Knowledge Sharing Session on Wi-Fi and IEEE Standards

TRAI Centre of Studies and Research (TCSR) in collaboration with IEEE, conducted a knowledge sharing session on Wi-Fi and IEEE standards on 6th July 2023 at 3:00 pm. Two distinguished speakers from the IEEE community, Mr. Subhas Mondal, Senior VP and Head of R &D of 6G products at HFCL Ltd. And Mr. Srikant Chandrasekaran, Country Head, IEEE Standards, were invited. Their presentations delved into the intricacies of Wi-Fi and IEEE standards, shedding light on the latest advancements, challenges, and opportunities.

The session encompassed conversations about a variety of subjects such as spectrum requirements, spectrum utilization, technical advancements in Wi-Fi, necessary enhancements for speed improvement, global policies, R&D in India, comparison with other technologies, use cases, future possibilities, etc.

Wi-Fi has simplified the way we connect and communicate at a fractional cost to that of GSM or Broadband connectivity. Wi-Fi networks are scalable, and configurable to facilitate the quick spread of Internet access in rural and urban areas. In a country as diverse and vast as India, where wired infrastructure has been a challenge, Wi-Fi has emerged as a game-changer, bridging the digital divide and empowering individuals, industries, and communities with reliable and accessible internet connectivity. Its impact has been particularly significant in rural areas, enabling educational institutions, healthcare centres, and local businesses to connect to the digital world and unlock new opportunities.

Globally and in India, Wi-Fi uses radio waves in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands to create wireless networks. Wi-Fi networks can often offer faster speeds compared to mobile data, allowing users to access more data-intensive applications and content. Wi-Fi technology has gone through significant advancements in the years since 1997, when the 802.11 standard was first adopted by the IEEE. These improvements to the technology have enabled better speed, reliability, and security in the usage of Wi-Fi networks

Moreover, Wi-Fi allows telecommunication service providers to offload their cellular data through Wi-Fi networks to reduce the traffic on their data networks by making use of unlicensed spectrum. With the deployment of 4G networks that support Wi-Fi calling, the issue of poor indoor coverage has been tackled by the TSPs, thereby reaping the benefit of wi-fi networks. We can safely say that Wi-Fi is not a competing technology, but it is a complementary technology to cellular services

India has witnessed tremendous growth in internet penetration, and a major part of this success story can be attributed to the increased adoption of Wi-Fi. Numerous public spaces, including railway stations, airports, educational institutions, and even villages, have been equipped with Wi-Fi hotspots, bringing connectivity to millions of people

One of the key advantages of Wi-Fi is its flexibility and scalability. In a country as dynamic as India, where population density and infrastructure requirements can vary significantly from region to region, Wi-Fi offers a cost-effective solution that can be easily deployed and expanded. It is a versatile technology that can be tailored to India’s requirements such as providing connectivity to underserved rural communities and remote villages.

The transformative power of Wi-Fi extends beyond personal devices and connectivity at home or in public spaces. It has also revolutionized industries such as education, healthcare, and agriculture. In schools and universities, Wi-Fi enables digital learning platforms, online resources, and e-libraries, empowering students and educators with a wealth of knowledge. In healthcare, Wi-Fi connectivity supports telemedicine initiatives, allowing remote consultations, patient monitoring, and access to medical records. Similarly, in agriculture, Wi-Fi connectivity aids farmers in accessing weather information, market trends, and agricultural best practices, fostering innovation and improved productivity

India's commitment to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship has also been strengthened by the widespread availability of Wi-Fi. In recent years, the country has witnessed a surge in digital startups, driven by the accessibility and affordability of Wi-Fi. It has provided a conducive environment in co-working spaces, incubators, and startup hubs for young entrepreneurs to realize their ideas. Wi-Fi connectivity has become an essential ingredient for the success of these startups, facilitating collaboration, online services, and remote work, while also attracting foreign investments and boosting India's digital economy.

The IEEE 802.11 standards govern the operation of Wi-Fi networks, ensuring interoperability and seamless communication between devices from different manufacturers. These standards have evolved over time, with each new generation bringing faster speeds, improved security, and enhanced performance. From the early days of 802.11b to the latest 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) with maximum speed up to 10Gbps and upcoming 802.11be (Wi-Fi 7) with theoretical speed up to 30 Gbps, IEEE has been at the forefront of advancing wireless technology.

Adhering to IEEE standards is crucial for ensuring compatibility and the best possible user experience. By complying with these standards, Wi-Fi devices can connect to networks seamlessly, regardless of their origin. This international standardization allows travellers from around the world to connect their devices to Wi-Fi networks without hassle, enhancing the convenience and productivity of global communication. The upcoming IEEE 802.11be standard, commonly referred to as Wi-Fi 7, promises even higher speeds, lower latency, and increased network capacity.