To understand how enterprises are adopting advanced wireless technologies such as 5G and Wi-Fi 6, including motivations, challenges and preferences, Deloitte reports that its recent "Study of Advanced Wireless Adoption" surveyed 415 networking executives in the United States in early Q1. The surveyed executives are responsible for connectivity at organizations that are in the process of adopting 5G and/or Wi-Fi 6 or planning to adopt either technology within the next three years.
Deloitte reports that 86% of networking executives surveyed said believe that advanced wireless will transform their organization within three years, and 79% said the same about their industry. Further, 76% percent of the executives said they believe 5G will be a "critical" networking technology for their company in three years; and 70% said they feel the same way about Wi-Fi 6.
According to the survey's results, on average organizations expect to spend US$115.7 million on wireless technologies over the next three years. 87% of executives surveyed said they believe advanced wireless technologies can create a significant competitive advantage for their company, while 56% rated security as the biggest challenge in adopting advanced wireless. The survey took as its premise a shifting networking landscape where advanced wireless technologies are gaining in strategic importanc, as respondents said they expect their use of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 to more than double over the next three years and their use of 4G/Long Term Evolution (LTE) and Wi-Fi (5 and below) to diminish, but not disappear.
Deloitte said 57% of survey respondents are currently in the process of adopting 5G and/or Wi-Fi 6 (including planning, testing, and piloting); another 37% plan to adopt these technologies within the next year. More than 9 in 10 executives surveyed regard advanced wireless technologies as "very" or "critically" important to their business success today. 4G/LTE and current (or previous) versions of Wi-Fi were cited as the most valued wireless technologies; however, executives believe that 5G (76%) and Wi-Fi 6 (70%) will be within the top-three critical wireless technologies three years from now.
"Our survey confirms that networking executives are 'all in' when it comes to adopting the latest wireless technologies," commented Dan Littmann, principal, technology, media and telecommunications, at Deloitte Consulting LLP. "Respondents resoundingly view advanced wireless technologies as a key enabler of AI, cloud and analytics-based innovations. The COVID-19 pandemic itself may even accelerate demand for automation that enables social distancing in the workplace, and relies on a more robust and powerful network infrastructure."
Deloitte says that adopting advanced wireless networking technologies such as 5G and Wi-Fi 6 is regarded by survey respondents as a strategic necessity, and is moreover viewed as "a force multiplier," enabling implementation of other emerging technologies. Eighty-seven percent of those surveyed believe their company can create a significant competitive advantage by leveraging advanced wireless technologies.
More than 8 in 10 respondents cited advanced wireless connectivity as "very" or "extremely important" to their organization's ability to take full advantage of AI, edge computing, IoT, cloud and big data analytics. But notably, not all respondents believe their current networks are equipped for innovation. While more than 8 in 10 of networking executives surveyed said they are "satisfied" or "extremely satisfied" with the performance characteristics of their current wireless networks, 57% believe their company's current networking infrastructure prevents them from addressing the innovative use cases they would like to target.
"Innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, edge computing and cloud are no longer nice-to-haves, but must-haves, for enterprises to truly compete in today's fast-paced and uncertain world," observes Jack Fritz, principal, technology, media and telecommunications, Deloitte Consulting LLP. "As the adoption of advanced wireless technologies progresses from pilots to full-scale adoption, networking executives that understand how to use them as a way to unlock the full potential of these emerging technologies will ultimately prevail."
In compiling the survey results, Deloitte notes that IT roles — from CIOs and CTOs to managers — are seen as driving next-gen wireless networking adoption, but business and operational leaders also play a prominent role. However, the researchers says that use case priorities for advanced networking technologies tend to differ by industry and job title.
Deloitte reports that a vast majority of the surveyed enterprises are targeting a blend of scenarios with respect to adoption of wireless networks, involving both indoor and outdoor usage; and stationary and mobile devices. IT executives appear strongly focused on easing the work lives of employees via workplace communications, IT administration and advanced collaboration tools, which were noted as the top three use cases for employee connectivity. Conversely, for line-of-business executives, the top two use cases for employee connectivity are IT administration and automation, suggesting a strong desire for efficiency.
Additionally, survey respondents said they believe performance improvements make advanced wireless technologies attractive for heavy-bandwidth, time-sensitive needs. Deloitte reports that the top three benefits adopters aim to achieve with their shift to advanced wireless networking are improving efficiency, improving security and taking advantage of new technologies such as edge computing, big data analytics and AI. Respondents ranked data speed (63%), reliability and resilience (62%) and security of networks and data (61%) as the most important factors of success with advanced wireless.
Further, the data showed that 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are being adopted in parallel, with 76% of executives believing 5G will be a "critical" networking technology for their company in three years, and 70% feeling the same way about Wi-Fi 6. In fact, Deloitte stated that 62% of survey respondents said they plan to adopt both technologies within the next year; and that 93% said they plan to co-adopt them within the next three years.