Enterprise networking hardware vendor EnGenuis will release one of the first Wi-Fi 7-enabled routers for business use, the company announced this week.
The ECW536 uses the Qualcomm Networking Pro 1220 chipset, and features a 4x4x4 antenna configuration. It’s got two 10Gb ethernet ports, and boasts several security enhancements, including business-class encryption protocols, RADIUS and isolated guest access.
The main draw, however, is Wi-Fi 7 connectivity. Wi-Fi 7, also known as 802.11be, is the latest and greatest Wi-Fi specification, although official certification from the IEEE isn’t expected to start until the second half of 2024.
The key upgrades in Wi-Fi 7 include wider channels (up to 320MHz), 4K quadrature amplitude modulation rather than 1K, and muiltilink operation, which uses multiple radio bands at the same time to serve one connection. All that adds up to a substantially increased theoretical throughput peak, at 46Gbps.
The EXW536 only promises 18.6Gbps, however, aggregated across 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6Ghz bands, and the decreased advertised speed is likely a function of real-world limitations on the technology. The router is also designed to be cloud-managed through EnGenius’ cloud platform, enabling easier management and streamlined provisioning and updating.
According to Brandon Butler, research manager for enterprise networks at IDC, the advent of an enterprise Wi-Fi 7 router isn’t entirely unexpected at this point, as the consumer market has already seen several devices hit the shelves. However, that doesn’t mean that Wi-Fi 7 is about to become the default standard overnight.
“Between now and [certification], we’ll continue to see prefinal standard access points, gateways and routers, as well as some client devices supporting Wi-Fi 7,” he said. “But we don’t expect to see significant adoption of Wi-Fi 7 among businesses until at least mid-2024, and perhaps longer.”
The real growth in the Wi-Fi market for the immediate future is likely to be Wi-Fi 6E, which was the first standard to make use of the 6GHz band for wider channels and consequently higher throughput, but even that is only starting to take hold.
“New Wi-Fi standards take a long time to gain material traction in a mature market like WLAN,” Butler said. “For example, in the first quarter of 2023, in the enterprise WLAN dependent access point market, about 10% of market revenues were for Wi-Fi 6E, while more than 78% of market revenues were still for Wi-Fi 6.”
EnGenius’ ECW536 will be available for sale early in the fourth quarter, the company said. EnGenius’ PR representatives declined to provide pricing information.