The Wi-Fi Alliance released a new version of its wireless technology Monday, boasting new features designed to boost performance and improve connectivity across a variety of environments.
New features in Wi-Fi Certified 7 include:
- 320 MHz channels in countries, like the United States, that make the 6GHz band available to Wi-Fi, which facilitates multi-gigabit device speeds and high throughput;
- Multi-Link Operation (MLO), which allows devices to transmit and receive data simultaneously over multiple links for increased throughput, reduced latency, and improved reliability;
- 4K Quadrature Amplitude Modulation for higher transmission rates; and
- 512 Compressed block-ack to enhance spectrum efficiency.
“The introduction of Wi-Fi Certified 7 marks the emergence of the latest generation of Wi-Fi and will be an accelerant to mass adoption of Wi-Fi 7,” Alliance President and CEO Kevin Robertson said in a statement.
“This certification underscores our relentless commitment to delivering cutting-edge technology that redefines the way users experience Wi-Fi, providing faster speeds, improved efficiency, and increased reliability, which expand the horizons of what is possible through Wi-Fi,” he added.
Technology ‘Big Deal’
The Alliance predicts that Wi-Fi 7 will be rapidly adopted across a broad ecosystem, with more than 233 million devices entering the market in 2024, growing to 2.1 billion devices by 2028.
In terms of U.S. dollars, IDC is forecasting the wireless LAN market to reach $23 billion by 2027, with a 3% compound annual growth over the next five years.
“We expect businesses and consumers to start to deploy Wi-Fi 7 later this year, and a pretty significant ramp-up as we get into 2025 and beyond,” Brandon Butler, research manager for the enterprise networks group at IDC, a global market and research firm, told TechNewsWorld.
From a technology standpoint, Wi-Fi 7 is a big deal because it achieves faster throughput through several key technologies, maintained Mark N. Vena, president and principal analyst at SmartTech Research in San Jose, Calif.
“The use of advanced modulation schemes, such as 4K-QAM, allows for higher data rates per transmission,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output technology enables simultaneous data transmission to multiple devices, enhancing overall network efficiency.”
“Additionally,” he continued, “the introduction of Basic Service Set Coloring reduces interference in crowded environments, further optimizing throughput.
One feature that should be a cause for excitement among technologists is MLO because it changes the operational characteristics of Wi-Fi, noted Mike Leibovitz, an enterprise networking analyst at Gartner, a research and advisory company based in Stamford, Conn.
Multi-link allows a device to connect to more than one radio on an access point and send data across those channels simultaneously. “That’s a paradigm change,” Leibovitz told TechNewsWorld.
“Now I can connect to the 2.4GHz radio and the 5GHz radio to a single access point. Now I have new characteristics for potentially more bandwidth, as well as lower latency, better roaming — a whole slew of characteristics that now increase significantly because I can use two channels simultaneously.”
“That sort of functionality is very complex,” he acknowledged. “Imagine trying to make a feature like that work for thousands of different types of IT devices. It will take time for that feature to become highly functional in the real world.”
“It might take a couple of years for it to correctly work in enterprise and production environments,” he added.
Catalyst for AR/VR Growth?
The Alliance also noted that it expects smartphones, PCs, tablets, and access points to be the earliest adopters of Wi-Fi 7, and customer premises equipment (CPE) and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) equipment will continue to gain early market traction.
“Novel generative AI applications that require high throughput will benefit from Wi-Fi 7’s fast speeds,” added Kristen Hanich, an analyst at Parks Associates, a market research and consulting company specializing in consumer technology products, in Dallas.
“We’re also seeing an increasing number of businesses adopt internet of things [IoT] devices and use cases, including machine vision through video cameras,” she told TechNewsWorld. “These businesses need CPE capable of handling all of these simultaneous connections.”
“The AR/VR market has been slow to take off, but there is an opportunity with faster speeds allowing for greater performance in households with multiple headsets,” she continued. “With the Apple Vision Pro headset launching in early February, we also expect to see more attention to this market.”
Vena added that CPEs, including routers and modems, benefit from Wi-Fi 7’s advanced capabilities, providing users with faster and more reliable connections.
“In the realm of AR/VR, where high data throughput and low latency are crucial for immersive experiences,” he continued, “Wi-Fi 7’s enhanced performance becomes a catalyst for adoption.”
“The technology’s ability to meet the demanding requirements of these applications positions it as a transformative force, driving early adoption in both CPEs and AR/VR equipment,” he said.
While it’s a little early to determine how Wi-Fi 7’s security posture compares to previous versions of the technology, some of its aspects improve security, noted John Gallagher, vice president of Viakoo Labs, an enterprise IoT security company in Mountain View, Calif.
“The biggest new feature related to security is with Multi-Link Operation, where a single, high-level MAC address is used for the encryption keys,” he told TechNewsWorld. “This is more secure because instead of three keys being used — one key for each of the possible radio bands being used — the devices only need to build one set of keys.”
“Deterministic latency is another notable feature,” he continued. “While it does not directly address security, it provides a path for analyzing changes to that latency to determine if the path is insecure.”
“In general,” he added, “the control plane for Wi-Fi continues to move to the cloud, which brings with it all the cloud-related security issues. Organizations may take the opportunity with Wi-Fi 7 to undergo a review of any cloud-based infrastructure related to it.”
Leibovitz has this advice for enterprises that can’t wait to embrace Wi-Fi 7:
“We don’t advise clients to rush into Wi-Fi 7. It’s very early right now. Some of the advancements that are there from a technology standpoint are very exciting, but it will take a long time to have broad availability in devices and correct operation on the device and infrastructure sides to create value for Wi-Fi 7.”
“Right now, there’s a lot of hype about Wi-Fi 7,” he added. “We wouldn’t advise rushing in on a new Wi-Fi 7 infrastructure because you won’t realize the benefits in the next 12 to 18 months. It might take 36 months to see total realization from Wi-Fi 7.”