A bright future for Wi-Fi®
March 09, 2021 by Mark Hung
This content was originally published as the foreword to the most recent edition of the CWNA Certified Wireless Network Administrator Study Guide written by Wi-Fi Alliance member David Coleman, Extreme Networks. The new 6th Edition CWNA paperback is now available.
Wi-Fi® is one of the most widely adopted technologies around the world. Today, nearly every mobile device ships with Wi-Fi. There is currently an installed base of over 13 billion Wi-Fi devices1, and the number only continues to grow, with more than 4.5 billion Wi-Fi devices predicted to ship annually in 2024.2
Wi-Fi ubiquity was not always guaranteed. When the first 802.11 protocol was released in 1997, there were no standards bodies to ensure that products from various vendors could work productively together. So, in 1999, when the original Wi-Fi standard was introduced with 802.11b, Wi-Fi Alliance® was founded as a global organization to ensure multi-vendor interoperability for wireless networking products that brings a better and more consistent connectivity experience. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ was established to indicate products that passed interoperability requirements from Wi-Fi Alliance, and devices bearing the distinctive Wi-Fi logo have since become synonymous with high quality and reliability.
Wi-Fi CERTIFIED programs contributed greatly to the rapid rise of Wi-Fi, and today Wi-Fi CERTIFIED is an internationally recognized seal of approval with more than 65,000 certifications. Devices undergo rigorous testing, providing assurances that a wide range of Wi-Fi devices will work well together. The Wi-Fi CERTIFIED logo now appears on products worldwide, indicating adherence to interoperability, security, and ease of use standards.
Wi-Fi Alliance has strived to go beyond interoperability and has contributed to several areas that have enabled Wi-Fi to become one of the world’s most familiar and commonly used technologies. Security, versatility, and ease of use have been key focus areas. Wi-Fi Alliance established Wi-Fi Protected Access® as a standards-based, interoperable security framework to provide an unprecedented level of security on all Wi-Fi CERTIFIED devices, and has continued to evolve security standards, recently introducing Wi-Fi CERTIFIED WPA3™. In addition to ensuring Wi-Fi remains secure, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED has enabled the wireless industry to connect an expanding range of consumer electronics devices, from mobile phones and 4K Ultra HD televisions, to home thermostats and doorbells by helping develop programs that improve device performance across a variety of environments, while also lowering power consumption in some applications. Finally, Wi-Fi Alliance has made Wi-Fi technology accessible to the broader public, introducing programs such as Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Easy Connect™, which makes configuring Wi-Fi devices as simple as scanning a product QR code.
While Wi-Fi's past has been impressive, the possibilities for the technology only continue to grow. In early 2020, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made the historic decision to open up unlicensed spectrum in the 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi use. Shortly thereafter the United Kingdom Office of Communication (Ofcom) announced it would free up a portion of spectrum in the 6 GHz band for indoor Wi-Fi use. Meanwhile, regulators around the world are in discussions to use the 6 GHz band in their countries for unlicensed spectrum use as well. With the 6 GHz band, essential spectrum resources are available to increase Wi-Fi economic contributions by paving the way for faster, higher-capacity, and lower latency Wi-Fi devices and networks.
To ensure interoperability and foster Wi-Fi's continued growth, Wi-Fi Alliance has expanded Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6™ into 6 GHz - with Wi-Fi 6E features - so users are able to quickly benefit from this additional capacity.
The future is bright, both for the technology and the professionals who find their calling in this dynamic and challenging field. There is always something new to learn, new puzzles to solve. I hope this book whets your appetite for the possibilities ahead, and with your CWNA certification in hand, you can set off confidently on a career that is sure to be both personally and professionally rewarding.
Mark Hung is Vice President of Technology and Engineering at Wi-Fi Alliance, where he sets the technical direction and partnership strategy, leads the R&D team, and represents the organization in the broader technology ecosystem. In this role, Mark works with Wi-Fi Alliance’s members to bring innovative Wi-Fi solutions to market and drive adoption in consumer, enterprise, and commercial segments.