Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Cisco's Annual Internet Report: Future Trends in Regional Wi-Fi Speeds

As my Free State Foundation colleague Seth Cooper highlighted recently, Cisco has released the 2020 edition of its always-informative Annual Internet Report. I commend Cisco for making this invaluable industry resource available and anticipate seeing, as well as making, references to its findings during the year ahead.

The report, which covers 2018 through 2023, provides valuable insights into the current state of, and future trends regarding, fixed wireline, mobile, and Wi-Fi connectivity worldwide.

In particular, one specific set of data points caught my attention. Cisco forecasts that, at some point in 2022, average Wi-Fi network connection speeds in the Asian Pacific region will overtake those in the North American region: 98.5 Mbps versus 98.4 Mbps. And by 2023, Asian Pacific speeds will average 116.1 Mbps, compared to only 109.5 Mbps in North America.

Pending FCC proposals could free additional spectrum for unlicensed devices in two frequency bands, 5.9 GHz and 6 GHz. Both would enable the wider (e.g., 80 and, in particular, 160 MHz) data channels essential to unleashing the full potential of the next generation of Wi-Fi technology, Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax).

Time will tell whether one or both of these proceedings in fact produce additional spectrum for unlicensed use and, if so, whether North America can maintain its global leadership position in Wi-Fi speeds as a result.