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Wi-Fi 7 ready to hit the big time, org claims

The Wi-Fi Alliance has opened up certification testing for the speedy Wi-Fi 7 standard, signaling that the technology 'is going mainstream,' says Qualcomm exec and Wi-Fi Alliance board member Andy Davidson.

Jeff Baumgartner

January 8, 2024

4 Min Read
Wi-Fi abstract art
(Source: Skorzewiak/Alamy Stock Photo)

Wi-Fi 7 is ready for its close-up.

Wi-Fi 7, the new (and much faster) version of the wireless standard that's a prime candidate to support multi-gigabit broadband services, has opened up certification testing for a wave of new products, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced Monday.

The certification milestone, announced in concert with this week's CES 2024 in Las Vegas, should pave the way for Wi-Fi 7 to be built into a wide range of premium level wireless devices, including access points and smartphones, and then start to infiltrate the market further and replace Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E as the de facto choice among manufacturers.

"It's a signal that [Wi-Fi 7] is going mainstream," proclaimed Andy Davidson, senior director of engineering at Qualcomm and a member of the Wi-Fi Alliance board of directors. "What Wi-Fi Alliance certification tends to signify is there's enough vendors with products that are interoperable that you can expect this to become the mainstream of Wi-Fi devices very quickly."

Companies in the newly established Wi-Fi 7 certification "test bed" include a handful of silicon makers – Broadcom, Intel, MaxLinear, MediaTek and Qualcomm – and one original equipment manufacturer (CommScope). That test bed will form the basis for Wi-Fi 7 certifications going forward.

Related:Chipmakers swarming to Wi-Fi 7

The companies in the test bed are also among the first to receive Wi-Fi 7 certification, the Wi-Fi Alliance said.

Other companies providing supporting quotes in today's announcement include Boingo Wireless, Extreme Networks, Spirent Communications and Ruckus Networks (a unit of CommScope).

Among the chipmaker group tied into the test bed, Qualcomm, Davidson said, already has more than 450 Wi-Fi 7 design wins launched or in the process of being launched, including north of 200 client designs (such as smartphones and PCs/laptops) as well as more than 250 access point and router designs.

"We believe there's tremendous pull for this technology," Davidson said.

IDC forecasts there will be 230 million Wi-Fi 7 devices in the market by the end of the year and balloon to more than 2 billion by 2028.

Starting at the high end

Wi-Fi 7 is expected to be adopted across the market, starting with higher-end devices.

"We already see Wi-Fi 7 in the premium tier for phones and the premium tier of PCs and the premium tier of routers. But it's going to move down into the mid-tier of those products and start to spread out and become available in other types of products," Davidson said.

Thanks in part to the use of 320MHz-wide channels, Wi-Fi 7 will support more speed and capacity than Wi-Fi 6E, the first version of the standard to tap into the 6GHz band (using 160MHz-wide channels). Depending on the configuration and silicon version, Wi-Fi 7 can deliver speeds beyond 30 Gbit/s, according to Qualcomm.

Related:Qualcomm doubles down on Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi 7 will also support multi-link operation (MLO), optimizing the way connections can move freely between the 5GHz, 6GHz and 2.4GHz bands and enabling band aggregation. The standard also supports 4096 QAM modulation, a big jump from the 1024 QAM used in Wi-Fi 6. 4K QAM is about 20% more data efficient than 1024 QAM.

Device support

Wi-Fi 7 is also expected to become a key feature in new routers put out by fiber and cable service providers that are delivering multi-gigabit speeds. Several Wi-Fi 7-based devices have entered the market prior to today's certification milestone.

A recent example among service providers is Lumen Technologies, which introduced a custom-built Wi-Fi 7-capable device for its Quantum Fiber customers. Lumen, which developed it with firmware company Axon Networks, will feature those devices at its exhibit suite this week at CES 2024.

Comcast is currently pairing a DOCSIS 4.0 standalone cable modem with a Wi-Fi 6E router for its new "XClass Internet"-branded symmetrical broadband services delivered on its hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) network. Comcast has not announced when Wi-Fi 7 will be added to its home broadband device lineup. Google Fiber also is currently using Wi-Fi 6E for its home broadband service.

Last fall, Linksys launched a Wi-Fi 7 mesh system under the Velop Pro 7 brand also powered by Qualcomm silicon. But they aren't cheap – a one-node pack (recommended for up to three rooms/3,000 square feet) costs $399.99, a two-node pack (for up to six rooms/6,000 square feet) fetches $749.99 and a three-node pack (for up to nine rooms/9,000 square feet) goes for $999.99.

Linksys_Wifi_7_mesh_system_three_pack.jpg

CommScope launched a DOCSIS 3.1 gateway with Wi-Fi 7 targeted at the retail market nearly a year ago.

Among newer devices, Acer announced Sunday (January 7) that it has hooked up with Qualcomm on a pair of Wi-Fi 7-capable routers, the Predator Connect X7 5G CPE and the Predator Connect T7 Wi-Fi 7 Mesh Router.

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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