WASHINGTON — The Wi-Fi Alliance, a group that includes internet service providers and computer giants, has said that WiFi today contributes $499 billion to the U.S. economy. It expects that figure to increase to close to $1 trillion by 2023 — particularly if the government recognizes the value of clearing out more of the unlicensed spectrum on which the technology depends.

The alliance has released a report it had commissioned on the subject in advance of the Federal Communicatins Commission’s proposed Oct. 23 vote on freeing up spectrum in the 6-Gigahertz band for unlicensed spectrum, including WiFi use.

The fact that internet access via WiFi is free to users is just one aspect that makes it is tough to determine its economic value. The report combines economic surplus and contributions to the GDP, including off-loading 5G traffic.

WiFi’s economic value was determined via the following factors:

1. Value of free WiFi traffic;
2. Value of residential WiFi;
3. Value of enterprise (business) WiFi;
4. Value of cellular off-loading;
5. Value of locally manufactured WiFienabled devices;
6. Value of bridging the digital divide;
7. WiFi return to speed (speed boosts from off-loading).
8. Revenues of WiFi carriers in public places — restaurants, coffee shops, stadiums, etc.

The U.S. leads the six countries included in the report. Following the U.S.’s $499 billion was Japan, with $171.5 billion; Germany, $94 billion; South Korea, $67.6 billion; the United Kingdom, at $54.5 billion; and France, with $44.2 billion.

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