The Intersection of AI and Wi-Fi 7

The convergence of AI and Wi-Fi 7 will shape networking's future, delivering higher speeds, lower latency, and more efficient management through machine learning for networking and network artificial intelligence.

Wi-Fi 7 and AI converege
(Credit: Dzmitry Dzemidovich / Alamy Stock Photo)

The Intersection of AI and Wi-Fi 7

Generative AI (GenAI) trends at the top of search results and fills online news feeds for good reason. With just a sentence of input, interesting and sometimes unusual images can be created, while grammatically correct and intelligent responses advance online chatbots and support content creators. We've all received quasi-personal email solicitations from GenAI bots selling everything from building maintenance to outsourced project management. While GenAI garners headlines, other forms of AI are mobilizing digital resources to cost-effectively manage and optimize the edge of the network stack.

This application of AI, known as Autonomous Networks, leverages AI and Machine Learning algorithms to analyze telemetry and historical data from various network components. The data set is aggregated for all user sessions and analytics from individual user sessions. With the emergence of Wi-Fi 7 and elevated user expectations for performance and quality,  AI Autonomous Networks will be essential to cost-effectively manage and optimize the edge of the network stack. Let's take a look at Wi-Fi 7 and see how it is ready to support the future of AI-enhanced work and life.

Wi-Fi 7: The Latest in Wireless Networking

Wi-Fi 7 is the newest standard in wireless networking. Though official ratification isn't expected until the end of 2024, Wi-Fi 7 client devices and wireless access points are already available. The top line speed of Wi-Fi 7 is often stated at 46 Gbps, but actual speeds will be lower. The higher speeds of Wi-Fi 7 are delivered by using a 320 MHz wide channel, increasing the transmission rate to 4K QAM and increasing the number of transmit and receive chains to 16. Another key advantage of Wi-Fi 7 is a significant reduction in packet latency, thanks to a feature called Multi-Link Operation (MLO). The most practical variant, Multi-Link Multi-Radio (MLMR), allows parallel data streams for higher throughput and lower latency.

The often-cited 46 Gbps speed for Wi-Fi 7 needs clarification. Published Wi-Fi speeds reflect the RF PHY rate of all transmitting antennas, not a single device's capability. The IEEE 802.11be specification (aka Wi-Fi 7) defines a maximum number of 16 transmit and 16 receive streams per radio. Commercial Wi-Fi 7 systems usually have four streams, offering a total speed of 11.530 Gbps on a 320 MHz channel at QAM 4K. Achieving this speed requires a client that has four antennas to reach the 11.530 Gbps speed. For practical reasons related to size and power requirements, commercially available client devices have two antennas, thus two streams. A typical 2x2 client operating on a 160 MHz channel at QAM 4K will connect at 2.88 Gbps. In Wi-Fi 6, using an 80 MHz channel and QAM 1K, we would have a link speed of 1.2 Gbps. Thus, we can calculate the practical link speed improvement to be (2.88 - 1.2) / 2.88  = 58% faster in Wi-Fi 7. When combined with the resiliency and throughput improvements of MLO, the client experience is substantially better.

The Integration of Wi-Fi 7 and Emerging Applications

Developers and hardware vendors are already exploring ways to leverage Wi-Fi 7's higher speeds and lower latency. A recent report suggests that 90% of spatial computing devices (e.g., VR goggles) will use Wi-Fi 7 to provide an uninterrupted virtual reality experience. Generative AI will also benefit from the higher speeds and lower latency of Wi-Fi 7, requiring massive data input and low latency for interactive data delivery. Wi-Fi 7's 58% speed improvement, lower latency, and nearly contention-free 6 GHz spectrum make it ideal for these applications.

AI Autonomous Networks: Managing Modern Networks

As new AI-based applications reach the mass market, IT managers will need AI assistance to manage increased performance and quality expectations. AI Autonomous Networks can efficiently manage day-to-day network operations by monitoring individual client sessions, identifying issues, and recommending resolutions. These issues and resolutions often exist outside the immediate network scope, such as on DHCP servers, authentication servers, and DNS resolution. By analyzing client session flow, protocols, timing, and baseline data, AI Autonomous Networks can pinpoint problems and suggest appropriate remedies, improving overall performance and reducing resolution times.

Decision-Making with AI Autonomous Networks

AI Autonomous Networks consolidate key performance indicators to aid decision-making. During the shift from 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz to 6 GHz networking, IT managers can use AI to expose timing and predict improvements, facilitating timely network upgrades. Another example is digital twin architecture, which simulates the network environment using real-world client analytics to model behavior, evaluate security changes, and assess configuration adjustments. The goal is to provide IT managers with tools for timely and accurate decisions.

The Future of Wi-Fi 7 and AI in Networking

From AI-generated content to AI Autonomous Networks, the next major application for wireless networks is emerging. Wi-Fi 7 is set to become the dominant standard for residential, enterprise, hospitality, and other markets in the coming years. The convergence of AI and Wi-Fi 7 will shape networking's future, delivering higher speeds, lower latency, and more efficient management through machine learning for networking and network artificial intelligence.

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About the Author(s)

Daran Hermans, Sr. Director, Product Line Management, Cambium Networks

Daran Hermans is Sr. Director, Product Line Management at Cambium Networks. He embarked on his journey in 2002, creating Enterprise Networking and Wi-Fi solutions customized for multi-family residences, hospitality, and small to medium-sized enterprises. He is a joint patent holder for a key hospitality technology spanning from 2005 to 2017. In 2018, Daran joined Cambium Networks, collaborating with a talented team of engineers and developers to promote purpose-built Wi-Fi products and applications. His passion lies at the intersection of technology and human experience, where Generative AI and Autonomous Networks offer a rich field for exploration.

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