Changes on the Network Could Drive Application Demand

The rollout of Wi-Fi 6 will enable more devices to work simultaneously on networks. This could drive application development demands to new heights. Are CIOs ready?

Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data

June 14, 2024

4 Min Read
Wi-Fi 6 logo virtual appeared on mobile smartphone while business man's hand using it on dark background.
Techa Tungateja via Alamy Stock

Historically, application and system development have driven network infrastructure expansions, but we could soon see a reversal that warrants planning today. 

The sea change in network evolution is the introduction of the Wi-Fi 6 (and beyond) network protocol, which breaks the technology barriers of Wi-Fi 5 and previous Wi-Fi generations. 

Wi-Fi 6 breaks technology barriers by enabling internal corporate networks to handle more simultaneous network traffic than ever before from many more servers and devices. Wi-Fi 6 also hardens network security. By enabling more secure, broader, and faster communications for a plethora of devices and workstations that are all working at once, Wi-Fi 6 is perfectly suited to the evolutions in enterprise applications. Those new applications can be found in edge computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), robotic automation deployment, the handling of heavy data payloads needed for artificial Intelligence and analytics, and the support of everyday workstation usage and video streaming. 

The mobile app market alone is expected to grow at a rate of 14.3% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from now until 2030. Meanwhile, the IoT market is projected at a 24.3% CAGR through 2032, and the edge computing market is estimated to expand by a CAGR of 13% through 2029.  

Related:Should IT Reinvent Technical Support for IoT?

IT will see the manifestation of these demands in a growth spurt in new application and system requests from users, so the burning question for CIOs will be, “Are we ready for the application request deluge that Wi-Fi 6 could bring? 

Coping with Upticks in Application Demand 

In recent years, no-code, low-code, and user citizen development have all been approaches that take some of the application development load off IT. However, an uptick in areas like mobile applications, IoT, edge computing, analytics, AI, and video streaming go beyond what no-code and even low-code can do. They will demand both application and network expertise from IT, and they are likely to increase IT’s application workload. 

In many cases, IT will elect to directly take on this workload, with the key being meeting regularly with users to see which new applications users are interested in and then prioritizing work based upon corporate priorities. 

In other cases, such as an industrial automation system for a manufacturing plant, the choice might be to use a turnkey vendor solution, with the vendor providing support for the system. 

Companies and their CIOs must carefully weigh such choices. Do you risk vendor lock-in to a particular solution, deferring the need to develop new skills in IT. Or do you up-skill staff and/or hire from the outside so you have resident expertise for these new applications? 

Related:Edge Computing Eats the Cloud?

A Reasonable Approach 

What we know about Wi-Fi 6 is that it requires the wholesale replacement of almost every network device that is currently running. Existing routers, attached storage boxes, smartphones, workstations, etc., will still run on a Wi-Fi 6 network, but to do so, they must fall back to the lower Wi-Fi 5 protocol they were manufactured for, and you won’t get Wi-Fi 6 functionality. Since only Wi-Fi 6-certified equipment can run Wi-Fi 6, most enterprises are opting to take a gradual approach toward Wi-Fi 6 implementation because of the associated cost. A gradual implementation of Wi-Fi 6 will slow the development of new applications that can only deliver optimal value if they are deployed on Wi-Fi 6. 

Here is an example: 

A school district wants to implement Wi-Fi 6 because it sees a real advantage for teachers to use more live classroom video streams and other video materials for class work. Of course, everyone in the school district wants Wi-Fi 6, but the cost of network upgrades, including the purchase of Wi-Fi 6-certified routers, storage boxes, workstations, smartphones, etc., is cost-prohibitive. The school district and its CIO make the decision to initially implement Wi-Fi 6 only for classroom teaching, deferring the rollout of Wi-Fi 6 to other areas of the school district such as administration. Over time, the administrative staff will be moved to Wi-Fi 6, as funds and resources become available. This will have a throttling effect on new application requests from the administration, although it is likely that new requests will roll in from the teaching staff.  

Related:Enabling Edge AI To Be Truly Transformative

Companies in other industries are taking a similar approach. This gives IT the opportunity to manage budgetary expenses and upskill IT staff for the application development consequences of the Wi-Fi 6 upgrade, and it also helps to manage the applications demand workload. 

Concluding Remarks 

The introduction of Wi-Fi 6 on the network will drive application demand in new areas, so CIOs need to plan for it. Many are taking a timed approach to Wi-Fi 6 implementation that will enable them to both manage budgets and expand IT skillsets. The development of staff skills in new areas of application development areas and in Wi-Fi 6 investments should be on every IT roadmap.  

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Network Computing

About the Author(s)

Mary E. Shacklett

President of Transworld Data

Mary E. Shacklett is an internationally recognized technology commentator and President of Transworld Data, a marketing and technology services firm. Prior to founding her own company, she was Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturer in the semiconductor industry.

Mary has business experience in Europe, Japan, and the Pacific Rim. She has a BS degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MA from the University of Southern California, where she taught for several years. She is listed in Who's Who Worldwide and in Who's Who in the Computer Industry.

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