What has changed in the design journey from Wi-Fi 5 to Wi-Fi 7

Article By : Majeed Ahmad

The modern evolution of Wi-Fi shows why WiFi-7 is needed to bolster speed, reduce latency and manage determinism in highly immersive world.

Wi-Fi 7 is here, and it’s promising to facilitate speed, latency and determinism for Metaverse, a more immersive world in which users can interact in real-time with renditions of other people, places and things. With ultra-fast broadband wireless connectivity, users can enjoy immersive gaming experiences and employees can get job training in the comfort of their living rooms.

In the post-pandemic world, the demand for higher-performance Wi-Fi continues to grow at unprecedented rates due to an increase in remote work and growing demand for immersive gaming and streaming. Here, Wi-Fi 7 comes to the rescue by doubling the throughput of Wi-Fi 6E and keeping the Wi-Fi a step ahead of broadband rivals like DOCSIS 4.0 and multi-gigabit passive optical network (PON) technologies.

Broadcom, which has unveiled five new chipsets for Wi-Fi 7 routers, residential gateways, enterprise access points, and client devices, claims that the new wireless network doubles the speed of Wi-Fi 6 and 6E solutions at lower latency and extended range. Two chipsets—BCM67263 and BCM6726—serve the residential Wi-Fi access points, while two chipsets—BCM43740 and BCM43720—are targeted at the enterprise Wi-Fi access points. BCM4398, a combo of Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5 chips, is optimized for mobile handset applications.

Figure 1 The Wi-Fi 7 chipset solutions span from residential to enterprise to client devices like smartphones. Source: Broadcom

Modern evolution of Wi-Fi

In retrospect, Wi-Fi 5 came on-board in the early 2010s to facilitate the insatiable demand resulting from the audio/video streaming revolution both in living rooms and on smartphones. It lasted till the end of the decade when bi-directional video applications like WhatsApp and Webex and social media uploads such as Tiktok began to change the consumer and enterprise landscape.

Enter Wi-Fi 6 to streamline wireless transmission and better manage the user traffic. Next, Wi-Fi 6E extended the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 with the availability of the 6 GHz band. The momentum for Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E was evident when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world in 2020. According to Vijay Nagarajan, VP of marketing for the Wireless Communications and Connectivity Division at Broadcom, the company has shipped more than 1 billion chips for Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E over the past three years.

Still, the demand for more bandwidth continues to increase. According to a recent study, consumer spending on gaming has increased by 40%. And it’s not just speed; augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets as new gaming devices mandate unprecedented levels of immersiveness. That, in turn, calls for reliable, deterministic wireless data.

Figure 2 Wi-Fi 7 is tailor-made for a more immersive world serving advanced entertainment, IoT, and medical applications. Source: Broadcom

Wi-Fi 7 doubles Wi-Fi channel bandwidth by incorporating 320-MHz channels into the 6 GHz band and employing the 4096-QAM modulation technique. Additionally, it introduces new technologies to lower latency and bolster determinism. The following section takes a closer look at these new features like multi-link operation (MLO) and automatic frequency coordination (AFC).

Anatomy of Wi-Fi 7

While Wi-Fi 7 features spectrum flexibility across three bands, the wider 320 MHz channels in the 6 GHz band play a critical role in doubling the speed. The 4096-QAM technique is also crucial in boosting the overall network performance and coverage.

Then there is the multi-link operation or MLO that significantly improves Wi-Fi 7’s deterministic performance by rapidly aggregating channels in high-density, congested networks. It drives greater capacity by rapidly switching traffic among multiple channels to facilitate commercial-grade quality-of-service (QoS) in Wi-Fi 7 networks.

Figure 3 Wi-Fi 7 incorporates new technologies to bolster speed, latency, and determinism metrics. Source: Broadcom

AFC, another technology that coincides with the Wi-Fi 7 launch, employs optimal spectrum allocation to enable high-power access points and extends the 6 GHz range indoors and outdoors. Broadband claims that its AFC-native Wi-Fi 7 designs can transmit up to 63 times more transmit power, extending range and coverage when using the 6 GHz band.

With this keen focus on speed, latency and determinism, WiFi-7 is here and ready to roar. Chris DePuy, a technology analyst at 650 Group, forecasts that Wi-Fi 7 revenue will exceed that of any other Wi-Fi technology in five years.

Another testimonial comes from a firm that is currently building WiFi-7 CPE devices. “WiFi-7 will take the ubiquitous Wi-Fi experience to a higher level of performance for applications that require ultra-high bandwidth and low latency,” says Girish Naganathan, CTO of Technicolor Connected Home, which has been working on this technology since the early stages of the Wi-Fi 7 standard definition.

Broadcom is currently sampling its WiFi-7 chipsets for early access partners and customers in retail, enterprise and smartphone, service provider, and carrier segments.

This article was originally published on EDN.

Majeed Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief of EDN and Planet Analog, has covered the electronics design industry for more than two decades.


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