Six to eight devices are simultaneously connected to Wi-Fi in a typical family home right now. And the number increases with the progressive digitization of houses. Added to computers, mobile phones, televisions and consoles are surveillance systems, household appliances, voice assistants, air conditioning, lighting, smart watches… All this network requires an increasingly powerful wireless network. The latest generation of this is already underway: Wifi 7. Companies have begun to offer processors for this new technology, which will begin to be implemented from next year. This is the new Wi-Fi.
It is called IEEE 802.11be, although the entity that standardizes the systems (Wifi Alliance) has popularized the denomination by means of its name followed by the number corresponding to the generation and the band spectrum that they use. Wifi 6 and 6E are currently approved by this entity. However, in Europe, the majority of wireless connections in the home are still fifth generation or lower. The seventh will offer four times more speed than the most modern ones, less latency (propagation and transmission delay) and more capacity, stability and efficiency. To take full advantage of these benefits, it will be necessary to update the routers and devices, although the new wifi will allow devices prepared for previous generations to work, but without taking full advantage of its possibilities.
Wi-Fi 7 offers a maximum speed of 40 Gigabytes per second (Gbps), which is four times the maximum speed of the 6E. The 2.4 GHz band generation uses 11 channels of 20 megahertz (MHz) each. The jump to the 5 GHz band has made it possible to have 45 channels that combine to create channels between 40 MHz and 80 MHz. Wifi 6E expands this capacity to 60 channels of up to 160 MHz. The generation that arrives next year supports up to 320 MHz wide, thus doubling the data transmission capacity. Compared to a water distribution system or highway, it is like multiplying the number of pipes or roads and making them wider.
Another of the great advances of the new generation are the multiple links, which significantly increase performance and reduce latency by operating simultaneously in the high bands (5 or 6 GHz). This capability allows optimal performance even in congested areas. The routers of the previous generations, even of the most recent ones, connect in a single band of 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz or 6 GHz. However, the new ones will be able to connect to different bands simultaneously, which allows transmitting more data (the water or vehicles, in the simile with a supply or traffic network), through more alternative routes. Ultimately, the router choose the least congested and most suitable channels for a stable and fast connection.
Part of the new Wi-Fi 7 capabilities will be made possible by a new modulation scheme called 4K QAM, which is used to transfer data in radio frequency waves. Compared to previous systems (1K QAM, 256-QAM and 1024-QAM), the new scheme increases performance and capacity because it discriminates between channel interference.
Douglas Vaz Benítez is the general director of Qualcomm for Spain and Portugal, one of the companies that already offers the processors that allow the implementation of Wi-Fi 7. As he explains, current systems, when faced with interference on a channel, block it. “What Wi-Fi 7 does is identify exactly which part of the channel is affected by interference and only block that part. You don’t lose the entire channel and that generates more capacity”.
Wifi 7 uses two frequencies at the same time, delivers more information, at a higher speed, with greater modulation and better channel management. We are talking about up to 40 GBps at the physical layer, although in practice it will be 10 GBps
Douglas Vaz Benítez, director of Qualcomm for Spain and Portugal
Vaz Benítez sums up that, in general terms and for the domestic consumer, the new generation, “by using two frequencies at the same time, delivers more information, at a higher speed, with greater modulation and better channel management.” “We are talking about up to 40 GBps in the physical layer, although in practice it will be 10 GBps,” he clarifies.
The director of the technology company explains that, in the race, all parties are involved: from the supplier companies to the device manufacturers. “No one can be left behind,” he says. Internet providers are going to start offering more capacity and speed. Some already advertise between one and 10GB. “If you don’t have the capacity to distribute the GB because you stay on Wi-Fi 5 or 6 at home,” adds the manager, “a bottleneck is generated. It makes no sense not to update the entire system.” However, Vaz Benítez adds that it is not necessary to change all devices because the new technology is backward compatible. But the improvements will be evident by the better management of the channels.
The forecasts of the director of Qualcomm is that the routers Wifi 7 will begin to be marketed next year, when mobile phones prepared for this new technology will also arrive. Computers, consoles and other devices will be added to these devices. The company ZTE has already presented in Vienna the prototype of the first Optical Network Unit (ONU) in the sector compatible with the technologies of passive optimal networks of 50 gigabits (50G PON) and WiFi 7.
For the industry, the improvement will be evident by the increased capacity and speed of the wireless network. And for users, too, according to Vaz de Benítez: “There are more and more products connected to the home network and more and more applications that demand better quality are used. Televisions are already 4K and connect to Wi-Fi. The streaming more and more quality is demanded. Videoconferences have become widespread and virtual reality glasses are coming. The lower latency for this type of device is essential, as well as for the game.”
Wifi 7 technology opens the door to future applications that we cannot even imagine today
Moon Ho Lee, Chairman of Korea Mercury
Alan Hsu is responsible for Connectivity at the Taiwanese processor company MediaTek, which has already brought a real demonstration of the potential of Wi-Fi 7 to California: “It will be the backbone of home, industrial and office networks. It will provide seamless connectivity for everything from multiplayer virtual and augmented reality applications to cloud gaming and 8K streaming.”
For Moon Ho Lee, president of Korea Mercury, the demand will pull the new technology: “Today’s consumers want a constant, reliable and fast Wi-Fi connection for many applications, such as video calls, entertainment on 4K and 8K televisions, games in real time and others. Wi-Fi 7 technology can meet these needs and also open the door to future applications that we can’t even imagine today.”
The prices of the new routers for Wifi 7 they will range between 400 and more than 800 euros, depending on the characteristics. But Vaz de Benítez considers the investment important: “The router it is the brain of the house, to which all the devices are connected. In addition, it is the guardian, the one who protects the security of the data and deals with the hackers. If we divide the price of router for the number of devices it serves, the relative price is very low. I challenge consumers to put into perspective the importance of quality Wi-Fi capacity and coverage. It is definitely worth the investment.”