As technology continues to advance, Wi-Fi has remained a key component in research and industrial manufacturing. With the introduction of Wi-Fi 7, organizations now have the opportunity to improve their value propositions and provide customers with an enhanced experience. This new wireless communication technology offers substantial benefits for those looking to stay ahead in the game.
Wi-Fi, which stands for wireless fidelity, was developed by an organization called the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), who sets standards for the Wi-Fi standard. IEEE 802.11be, dubbed Extremely High Throughput (EHT), is the next amendment of the IEEE 802.11 standard, which will be designated Wi-Fi 7. IEEE 802.11be is still in the development stage, and it is expected that the specifications will be officially released in late 2024 or early 2025.
The IEEE 802.11be aims to define Media Access Control (MAC) and Physical Layer (PHY) features that are customized to meet the demanding requirements of high-throughput and low-latency applications. The PHY component of IEEE 802.11 is expected to be similar to the one outlined in IEEE 802.11ax standard. For instance, the IEEE 802.11be will incorporate support for technologies like multi-user multiple-input and multiple-output (MU-MIMO), orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA), and longer symbol durations with smaller subcarrier spacing.
Recent reports indicate that Wi-Fi 7 has achieved a remarkable increase in wireless data link performance, nearly quadrupling the capabilities of its previous generation, offering a throughput exceeding 36 Gbps. To attain this impressive transfer rate, the IEEE 802.11be standard introduces a range of technological advancements, such as wider channels and higher quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), that exhibit substantial improvements over its predecessor.
In Wi-Fi 6, the utilization of OFDMA involved breaking down radio channels into smaller frequency allocations known as Resource Units (RUs). This approach enabled Wi-Fi devices to send smaller data packets to multiple users concurrently, enhancing both throughput and reducing latency. Wi-Fi 7 builds upon this foundational OFDMA concept but introduces the notion of Multiple RUs (MRU), which allows for combinations of different RU sizes.
The enhancements introduced through MRU have led to a significant reduction in latency, especially when multiple users are attempting to transmit data simultaneously. This improvement is achieved by allocating RUs more efficiently, taking into account the varying data lengths of different users. For example, in a scenario where four users with different data lengths are transmitting data, a Wi-Fi 7 access point (AP) equipped with MRU can achieve the shortest end-to-end latency compared to previous-generation APs, resulting in a 33 percent reduction in latency compared to Wi-Fi 5 and a 25 percent reduction compared to Wi-Fi 6.
Wi-Fi 6 operated across two frequency bands—2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. In practical usage, only a portion of the available frequencies within each band were utilized, such as 80 MHz in the 2.4 GHz band and 600 MHz in the 5 GHz band. These specific sets of frequencies are referred to as the spectrum, and their actual size can vary between different countries.
While the previous generation of Wi-Fi could simultaneously handle 160 MHz channels, Wi-Fi 7 introduces a substantial improvement with ultra-wide 320 MHz channels. This advancement translates to a doubled data transmission capacity compared to the previous Wi-Fi 6 and 6E technologies. The broader channel not only minimizes latency but also enhances the overall transmission rate. These 320 MHz channels are situated in the relatively open 6 GHz band, steering clear of the frequently congested wireless transmission protocol bands. Consequently, this configuration reduces interference and ensures a more stable signal.
To leverage frequencies for faster computer speeds, Wi-Fi 6 uses a technique called quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), supporting 1024 QAM. This means it can extract 1024 signals from these frequencies. The greater the number of signals, the more data bits it can carry, resulting in increased throughput. However, a choice must be made regarding the Wi-Fi channel within one of the frequency bands. For instance, in the 2.4 GHz band, a channel width of 20 MHz is typically used, and a broader channel width leads to higher throughput.
Comparing Wi-Fi 7 to its predecessors reveals significant advancements. Wi-Fi 7 boasts a data rate of 9.6 Gbps, a 39 percent increase compared to the previous generation, primarily due to the jump in QAM from 1024 QAM in Wi-Fi 6. Now, with the advent of Wi-Fi 7, even more enhancements have been introduced. The channel width has doubled, moving from 160 MHz to 320 MHz, effectively doubling the data rate. Additionally, the QAM has seen an improvement, increasing from 1024 QAM in Wi-Fi 6 to 4096 QAM, contributing an additional 20 percent to the data rate.
Wi-Fi achieves data transmission between devices through specific Wi-Fi channels. To further enhance throughput, it utilizes a technique known as spatial streams, also referred to as MIMO. The Wi-Fi 7 standard expands the count of multi-user MIMO streams to 16. This increase in available MIMO streams, coupled with the capability to automatically select the most suitable stream for any given task, will result in a reduction in latency.
Wi-Fi 7 introduces enhancements to Multi-Link Operation (MLO). MLO enables the simultaneous utilization of multiple bands or channels by Multi-Link Devices. Embracing MLO provides advantages such as load balancing, data aggregation, and reduced latency. When employing the same modulation and coding scheme rate, Wi-Fi 7 with MLO delivers up to three times the effective throughput compared to Wi-Fi 6 with a single link. Furthermore, Wi-Fi 7 featuring MLO brings about an impressive 80 percent reduction in latency compared to the previous generation using a single link.
Wi-Fi 7 can leverage the capabilities of MLO to prioritize efficient data transmission, effectively managing network congestion and interference while optimizing the flow of data. With Wi-Fi 7 routers, dynamic channel selection becomes a key strategy to bypass congestion or interference, ensuring the smooth and reliable movement of data throughout the network.
In terms of reliability, Wi-Fi 7 elevates the dependability of wireless connections by maintaining a steady connection and mitigating interference, resulting in fewer disruptions and dropouts for users. This technology also addresses limitations associated with the coverage range of specific frequency bands. By intelligently selecting channels and optimizing transmission, it ensures that even in areas with limited signal coverage, connections remain resilient.
One important feature of Wi-Fi 7 is its adaptability. By dynamically selecting the most appropriate channel according to current network conditions, it guarantees that the network can adapt to evolving environments and sustain peak performance. This adaptability inherent in Wi-Fi 7 not only ensures resilience but also future-proofs networks. As new devices and technologies come into play, Wi-Fi 7 can accommodate them by adeptly allocating resources and enhancing performance.
Recognizing Wi-Fi as the cornerstone of advancing digital technologies like edge computing and industrial automation, the introduction of Wi-Fi 7 marks a significant expansion of real-time applications, including the handling of 4K and 8K video streams.
Wi-Fi 7 equips users to immerse themselves in technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) that offer experiences remarkably close to reality. Thanks to its rapid data transfer speeds and minimal latency, Wi-Fi 7 enhances user experiences by facilitating uninterrupted, real-time interactions within virtual environments.
Leveraging MLO technology plays a crucial role in diminishing latency and enhancing stability, a vital factor for cloud gaming enthusiasts. The increased throughput capabilities of Wi-Fi 7 enable real-time communication with latency levels consistently below 5 milliseconds, ensuring a top-tier gaming experience. This translates to high-quality video streaming, elevating the overall quality of the cloud gaming experience.
Wi-Fi 7 offers the capacity to connect an extensive array of sensors and edge devices essential in the context of industrial automation applications. This capability enables manufacturing companies to automate their operations, resulting in operational efficiency. These sensors can monitor equipment conditions, detect anomalies, and optimize production workflows, resulting in reduced downtime, minimized errors, and enhanced overall productivity.
Manufacturers implementing wireless sensing and control technologies in their factory automation systems gain operational and financial benefits through the adoption of Wi-Fi 7 technology. Wi-Fi 7 enhances the reliability and speed of wireless communication within factory automation systems. This translates into quicker response times, more precise control, and the ability to manage larger volumes of data efficiently.
Smart cities have an increasing need for high-speed internet connectivity, and Wi-Fi 7 stands out as a solution that significantly enhances connectivity, efficiency, performance, and security for a wide array of smart city applications. These applications include real-time traffic and public transportation system monitoring, as well as the delivery of high-definition video surveillance. By implementing Wi-Fi 7, smart cities can improve their infrastructure, enabling efficient real-time data transfer for critical functions like traffic management and public safety.
In locations requiring high-density wireless connectivity, such as airports and stadiums, Wi-Fi 7 emerges as a compelling solution due to its advanced features, including the wide 320 MHz channels and enhanced multi-link operation. Wi-Fi 7 has the capacity to accommodate numerous simultaneous connections, allowing travelers and sports enthusiasts to stay connected to the internet without interruptions.
Over the past few years, emerging applications with heightened requirements for both high throughput and low latency have fueled the evolution of the IEEE 802.11 standard. Wi-Fi 7, as part of this ongoing development, introduces significant enhancements, primarily centered around the design of high-performance PHY and MAC protocols.
Furthermore, Wi-Fi 7 incorporates a range of advanced techniques, including Multiple RU utilization, 4096 QAM modulation, multi-link aggregation and operations, MIMO improvements, and coordination techniques across multiple APs. These collective innovations within the standard protocol are geared toward supporting applications such as cloud gaming, IoT in manufacturing, automated systems, and high-quality video streaming.
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