Updated: Jul 7, 2022
Following the widespread availability of Wi-Fi 6, network equipment manufacturers are already planning the introduction of the next WLAN generation. Wi-Fi 7 is expected to support, among other things, four times the bandwidth and a higher device density.
The focus of the efforts around the new WLAN standard Wi-Fi 7 - officially referred to as 802.11be - is an extremely high data throughput to support data-intensive real-time applications. Wi-Fi 7 is said to be particularly suitable for services in the areas of virtual or extended reality (VR/XR), gaming and remote work.
Wi-Fi 7 vs. Wi-Fi 6
Specifically, it is assumed that Wi-Fi 7 will increase the maximum transmission speed from 9.6 Gbit/s to 46 Gbit/s compared to the current Wi-Fi 6 standard. This is of course a theoretical value, but realistically a data throughput of 30 to 40 Gbit/s should be possible. The higher speed and other improvements are achieved through various factors. These include transmission channels that are twice as wide at 320 Mhz or a QAM value that is four times as high at 4096 (quadrature amplitude modulation).
The next-generation Wi-Fi will also support 16 antennas each for receiving and transmitting data (Massive MIMO) instead of 8, thus supporting more devices with 2×2 MIMO configuration with high data transmission speed and minimal interruptions.
From the scientists' point of view, 802.11be brings many other revolutionary changes in addition to higher bandwidth, which will form the basis for the further development of the wireless radio standard. These include native multilink operation, channel probing optimisation enabling Massive MIMO, advanced PHY and MAC techniques, and interworking between different access points.
Wi-Fi 7 - from 2024 at the earliest
As always with new standards, it will still take a few years for Wi-Fi 7 to become truly usable. In Germany, at least one prerequisite has already been met with the activation of the 6-Ghz frequency band already required by Wi-Fi 6E.
As far as the required hardware is concerned, the Taiwanese chip manufacturer MediaTek has, according to its own information, started to demonstrate the functions of the upcoming standard to its most important customers. For example, a demo showed how Mediatec's Wi-Fi 7 technology, called Filogic, can achieve the maximum speed defined by IEEE 802.11be, and demonstrated multi-link operation (MLO) technology. MLO technology aggregates multiple channels on different frequency bands and is said to allow network traffic to continue seamlessly even in the event of interference or band congestion. No further details on the demos were revealed.
"Wi-Fi 7 makes WLAN a true fixed-line/Ethernet replacement for the first time when it comes to very high bandwidth applications," Alan Hsu, corporate vice president and general manager of the Intelligent Connectivity Business at MediaTek, said in a statement.
He said the technology is capable of acting as the backbone of home, office and industrial networks, providing seamless connectivity for everything from multiplayer AR/VR applications to cloud gaming, 4K calling, 8K streaming and beyond.
MediaTek plans to start shipping products with Wi-Fi 7 support in 2023. However, these may only be prototypes or pre-production models, as the actual standard will not be ready until later in 2024. (CW)