How AI in Wi-Fi will shape wireless connectivity

AI will become an integral technology in networks in the next few years. Find out what an automated Wi-Fi network can do for businesses and learn best practices to get started.

No technology was perhaps more pervasive than AI in 2023. AI made its way into every business sector, primarily due to the explosion of generative AI. Its widespread adoption resulted in an increase in overall AI investments that will only continue in 2024.

An August 2023 McKinsey report surveyed 1,684 respondents and found that 55% of their organizations had adopted AI, and 40% of organizations will increase spending to accommodate for generative AI. But the excitement around generative AI doesn't mean traditional AI doesn't still have a place in business. Wireless networks are one area experts predict AI to play a significant role in 2024.

Enterprises have already embraced AI in their Wi-Fi services, and it will become mainstream across the enterprise landscape in 2024, said Roger Sands, CEO and co-founder of Wyebot, a Wi-Fi assurance company. Wi-Fi is the most common type of wireless network connectivity, but network environments have grown complex as cloud computing, remote work and other initiatives become more commonplace. Enterprises need a new way to manage this complexity. AI can monitor Wi-Fi networks and fix problems before they occur, Sands said.

"[AI in Wi-Fi] has already started to take shape over the last one to two years," he said. "In 2024 and beyond, it's going to be mainstream and a large initiative across the globe, because of these dynamic networks."

Benefits of AI in Wi-Fi

AI can quickly analyze large amounts of data and use it to make predictions about network performance. This process helps teams move from a reactive approach to a more proactive approach, Sands said. For example, AI in Wi-Fi can detect potential network performance issues and other problems that affect UX before they occur.

"The more data sets you have, you can tune algorithms," Sands said. "You can improve algorithms and add advanced capabilities around behavioral profiling."

Benefits of AI in Wi-Fi include the following:

  • Faster mean time to resolution (MTTR).
  • Fewer performance tickets.
  • Reduction in on-site visits.

Faster MTTR

MTTR -- the time it takes to resolve an issue once it occurs -- is one benefit of AI in Wi-Fi, Sands said. When a network performance issue appears, the automated Wi-Fi network that processes the data can detect and fix the issue quicker. Sands said this capability is beneficial for organizations where the network is critical for operations, like hospitals or warehouses.

Fewer performance tickets

Because an automated Wi-Fi service works in a proactive manner, it detects and fixes issues before they occur. This reduces the number of performance tickets created for network teams to fix, Sands said.

Reduction in on-site visits

AI can fix issues in a Wi-Fi network, which results in fewer performance issues and reduces how often network professionals travel to fix problems on site. Sands said this type of automation is beneficial for enterprises with distributed networks in various locations where network professionals can't always travel to locations on site.

AI and automation in cellular networks

Private wireless networks such as private LTE or private 5G have started to gain traction in some industries, and enterprises might use a combination of Wi-Fi and private cellular. As organizations begin to invest in private wireless networks, they need to monitor the quality of service of their connectivity. Automation can help them manage the large amounts of data the networks produce, he added.

"Trying to keep up with it manually is not going to be possible," Sands said. "Automation that analyzes and compares your 4G and 5G network with your Wi-Fi network, and helps make these dynamic and real-time business decisions -- [like] how to automate and optimize operations -- is going to become very important."

Get the most of AI in Wi-Fi

AI can make Wi-Fi networks more reliable and increase performance, but like all technologies, AI has its benefits and challenges. Wi-Fi networks won't automatically improve because they include AI capabilities. AI is more of a tool than a direct advantage. AI will become mainstream as vendors continue to package it into their offerings, but that doesn't mean every organization is using it or using it in a way that yields significant results.

According to wireless analyst Lee Badman, the success of an automated network depends on the network itself and the professionals operating it. However, organizations around the world lack skilled AI and machine learning (ML) professionals. A September 2022 report from SAS Institute, a business intelligence vendor, found that 63% of 27,000 decision-makers in the U.K. don't have enough employees with AI and ML skills, even though 54% of organizations use the technologies.

"Just because AI is in use doesn't guarantee better results," Badman said, adding that organizations with skilled network professionals will gain the most out of AI in Wi-Fi.

In addition, before organizations dive into AI, they need to ask vendors to provide examples that demonstrate the benefits of AI in a Wi-Fi network, such as faster troubleshooting, accurate analytics and increased network reliability, Badman said.

Deanna Darah is associate site editor for TechTarget's Networking site. She began editing and writing at TechTarget after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2021.

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