Wi-Fi® is holding strong as the preferred choice for wireless connectivity, and its upward momentum continues. According to a new report released by IDC Research, 3.8 billion Wi-Fi devices are forecast to ship in 2023 alone, contributing to 42 billion cumulative Wi-Fi shipments over the technology’s lifetime. This year will also see 19.5 billion Wi-Fi devices in use, including access points, smartphones, laptops, security cameras, and smart plugs. An increasing number of devices support the latest Wi-Fi generations and provide users, service providers, and network administrators with the ability to support increasingly complex use cases.
As more countries release 6 GHz unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi, users around the world are benefitting from the performance enhancements of Wi-Fi 6E operations in the band. With high gigabit speeds, extremely low latency, and increased capacity, the 6 GHz band offers numerous socioeconomic benefits, as well as the ability to support emerging applications, including 3D immersive medical training and telepresence, security monitoring, and fueling innovation in service provider networks that enable multi-gigabit speeds for customers. IDC predicts continued momentum for Wi-Fi 6E with 473 million Wi-Fi 6E devices expected to ship in 2023.
Some additional data includes:
- More than 18% of all Wi-Fi 6 device shipments are predicted to be Wi-Fi 6E in 2023, growing to 32% in 2025
- Two-thirds of shipments in 2023 will be Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E, and these will continue to expand into more IoT devices as more Wi-Fi 6 chipsets targeting IoT devices enter the market
- 94.6 million Wi-Fi 6E AP devices will ship in 2023
According to a recent IDC press release, "There is all growth going forward layered with trends of more Wi-Fi 6 and 6E devices coming into play, Wi-Fi 7 chips ramping up in higher-end devices and access points, and more discrete Wi-Fi solutions in primary client devices and other product types,” said Phil Solis, Research Director, Connectivity and Smartphone Semiconductors at IDC.
Wi-Fi 7 momentum begins to build as we look toward the end of 2023 and approach Wi-Fi Alliance® certification availability. While only accounting for .4% of Wi-Fi device shipments this year, Wi-Fi 7 will begin seeing broader technology adoption aligned with Wi-Fi Alliance certification availability, which typically serves as an inflection point in the industry. Wi-Fi 7 delivers advanced experiences using 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrum that is globally available today, and countries opening the full 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi will benefit from the maximum potential of Wi-Fi 7.
Wi-Fi and IoT momentum
The heightened user demand for IoT devices supports Wi-Fi's predicted upward momentum this year, according to IDC, and the availability of more Wi-Fi 6 chipsets created for IoT devices will enter the market to aid this growing demand. IDC reports that Wi-Fi IoT device shipments totaled 37% in 2022 and are predicted to exceed 40% by 2027.
The upward trajectory of IoT is further evidenced by those devices surpassing smartphone shipments in 2021, and IoT is also expected to outpace primary client device shipments in 2027. The release of additional unlicensed spectrum in 6 GHz spectrum around the world is crucial to support the steady uptake of Wi-Fi 6E devices expected in 2023 and the introduction of Wi-Fi 7. “As older protocols fade away and the Wi-Fi industry firmly embraces Wi-Fi 6E, Wi-Fi 7, and beyond, the 6 GHz band will be critical for supporting the future of Wi-Fi,” said Phil Solis, Research Director at IDC “The 6 GHz band allows for performance, capacity, and reliability that 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz cannot provide.” Not only will 6 GHz provide the foundation for the high-performance connectivity users expect, it will also enable continued innovation for today’s Wi-Fi and future generations to come.
 IDC Research, Jan 2023
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