Wi-Fi 7 unlocks the next generation of wireless broadband connectivity

Authored by: Rahul Patel, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Connectivity, Cloud & Networking (CCN), Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

New Delhi (India), July 1: The last few years have seen tremendous demand acceleration, globally and especially in India, for higher performance wireless connectivity across an ever-widening range of environments. Increasingly pervasive High-bandwidth, latency-sensitive applications like online gaming, enterprise collaboration with video, and streaming video are increasingly woven into the fabric of everyday life, whether in public spaces, in the home, or in the workplace. As has nearly always been the case, Wi-Fi is the beating heart enabling these transitions. Wi-Fi’s historical success is primarily due to its relatively simple, scalable and cost-effective deployment model and with broadband technologies evolving quickly, fueled by technological innovation and massive public/private investment, next-generation Wi-Fi 7 looks to be arriving right on time.  

Wi-Fi remains nearly ubiquitous, and the accelerated shift to next-generation technologies is a powerful confirmation of Wi-Fi’s central place in connected experiences. In 2023 alone, for instance, IDC forecasts shipments of 3.9 billion Wi-Fi products, scaling to 4.6 billion by 2027. India as a region presents a unique opportunity, as the recent pandemic created an urgent need among subscribers to upgrade their home internet experience. According to TRAI, India added over 12 million broadband subscribers across various technologies since 2020. 

Globally, over two-thirds of shipments in 2023 are expected to be Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E. The mainstream transition to Wi-Fi 6/6E happened much faster than any previous transition (over a year faster, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance). This validates the vast demand for the high-performance features the next-generation technologies offer and their alignment to the next-gen applications permeating homes, schools, workplaces and beyond. Wi-Fi 7 is no different, bringing transformational performance improvements perfectly aligned to the needs of today’s most demanding networks and applications.

Key technological advancements of Wi-Fi 7

Perhaps the most important step forward for Wi-Fi 7 is the utilization of wider channel widths up to 320 MHz, twice that of Wi-Fi 6. Critically, however, it is that not all spectrum is allocated across every region in the same way. So, while some regulatory environments accommodate contiguous 320MHz channels, Wi-Fi 7 brings tools to access wider channels through aggregation, even when contiguous channels may not be available – this is called Multi-Link Operation.

Today, access points can support up to three bands: 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz – the Multi-Link Operation (MLO) capabilities provided by Wi-Fi 7 enable simultaneous connections, whether aggregating to a single broad channel or establishing two links to different devices, seamlessly alternating between any two of these bands. An advanced implementation of MLO, called High Band Simultaneous (HBS) Multi-Link, offers wider effective channels by aggregating two available channels to create channel bandwidths of up to 320MHz, significantly improving throughput and lowering latency. This feature, as of today, is only offered on Qualcomm Technologies’ product offerings (in the client context). Wi-Fi 7 brings in an advanced modulation scheme called 4K QAM, which can boost the peak rates to increase throughput and capacity. Having supported 4K QAM in its Wi-Fi 6-generation, Qualcomm Technologies brings multiple generations of implementation expertise to bear. Wi-Fi 7 also introduces an innovative solution called “Preamble puncturing,” which carves out the interfered portion of the spectrum, enabling the full remainder of that channel to be used. Preamble puncturing improves spectrum efficiency by providing wider channels even with interference.

Wi-Fi 7 Fundamentals

Many Wi-Fi 7 enhancements will drive performance improvements across legacy tri-band (2.4 + 5GHz + 5GHz) configurations or dual-band network configurations, as well. 4K QAM improves peak throughput in legacy bands by 20%. Multi-Link Operation (MLO) enables seamlessly alternate between 5 GHz + 5 GHz bands avoiding congestion on the links and lowering latency. Wi-Fi 7 also enables wider channels (240MHz -160+80 or 320MHz – 160+160) in the 5GHz band through HBS Multi-Link, which improves throughput by at least 50%. Further, another key Wi-Fi 7 feature for interference mitigation is called Preamble puncturing and enables the use of wider channels of up to 240MHz in the 5GHz band, even in the face of interference for higher throughput.

Wi-Fi 7 Benefits

Wi-Fi 7 is designed to directly address congestion and interference in ways previous Wi-Fi generations could not, offering a distinct advantage in areas that have densely packed devices or overlapping networks – such as high-density housing, office buildings, public transit stations and gaming arenas or sporting venues. These capabilities pair well with Wi-Fi 7 access points such as our Networking Pro Series, which can support over 500 simultaneous users per channel, and, thus more than 2,000 users per access point.

Wi-Fi 7 will unlock new and fully wireless applications of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), extended reality (XR), cloud gaming, simultaneous video conferencing and casting, and 4K/8K video – the foundational elements for the next-generation evolution of industries such as gaming, entertainment, education, and healthcare. Wi-Fi 7 also is ideal for automation, surveillance, remote control, and other data- or bandwidth-intensive applications being deployed across today’s enterprise.

Private network deployments look for deterministic latency and a high amount of reliability and quality of service. Wi-Fi 7 delivers on all these fronts, far ahead of previous Wi-Fi generations, and enables the deployment of best-in-class private wireless networks.

Wi-Fi 7 has clear and tangible value in today’s spectrum environment. Though India’s approval of the 6Ghz band for unlicensed use, where even more compelling performance and functionality awaits, is still under consideration, the significant benefits of Wi-Fi 7, such as HBS Multi-Link, can be experienced by those using tri-band routers and APs.

As in previous generations, pre-standard commercialization of the next-gen Wi-Fi technology has already begun in earnest. Qualcomm Technologies’ full portfolio of Wi-Fi 7 products, for instance, are already heavily leveraged across flagship smartphone designs using our latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 platform like the Samsung S23 series, Xiaomi 13 Pro, ASUS ROG 7, Oppo Find X6 Pro, vivo X90 Pro Plus, OnePlus 11 5G, Honor Magic 5 Pro, and more. Dozens of access points from global providers like TP-Link, Xiaomi, ARRIS, ADB, AVM and more have also been commercially launched. Indian companies such as VVDN and HFCL are developing Wi-Fi 7 products for global markets and can leverage these efforts to address the domestic need for next-gen Wi-Fi solutions. We will continue to see this proliferation of Wi-Fi 7-ready devices expand across price points and use cases.

In the years ahead, we can expect Wi-Fi to be a crucial enabler for edge computing; IoT; distributed and cloud architectures; virtualization; social gaming; extended reality; Metaverse applications, and more. It will be at the heart of a wide range of use cases that will power innovation and growth across multiple industries, sectors, and spheres of human activity. Wi-Fi 7, along with 5G broadband, has the potential to be among the core building blocks of India’s digital economy, enabling Industry 4.0, extending the reach and quality of delivery of essential services such as education and healthcare into the remotest parts of the country, and connecting the unconnected to an advanced, new Digital India.

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