2024 is touted to see the release of the latest Wi-Fi standard, the 802.11be or Wi-Fi 7. It aims to deliver extremely high throughput (EHT). The latest addition is set to revolutionize wireless transmission with its 4.8x faster speed than Wi-Fi 6, better efficiency, deterministic latency, and higher reliability. 

Wi-Fi 7: An Overview 

Wi-Fi 7 works along all three bands 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz simultaneously, utilizing the full spectrum of resources, a feat never achieved before. Unlike its predecessors, the Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E (IEEE 802.11ax) this new addition reduces buffering, lag, and congestion and is the best bet for stable, high-speed, and high-res data transmission. 

Figure 1: Diagram of Wi-Fi 7 Design Practice

The Wi-Fi 7 will have a shorter propagation range which is aimed to cater to dense and challenging environments like airports, sports arenas, crowded shopping malls, etc. It also promises a lower latency and higher reliability which enables time-sensitive networking (TSN) use cases like AR, VR, online gaming, and robotic surgery.

Wi-Fi 7 aims to achieve high reliability, with a goal of three or more ‘nines’ (99.9% or better) uptime, along with deterministic latency of less than 10 milliseconds. These features make it a strong candidate for replacing wired communications in critical applications.

How Is Wi-Fi 7 Different from Wi-Fi 6/6E? 

A quick comparison of the Wi-Fi 6/6E to Wi-Fi 7 will highlight the startling new advances in tech this brings forth.

Bands

Dubbed the IEEE 802.11be, the Wi-Fi 7 uses 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz as well as 6 GHz, whereas the Wi-Fi 6/6E (IEEE 802.11 ax) uses 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz only. What this means to the end user is:

  1. Faster Speeds: Wi-Fi 7 can deliver higher data rates due to the additional frequency band. Users can experience improved performance for streaming, gaming, and other bandwidth-intensive tasks.
  2. Reduced Congestion: With the 6 GHz band, there’s more room for devices to operate without interference. This helps reduce congestion in densely populated areas.
  3. Compatibility: Wi-Fi 7 is backward compatible with Wi-Fi 6/6E and older standards. Devices that support Wi-Fi 7 can still connect to existing networks.
  4. Future-Proofing: As more devices adopt Wi-Fi 7, users will be prepared for the next generation of wireless technology.

Ultra-Wide Channels – 320 MHz

Wi-Fi 7 rolls out the ultra-wide 320 MHz channels which doubles the data transmission capacity.  While Wi-Fi 6/6E had only 20, 40, 80, and 160 MHz, the Wi-Fi 7 has 3 additional ultra-wide 320 MHz channel bandwidth in the 6GHz band. 

Wi-Fi 7’s ultra-wide channels act like widening a previously congested freeway. It can now accommodate larger vehicles or in this context, data packets, which significantly boosts overall data transmission capacity. 

What this means for the user is that with wider channels, more data can be transmitted simultaneously. Users will experience faster download and upload speeds, especially in environments with high data demand. The ultra-wide channels allow more data packets to flow freely reducing congestion and improving overall network performance. In real-time applications like streaming and gaming, there is reduced lag and smoother video playback.

4K – QAM

Wi-Fi 7 in terms of data transmission rates majorly improves upon its predecessors. Called the 4K-QAM or Quadrature Amplitude Modulation, this upgrade improves upon the previous model.  Wi-Fi 7 has 4096 QAM, hence called 4K QAM. It encases 12 bits/symbol allowing more information to be encoded into it. In comparison, the Wi-Fi 6 model uses 1024 QAM which encases 10 bits/symbol.  

In short, 4K QAM provides: 

  1. Higher Data Rates: To the end user, this is a 20% increase in transmission speed compared to Wi-Fi 6 because it can pack signals more densely. This allows to encode more information into each signal. 
  2. Efficient Spectrum Utilization: Wi-Fi 7 can transmit more bits per symbol, making better use of available frequency bands. This efficiency benefits end users by delivering faster and more reliable connections.

Multi-Link Operation (MLO)

Another game-changing concept that Wi-Fi 7 brings to the table is the MLO or Multi Link Operation. This was a feature that did not exist in any previous models of Wi-Fi, creating a whole new set of wireless communication scenarios. 

With MLO, a client device can communicate with an access point (AP) over multiple radios and frequency bands simultaneously. For Multi-Link Operation (MLO), both your device (STA) and the router (AP) must support Wi-Fi 7, but the 6 GHz band is optional.

Here’s how it affects end users:

  1. Simultaneous Connections: With MLO, your device can connect to the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz bands all at once. This increases throughput, reduces latency, and improves reliability.
  2. Ideal for Emerging Applications like AR & VR: MLO benefits applications like VR/AR, online gaming, remote office, and cloud computing. It’s like widening the communication highway, allowing more data to flow seamlessly.
  3. STA and AP Compatibility: Both your device (STA) and the router (AP) need to support Wi-Fi 7 and MLO. The 6 GHz band isn’t mandatory for MLO.

Multi-Resource Units (MRU) and Puncturing

Channels can sometimes encounter interferences, which can lead to spectrum resource wastages. However, with the advent of Wi-Fi 7, there is less wastage of resources. Thanks to the Multi-Resource Units (MRU) and Puncturing method, devices can take full advantage of the remaining part of the channel in case there is an interruption.  The benefits are:

  1. Concurrent Support: RUs allow multiple users to communicate simultaneously, optimizing network traffic.  
  2. Efficient Distribution: RUs can be dynamically allocated across different frequencies, increasing throughput and reducing latency.
  3. Quicker Data Transmission: By avoiding interference, Wi-Fi bandwidth is used optimally, resulting in faster and more reliable data transfer.

Use Cases How is Wi-Fi 7 Set to Change the Future? 

Wi-Fi 7 at a glance promises 3 major improvements over Wi-Fi 6/6E:

  • 4.8x Faster Speed   
  • 5x Capacity 
  • Ultra Low Latency 

In this light, let us look at some major use cases where we can see this innovative new tech implemented. 

4K/8K Media Streaming 

With video qualities going as high as 4K and 8K, and combining them with live streaming facilities, Wi-Fi 7 provides an unparalleled opportunity to outshine any previous tech. With less interference and congestion, one can achieve smooth, high-resolution streaming of high-quality video and audio. 

Smart Homes

As homes become more connected, the integration of Matter-over-Thread technologies plays a crucial role in creating seamless and secure smart environments. The concept of Matter leverages both Wi-Fi 7 and the Thread to ensure interoperability among diverse devices, while the Thread concept provides reliable mesh networking for IoT devices within the home. Together, they form a robust foundation for the future of connected living. 

Wi-Fi 7 with significant improvements in speed, capacity, and efficiency aims to provide better coverage and seamless connectivity across various devices in future smart homes. 

Gaming

Wi-Fi 7 changes the gaming industry in unprecedented ways in terms of speed, cloud gaming, and augmented and virtual reality gaming experiences. With Wi-Fi 7 gamers can download large game files, stream high-definition content, and participate in online matches without a frustrating lag. It also minimizes latency, allowing near-instantaneous communication between your device and the game server and smoother interactions between online players in the case of Multi-player games. Wi-Fi 7 gives online gaming a new definition of seamlessness. 

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) 

VR and AR demand high bandwidth and low latency. Wi-Fi 7 enables this immersive experience thanks to its additional bandwidths and bands. With higher speeds and better connectivity, Wi-Fi 7 makes VR and AR experiences smoother and more seamless. It can be explored to a higher potential in more areas in the future. 

IIoT

Wi-Fi 7 plays a great role in the future of industrial automation, especially in industries like manufacturing and distribution. Wi-Fi 7, with its capacity or ultra-fast speed, reliable connectivity, and low latency makes automation, data exchange, and smart technologies much more efficient. 

Summing Up 

While Wi-Fi 7 is all set to make waves in the wireless world, the rest of the world is yet to catch up in terms of hardware and software. Although WI-FI 7 was officially released on January 8 2024 by the Wi-Fi Alliance in the US, UK, Australia, Japan, and Mexico, it is yet to roll out in the rest of the world. Regulatory approval can also get in the way of its implementation in several countries. The early models of Wi-Fi 7 routers have begun to show up in varying price ranges, from budget-friendly ranges to high-end mesh routers.

Figure 2: Image of Wi-Fi 7 Router

Figure 2: Image of Wi-Fi 7 Router

Amphenol Communications Solutions has state-of-the-art solutions to meet the challenges of Wi-Fi 7 routers. The BergStak® 0.8mm is a flexible solution designed for high-speed and high-density, parallel board-to-board connector systems.

Figure 3: Right Angle PCIe connector 0.50mm

Figure 3: Right Angle PCIe® connector 0.50mm

Figure 4: Diagram of 0.80mm BergStak® PCIe Gen3

Figure 4: Diagram of 0.80mm BergStak® PCIe® Gen3

With a stack height of 16 PCB stack height and available in 9 sizes from 40 to 200 positions, this connector is ideal for the upcoming Wi-Fi 7 router requirements. Its housing and terminal profile guarantees support of up to 12Gb/s living up to the promise of the latest offering from Wi-Fi Alliance.

As a highly anticipated addition to the tech world, Wi-Fi 7 is sure to make heads turn and make waves. And with it bring about changes like never before. Only time will tell what they are and how it's going to be.