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September 8, 2022updated 24 Nov 2022 3:21pm

What is WiFi 7 and when will it be available?

The new WiFi standard is coming to consumer - and enterprise - devices and will offer faster, more flexible connections.

By Ryan Morrison

Chipmakers Intel and Broadcom have demonstrated the first cross-vendor installation of WiFi 7, the next generation of wireless technology. Using an Intel-powered laptop and Broadcom access point, the companies achieved over-the-air speeds of more than 5Gbps.

WiFi 7 will allow for faster connections and better network management and traffic shaping (Photo: panuwat phimpha/Shutterstock)
WiFi 7 will allow for faster connections and better network management and traffic shaping. (Photo by panuwat phimpha/Shutterstock)

The latest iteration of wireless communications technology is built on the 802.11be standards and can achieve faster over-the-air speeds than previous generations thanks to the addition of the wider 320MHz channels. These are made available within the 6GHz unlicensed spectrum.

WiFi 7: what has improved?

WiFi 7 also promises network capacity five times greater than was possible through WiFi 6E, 100 times better “worst case latency” and 15 times better latency for augmented and virtual reality devices, Intel revealed during a demonstration of the technology this week.

WiFi 7 also includes 4K QAM modulation allowing for more efficient usage of the spectrum available to the device and simultaneous connections across multiple bands due to “multi-link operation” and improved channel utilisation efficiency.

This all affords a greater degree of flexibility in terms of how the spectrum and bandwidth is used, which will benefit a variety of use cases.

“WiFi 7’s deterministic operation enables new product classes, including augmented and virtual reality, ultra-high-definition 16K media streaming, and super-responsive and reliable gaming, while supporting large numbers of connected devices in the home or office,” an Intel statement said.

WiFi 6E, the previous generation, allowed for speeds of up to 2Gbps, but it isn’t just speed that has been given a boost with the latest generation. Carlos Cordeiro, wireless CTO for Intel told Tech Monitor there would be a significant latency improvement and more advanced traffic management available in devices using WiFi 7, which could benefit businesses.

“As one example, some flavours of multi-link operation (MLO) allow the access point (AP) to perform advanced traffic management by assigning specific connections to specific bands, moving clients dynamically across channels to perform load balancing and prioritising traffic,” he explains. “This type of capability is especially suited for enterprises, which are capable of actively managing the network.”

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What is the WiFi 7 release date?

While the first devices with WiFi 7 built-in will be available towards the end of next year, it will be 2024 before the technology reaches enterprise-level equipment, according to Cordeiro.

“WiFi 7 is the most powerful and capable WiFi protocol yet and will allow WiFi to continue to serve the most demanding applications in the consumer and vertical markets with the highest level of determinism yet,” said Phil Solis, research director for connectivity at analyst house IDC.

“Interoperability testing between Intel and Broadcom will enable the development of products that can be used in the test beds for official WiFi Alliance certification testing.”

The technology is at least a year away from mainstream adoption, but will allow home users to get the most out of growing multi-gigabit broadband offerings and improved network management for enterprise clients.

Vijay Nagarajan, vice president wireless connectivity division at Broadcom, said the demonstration proves that the ecosystem is ready for WiFi 7 and will “deliver extraordinary capacity” as well as “blazing fast speeds to extend gigabit broadband”.

“The reliable, low latency communication provided by WiFi 7 is a key element of Broadcom's vision for connecting everything as the Internet evolves to its next iteration replete with immersive experiences,” Nagarajan said. “Industry collaboration is key to making this unprecedented connectivity a reality and we were delighted to work with Intel to achieve another industry first.”

The first demonstration showed 320 MHz channels and 4K QAM modulation allowing for multi-gig WiFi speeds with plans for a future demonstration to show off the multi-resource unit puncturing and multi-link operation which allow for lower latency and enhanced reliability.

Tech Monitor is hosting a roundtable in association with Intel vPro on how to integrate security into operations. For more information, visit NSMG.live.

Read more: Here are the numbers that explain Intel’s decline

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