What is Wi-Fi 7?

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- everything RF

Jun 13, 2021


Wi-Fi 7 or IEEE 802.11be is the next iteration of the IEEE 802.11 standard. It is the successor to 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6/6E) and will focus on providing indoor and outdoor wireless LAN (WLAN).

Wi-Fi 7 will utilize the 2.4 GHz (2.400 to 2.495 GHz), 5 GHz (5.170 to 5.835 GHz) and 6 GHz (5.925 to 7.125 GHz) frequency bands and aims to support a transmission rate of up to 30 Gbps, which is more than three times the maximum rate for Wi-Fi 6/6E (9.6 Gbps). The development of the 802.11be standard is ongoing and a final version is expected by 2024.

Wireless LAN (WLAN) continues its growth and is getting increasingly important for providing wireless data services in environments such as home, enterprise and hotspots. An increasing number of individuals rely on Wi-Fi connections to support their connectivity needs. Widespread adoption of new high-throughput applications, such as 4K/8K video, VR/AR, gaming and cloud computing, require improved throughput and performance. Wi-Fi 7 will build on Wi-Fi 6/6E to provide higher throughput, higher speeds and a more reliable WLAN solution.

Image Source: Intel Corporation

Key Technology Features of Wi-Fi 7 / 802.11be

  • 320 MHz bandwidth and more efficient utilization of non-contiguous spectrum
  • Multi-band/multi-channel aggregation and operation
  • 16 spatial streams and Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) protocols enhancements
  • 4096-QAM (4K-QAM)
  • Multi-Access Point (AP) Coordination
  • Enhanced link adaptation and retransmission protocol (e.g., Hybrid Automatic Repeat Request (HARQ))
  • Enhanced resource allocation in OFDMA
  • Integrating Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) extensions for low-latency real-time traffic (IEEE 802.11aa)

Single Channel Bandwidth Increased from 160 to 320 MHz

The single channel bandwidth is proposed to be increased from 160 MHz (Wi-Fi 6/6E) to 320 MHz with 3 channels in the 6 GHz band (5.925 to 7.125 GHz). Coupled with features like Multi-Access Point and Multi-Link Operation, it will deliver better data rates and improved latency.

Improved Latency

With the introduction of features like Multi-Link Operation (MLO), Multi-Access Point (AP) coordination and increased single channel bandwidth to 320 MHz, Wi-Fi 7 promises to deliver reduce latency even further (for instance, latency lower than 5 ms for real-time gaming) with jitter improvements in congested environments.

    Potential Wi-Fi 7 features for deterministic low latency:

  • Define QoS provisioning model with dedicated, deterministic, low-latency (LL) and reliable access category,
  • Scheduled channel access with 802.1 TSN functionality,
  • Packet pre-emption for predictable channel access,
  • Limit TXOP duration across networks.

4096 QAM Modulation

Wi-Fi 7 will use higher modulation orders, supporting 4096-QAM — up from 1024-QAM in 802.11ax. Increasing the QAM modulation level increases link capacity and data rates. However, a high QAM modulation level will lead to reduced receiver sensitivity and increased linearity requirements at the transmitter. This is an issue that will have to be tackled.

Image Source: Intel Corporation

Multi-Channel Operation

Another addition that stands out in Wi-Fi 7 is the multi-channel operation which is like carrier aggregation in cellular connectivity. Since Wi-Fi supports multiple frequency bands, an end-user device can connect on multi bands at the same time with the AP points, resulting in an increase in data rate.

Multi-Link Operation (MLO)

Multi-Link Operation enables link aggregation at the MAC layer with a link mapped to a channel and band. It provides higher throughput, lower latency and/or higher reliability, which are useful to several applications from VR/AR to industrial IoT. 

    Benefits of MLO include:

  • Additive throughput for data flows split over links,
  • For two links (e.g., 5 GHz and 6 GHz), maximum aggregate data rate could reach 7.2x compared to Wi-Fi 6)
  • Lower latency due to access to multiple links in parallel,
  • High reliability by packets duplication over multiple links,
  • Assign data flows to specific links based on app needs.

Wi-Fi 6/6E was a giant leap forward for WLAN, with the introduction of various technologies, such as MIMO, 1024-QAM, WPA3 security, etc. It also introduced 1200 MHz of additional spectrum in the 6 GHz frequency band to tackle the problem of increasing spectrum congestion.

Image Source: Intel Corporation

Wi-Fi 7 is the next generation of WLAN and aims to further improve the performance and services offer by Wi-Fi. The standard and technology is still being developed and will take a few years before this technology is officially launched.

Click here to read a detailed presentation from Intel on Wi-Fi 7.