ABI Research forecasts 50%+ jump in WLAN access point shipments by 2028

April 20, 2023
Wi-Fi 7, 6 GHz spectrum allocation, and standard power certification are all trends expected to drive a forecasted surge in WAP shipments.

New industry analysis from ABI Research suggests that the Wi-Fi and wireless LAN (WLAN) infrastructure market is undergoing a period of rapid innovation, as factors such as the introduction of Wi-Fi 7, tapping of the 6 GHz spectrum, the emergence of new platforms such as OpenWiFi, and the convergence with 5G platforms redefine the potential of the technology.

At the same time, the analyst warns that successive challenges continue to confront the market, with the long-awaited easing of supply disruptions giving way to a harsh macroeconomic environment.

While these economic headwinds are expected to impact 2023 shipments, ABI Research says the industry should rebound to solid growth thanks to the aforementioned innovations and considering the growing importance of high-speed, high-capacity, low latency, and reliable residential and enterprise wireless LAN technoloby.

Reflecting this dynamic, ABI Research’s recently issued Residential, Enterprise, and Industrial WLAN Markets and Technologies market data report, part of the technology analyst firm’s "Wi-Fi & WLAN Technologies & Markets" research service, forecasts that Wi-Fi and WLAN Access Point (AP) shipments will have a 7% CAGR between 2022 and 2028, achieving a 1.5x increase in overall AP unit shipments by the end of the period.

Andrew Spivey, industry analyst at ABI Research, explains:

“While the total number of Wi-Fi and WLAN AP shipments will essentially plateau in 2023, closer inspection reveals a divergence in the fortunes of different markets. Residential AP shipments in 2023 will rise by just 0.3%, enterprise, yet WLAN shipments are projected to clock a strong 8.2% expansion. This will be driven by a thirst from enterprises for the superior performance and capacity of the latest Wi-Fi standards and the fulfillment of outstanding orders delayed due to recent supply disruptions. It is not all doom and gloom for the residential market, though, as we expect a healthy rebound in 2024.”

Exponential growth

According to the new report, Wi-Fi AP shipments superseded Wi-Fi 5 for the first time in 2022, and in 2023, Wi-Fi 6 shipments should more than double those of Wi-Fi 5.

ABI says that 2022 also saw an explosion of Wi-Fi 6E clients reaching the market, alongside a corresponding 9-fold increase in Wi-Fi 6E AP shipments.

Notwithstanding, the analyst expects Wi-Fi 6E AP shipments to peak in 2024, followed by a gradual declin,e as the value proposition of the standard is eroded by the arrival of Wi-Fi 7.

Meanwhile, the analyst notes that the first pre-certification Wi-Fi 7 APs will arrive in the market in 2023, although almost a third of all shipped Wi-Fi 7 APs this year will be dual-band (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) only.

ABI further states that thse shipments will be aimed at markets without 6 GHz access, or environments which require the new technical features of Wi-Fi 7, but don’t yet have sufficient 6 GHz client demand.

ABI notes that one example of the latter case is multi-dwelling units (MDUs), within which multi-link operation (MLO) technologies can help achieve high latency in highly congested environments.

ABI's Spivey concludes:

“As Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 gradually introduce the 6 GHz spectrum into the market over the coming years, Wi-Fi will transition from a dual-band to a tri-band technology. Yet the impact of 6 GHz’s arrival on the residential and enterprise markets will be markedly divergent. In residential, ISPs will continue to prefer low-cost dual-band solutions until reaching high 6 GHz client saturation levels in 2027.

Enterprise, conversely, will see dual-band be relegated to a marginal status almost immediately, as businesses abandon it for the higher performance and capacity of tri-band, alongside the greater range of Standard Power 6 GHz. Accordingly, mid-tier enterprises will migrate to tri-radio. At the same time, the high-end will adopt quad- and even penta-radio APs, with the additional radios serving as configurable software-defined radios, or as a monitoring radio for enhancing network performance."

More recent ICT industry analysis from ABI Research:

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