Wi-Fi 6 Has Hit the Market, But What About Wi-Fi 7?

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2Q 2021 | IN-6195

Wi-Fi 7 development is underway, looking to become the most efficient wi-fi yet.

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2024 Will See Vast Improvements to Wi-Fi Due to The Release of 802.11be


Whilst Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E have recently become available and are seeing a steady increase in shipments across many device types, the market is already looking to the next protocol for the technology and what it can offer. Wi-Fi 7, or 802.11be, or Wi-Fi Extremely High Throughput, will be the next protocol to hit the market, offering features that will provide higher data rates, lower latency and interference, improved power efficiency, higher capacity, and improved cost efficiency. Expected to launch in 2024, some of its main features include a max rate of 46 Gbps (Wi-Fi 6 offers 9.6 Gbps), connectivity in bands from 1 GHz to 7.25 GHz, WPA3 security, up to 320 MHz channel size (Wi-Fi 6 offers up to 160 MHz), 4096-QAM OFDMA with extensions (Wi-Fi 6 offers 1024-QAM OFDMA), and 16x16 MU-MIMO (Wi-Fi offers 8x8 MU-MIMO). The move towards the 6 GHz band within Wi-Fi 6E will be key in enabling Wi-Fi 7, providing companies with the necessary experience of the band to ensure that new devices and chipsets can be developed quickly. It will also provide backwards compatibility and coexistence with legacy devices.

All of the new features that Wi-Fi 7 will offer will enable support of various applications, including within the enterprise and smart home technology, as high data consuming AR, VR, video, gaming, streaming, cloud computing, IoT, and IIoT applications continue to grow. It is expected that the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) will publish the 802.11be amendment in 2024, with the Wi-Fi Alliance expected to release its Wi-Fi 7 certification program shortly afterwards, concentrating on interoperability and security. Some products may reach the market in 2023 and 2024, before the official release, with others expected to swiftly follow and help to provide a smooth transition to Wi-Fi 7.

The IEEE Task Group Development Plans


The IEEE 802.11be task group is working on a two-phase development cycle, with the aim to speed up development and commercialization of the new protocol. It is currently working on the first draft of Release 1, which includes defining features such as:

  • Multi-link operation – focuses on using at least two channels, but up to all of the available channels, including within 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz bands, in the most efficient way. It will enable load balancing, multi-band aggregation, and simultaneous uplink and downlink to allow devices to simultaneously transmit and receive across different bands and channels. Features within this include multi-link discovery and setup with devices updating their availability, parallel concurrent data streams for one device, traffic-link mapping to map traffic identifiers to setup links, and channel access and power saving to allow independent channels to be accessed and power status to be maintained. Multi-link operation will allow latency to be reduced, and throughput, speed, quality performance, and reliability to be increased, enabling new use cases, ensuring that the best band is used for each application and interference environment. Wi-Fi 7 will have the ability to use multiple simultaneous channels in single- and multiple-radio configurations.
  • Low-complexity access point (AP) coordination – will allow AP to advertise their capabilities, including using coordinated spatial reuse. This allows a sharing AP to trigger other shared APs to start simultaneous transmission, providing power control and adaptation, reducing collisions and latency, whilst improving utilization, reliability, and throughput.
  • Direct enhancements of 802.11ax – will include higher transmission rates, higher modulation orders, and the allocation of multiple resource units to increase spectrum utilization efficiency.

Release 2, which is expected to be formalized throughout 2022 and 2023, includes defining features such as:

  • MIMO enhancements – including doubling the number of SU-MIMO and MU-MIMO spatial streams to increase capacity. Another rumored enhancement is coordinated MU-MIMO, which allows antennas from different APs to work together, improving mesh networks and coverage in larger buildings. Utilizing different devices across a building will enable data to be sent across different parts of the network, accessing more of the spectrum, and improving performance.
  • Hybrid automatic repeat request (HARQ) – allows devices to combine information with retransmitted units to improve decoding and performance.
  • Low-latency operations – include collecting protocol enhancements that will reduce latency and improve reliability, making use of multi-link operations. Deterministic low latency allows for time-sensitive networking and real-time applications, decreasing latency and variability in congested areas.
  • Advanced AP coordination – includes three schemes: coordinated OFDMA in which APs will share frequency resources, joint single- and multi-user transmissions, and coordinated beamforming to improve throughput and latency.

Wi-Fi 7 Will Support the Ever Increasing Numbers of Connected Devices


It is clear that through all of the planned features for Wi-Fi 7, the technology will see improved capacity, data rates, throughput, reliability, latency, efficiency, and overall quality. It will provide better support for large numbers of simultaneously connected devices, which is becoming increasingly supported in a number of verticals, such as smart home and industry. As more devices become connected, communicating data either continuously or sporadically, Wi-Fi networks will get increasingly congested, leading to increased latency and connectivity issues. With applications such as video calling, gaming, AR/VR (either for gaming or work purposes), and IoT devices providing important and time-sensitive information, these latency issues can result in poor user experiences and potential safety issues within the workplace. Wi-Fi 7 will help to support these large numbers of devices offering new features not seen before, as well as providing improvements to features that are currently available and aiming to relieve issues. ABI Research expects the first Wi-Fi 7 chipsets to reach the market in 2023, with shipments of up to 12 million, increasing to over 158 million by 2025.

Despite many having just developed and released their first Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E products, companies within the Wi-Fi market need to start investigating how Wi-Fi 7 will help to improve their offerings. These companies should look into the features that Wi-Fi 7 will provide and investigate partnerships within the market to help develop highly secure, interoperable, reliable products to enable the availability of technology as soon as possible. Ensuring that this technology is available for both consumer and enterprise applications is vital, as both areas are continuously seeing an increase in congestion and demand for the highest-quality connectivity possible. Early adopters of Wi-Fi 7 will have the initial competitive edge and will help to prompt swift migration to the technology. Backwards compatibility will ensure that new products can still communicate with legacy devices that utilize older protocols, such as Wi-Fi 4, Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, and Wi-Fi 6E, allowing new solutions to become immediately relevant and preventing the need for consumers and enterprises to upgrade all devices and infrastructure instantly.

A number of companies are already investigating how Wi-Fi 7 can be added to their portfolio. Broadcom, MediaTek, and Qualcomm are all in the process of developing Wi-Fi 7 chipsets, eager to take early advantage of the increased speed, multiple spectrums, and high-quality connectivity. Intel has also previewed a number of the potential key features that Wi-Fi 7 will bring to the market, indicating that the company is aware of and investigating how to integrate the technology into future products.



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