Fi Alliance

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People around the world have come to rely on internet connectivity for so many aspects of their work and personal lives.

Wifi delivers this connectivity, and it is hard to maintain productivity or daily routines when not connected. How do we get directions, message friends or family, or even find out the hourly weather forecast? Over the last year, we have even come to heavily rely on Wi-Fi for essential services, like telehealth, e-learning, and telework. It has become critical to our daily lives.

However, did you know more than 4 billion people around the world do not have internet access? And globally, only 55% of households have an internet connection – which drops to less than 20% in poorer countries?

World Wi-Fi Day, which falls on 20th June, provides an opportunity to reflect on the significant role Wifi is playing in connecting cities and communities, while also recognising its potential to accelerate socioeconomic development and advance affordable connectivity for the unconnected around the world.

Understanding the value of Wifi

A recent study commissioned by Wi-Fi Alliance® estimates the annual global economic value of Wi-Fi will reach more than $3 trillion in 2021, growing to $5 trillion by 2025. These forecasts show 150% growth from 2018 to 2025, underscoring Wifi’s significant economic contribution. 

The research assessed Wifi’s economic value in 15 economies based on several key factors and global developments impacting the Wifi industry – these included free Wifi in public locations; consumer savings using home internet and connecting to Wifi over cellular service; the pandemic; and new spectrum allocations which enable further innovation, reduce congestion, and increase speeds.

In the UK, Wifi has become a dominant component of the country’s telecommunications infrastructure. There are approximately 2.2 million free public Wifi access points. Eighty-nine percent of homes with internet access include Wifi networks and more than 65% of connecting time for smartphone users is via Wifi rather than cellular networks. During lockdowns as a result of the pandemic, that number reached more than 74%.

Wifi’s economic value in the United Kingdom is a result of the increasing importance of free Wifi, faster speeds, more IoT deployments, and growing adoption of AR/VR. The economic value of Wifi in the UK this year will reach $99 billion and is expected to grow to $109 billion by 2025.

Societal benefits of Wi-Fi

Wifi is a key enabler for economic growth, but the benefits of Wifi extend well beyond economics. Wifi delivers:

  • Functional value: providing an essential utility for enterprise, education, homes, and logistics
  • Social value: enables users to maintain contact and relationships when they cannot be together, which is important for psychological health
  • Community value: delivering key services and capabilities to remote and underserved areas

A recent study shows that over the past year, Wifi has helped improve economic resiliency and has contributed to critical use cases that have helped to mitigate the negative effects of the global pandemic. Wifi has proven itself to be a crucial driver of digital resilience and innovation - providing benefits for established and developing economies.

Wifi enables services for advanced applications and is a key component in global efforts to bridge the digital divide in rural and isolated geographies. It also provides an important platform for free internet access in developing economies, making it critical to economic resiliency - increasing economic growth, and improving social mobility and computer literacy. For example, KT has been doing some amazing work in Bangladesh, rolling out high speed Wifi infrastructure in an effort to improve the country’s education with distance learning, healthcare with tele-medicine, and agricultural life in collaboration with the developing country’s government.

Wifi advancements bring connectivity where it is needed most

Regulators around the world are recognising the socioeconomic value Wifi delivers, taking note of its perfect combination of affordable performance, efficient operation in unlicensed spectrum, commitment to security, ease of use, self-deployment, and long-term compatibility that provide a basis for fulfilling a variety of connectivity use cases. Because of the tremendous value, essential services, and new opportunities that Wifi can deliver to citizens around the world, there is a global push to open the 6 GHz band for Wifi use.

Wi-Fi operation in 6 GHz – branded Wi-Fi 6E – will deliver greater capacity, increased bandwidth, and lower latency to provide connectivity users have come to expect. The combination of strong Wifi adoption, new technology and additional spectrum will provide connectivity for users where they need it most.

The continual evolution of Wifi plays a strong role in bringing the world closer – connecting everyone and everything, everywhere. A day without Wifi is almost unimaginable, but we must ensure users everywhere have this critical connectivity to support their needs.