“Wi-Fi is one of the most successful wireless technologies, and success also requires innovation. Wi-Fi 6E, an upgraded version of Wi-Fi 6 has just been launched, and has significantly improved bandwidth and speed.
Author: Chen Lingli
Wi-Fi is one of the most successful wireless technologies, and success also requires innovation. Wi-Fi 6E, an upgraded version of Wi-Fi 6 has just been launched, and has significantly improved bandwidth and speed.
When we are marveling at its extreme speed, as the next generation Wi-Fi 7 has emerged, continuing the impressive evolution of this technology launched more than 20 years ago. What new features will Wi-Fi 7 provide? Who needs Wi-Fi 7?
The Wi-Fi 6 era has begun
The Wi-Fi 6 standard was officially released in the middle of 2019. The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers defined it as IEEE 802.11ax, and the Wi-Fi Alliance responsible for commercial certification called it Wi-Fi 6 for the convenience of publicity. The birth of the name Wi-Fi 6 makes it an easy-to-understand technical term like 5G.
From a performance point of view, the Wi-Fi 6 standard supports both 2.4GHz/5GHz frequency bands and has 8×8 MU-MIMO, which can share uplink and downlink MU-MIMO data packets to 8 terminals at the same time.
Beginning in the third quarter of 2019, some mainstream manufacturers have successively entered the Wi-Fi 6 market. The sales volume of the first batch of Wi-Fi 6 products in the third quarter of 2019 was US$4.7 million. IDC’s “China WLAN Market Quarterly Tracking Report, Fourth Quarter of 2020” report shows that in 2020, the overall size of the WLAN market has reached 870 million U.S. dollars, of which Wi-Fi 6 accounted for 31.2%, and the scale reached 270 million U.S. dollars. Wi-Fi 6 The main reason for the rising trend during the epidemic is that the Internet has become a necessary support in various digital remote projects. IDC predicts that in 2021, Wi-Fi 6 will continue to expand its market share, and the Chinese market will approach a market size of US$470 million.
Compared with Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E is not a new version of Wi-Fi, but an upgraded version of Wi-Fi 6. In addition to supporting the 2.4GHz/5GHz frequency band originally used by Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E has also expanded a 6GHz frequency band. It should be pointed out that currently only a few countries such as the United States, South Korea and Chile have clearly opened the 6GHz frequency band for Wi-Fi use, and Europe is expected to open it before the end of June 2021.
Wi-Fi 6E is here, how far is Wi-Fi 7 from us? Recently, a working group of the IEEE802.1 Standards Committee announced the details of the 802.11be standard (ie Wi-Fi 7), indicating that good progress has been made in the formulation of the next-generation WLAN specifications. Wi-Fi 7 is expected to come out by the end of 2024.
What changes will Wi-Fi 7 bring?
Regarding the next-generation Wi-Fi technology (802.11be, or Wi-Fi 7), the Wi-Fi Alliance started its initial establishment in May 2018 and entered the project group in early 2019. The current protocol group is named IEEE 802.11 EHT (Extremely High Throughput) shows that it will have a huge advantage in throughput.
And now Qualcomm is already conducting research and development on Wi-Fi 7, and the network speed will be doubled compared to Wi-Fi 6. In addition, Wi-Fi 7 can also combine multiple spectrums, so it will also provide a higher quality experience on audio and video. In addition to Qualcomm, network chip manufacturers such as Broadcom and MediaTek are also actively developing Wi-Fi 7 chips.
However, if you want to see the actual product of Wi-Fi 7, it is too early to say. Maybe it will be two to three years before you have a chance to see Wi-Fi 7. As the final version of the Wi-Fi 7 equipment standard IEEE 802.11be will be released in the first half of 2024, Wi-Fi 7-based products may be on the shelves in the terminal market in the second half of 2024.
Although Wi-Fi 7 has not yet been launched and many new features are still being defined, the progress of the new standard shows us the trajectory of the development of Wi-Fi technology – where is Wi-Fi going, and what we can expect from it. And what will be the speed of change.
Wi-Fi 6 marks a big step forward for Wi-Fi 5. The improvements in Wi-Fi 6 greatly increase throughput. It fundamentally changes the way Wi-Fi transmits and manages traffic, which improves the overall quality, reliability, and security of the technology.
Wi-Fi 7 will further promote the development of Wi-Fi in the same direction. For example, in terms of technical specifications, the 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) standard uses 1024-QAM modulation, the maximum bandwidth supports 160MHz, and the theoretical maximum rate is 9.6Gbps. 802.11be (Wi-Fi 7) is expected to further upgrade the modulation In this way, 4096-QAM modulation is directly used. Due to the improvement of the physical layer, the transmission data capacity is greatly expanded.
Compared with 802.11ax, 802.11be will have the following improvements:
・ MIMO enhancement;
・ The speed can reach 30Gbps;
・ Three frequencies can work at the same time;
・ Higher modulation;
・ Lower latency.
Compared with Wi-Fi 6’s multi-user multi-output (MU-MIMO), which has 8 data streams working at the same time, Wi-Fi 7 will be upgraded to support the highest (Tx:16, Rx:16) data stream, which can greatly increase the wireless frequency. Broad and client support data, while introducing a more advanced CMU-MIMO. Among them, C stands for Coordinated (coordinated), which means that 16 data streams can be provided not by one access point, but by multiple wireless routers at the same time. This is just right for the Mesh WiFi network that has become popular in recent years, allowing terminals to connect to multiple at the same time Mesh wireless router. In other words, in the future Wi-Fi 7 era, the number of antennas will increase even more.
Added 6GHz spectrum, three frequencies work at the same time
The Wi-Fi 6 standard uses two frequency bands, 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Not long ago, the upgraded version of Wi-Fi 6E introduced a new 6GHz spectrum. Wi-Fi 7 will continue to support the 6GHz frequency band, and the three frequency bands can be connected to work at the same time, expanding the width of a single channel from Wi-Fi 6’s 160MHz to 320MHz. Wi-Fi 7 will also support 160+160MHz, 240+180MHZ and 160+80MHz channels to combine non-contiguous spectrum blocks, which also means that it can provide higher quality network connections.
Upgrade to 4096-QAM
In wireless technology, signal modulation is extremely important. The Wi-Fi 6 standard uses 1024-QAM modulation technology, and WiFi 7 is expected to upgrade the modulation method, directly using 4096-QAM, which can bring greater data capacity. Therefore, the final speed of Wi-Fi 7 can reach 30Gbps, which is three times the fastest Wi-Fi 6 speed currently launched at 9.6Gbps.
By introducing technologies such as multi-link operation (MLO), multi-AP coordination, and 320MHz bandwidth channels, the delay of Wi-Fi 7 can be greatly reduced and reliability can be improved. Among them, multi-link operation (MLO) enables devices to simultaneously transmit and receive across different frequency bands and channels. Wi-Fi 7 can enhance these links by increasing throughput, which is measured data between devices in a local network (LAN). MLO will also reduce latency and improve reliability.
Wi-Fi sensing function
Wi-Fi 7 is very different from previous generations of standards and will be the introduction of Wi-Fi sensing capabilities. It is reported that Wi-Fi 7 can detect people moving in different rooms without any sensors. According to IEEE Chairman Paul Nikolich (Paul Nikolich), the technology is still sensitive enough to even detect the user’s breathing rate, “because when they breathe, it will change the radio frequency characteristics and channel characteristics.”
We can imagine that this technology can be used in different application scenarios, such as security and environmental controllers in enterprises, wake-up and turn off of room lights, gesture control, health monitoring of babies or the elderly, and so on. If you really join, the imagination space will be very large. For example, such a system can be used to open doors automatically. When you go home, the home Internet will detect your presence and combine this data with the signal from the device or camera system you are wearing. When you walk upstairs, it will automatically unlock the door.
Multi-AP collaboration optimization
Multi-AP coordination (multi-AP coordination optimization), this may be a key point in Wi-Fi 7. Regarding the cooperation of multiple APs. At present, in the 802.11 working mode, there is actually no cooperation between the AP and the AP. The cooperation defined by some manufacturers is only to optimize the channel selection, so as to avoid conflicts between APs. The biggest benefit brought by AP cooperation is the distributed MIMO formed between APs. Two different APs can provide the MIMO transmission function for one node, which can greatly improve the efficiency of spatial multiplexing.
However, under this technology, the cooperative communication channel between AP and AP is a content that needs to be carefully designed. At present, the way of AP cooperation is through CAPWAP tunnel, wired connection to WLC, and further cooperation. This method requires that the APs are wired to connect to a common controller. However, if this is done, the use of Wi-Fi 7 requires multiple Wi-Fi 7 routers to take effect. Therefore, the ability to communicate between APs through wireless means, and then collaborate to produce distributed MIMO, is a key design content in Wi-Fi 7.
Convergence of Wi-Fi and mobile communications: Wi-Fi 7+6G
There is a very interesting phenomenon. 5G coverage has become more mature, but at the same time, the competition between 5G and Wi-Fi 6 continues to intensify. There are even threat theories that indicate that Wi-Fi technology will soon die. In fact, here is also feedback A very interesting question is whether there are barriers to the future development of different connection technologies, and how to solve the problem of mutual integration and collaboration?
Throughout the development of mobile communication and Wi-Fi, it is not difficult to find that the two have a trend or possibility of integration in technology and application fields. For example, in WLAN technology in recent years, MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple -Output, multi-user multi-input multi-output) and Mesh wireless broadband ad hoc network, etc., have borrowed from the technical ideas of mobile communication. Many industry insiders even assert that the next generation of connection technologies, namely 6G and Wi-Fi 7 will develop in concert , Deep integration. The future wireless AP is very likely to assume the role of Wi-Fi and also a 5G/6G signal micro base station transmitter, which will truly solve the problem of network interoperability.
Talking about Wi-Fi 6 technology, it focuses on network performance and optimization in dense AP scenarios. The core technology highlights are OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) and MU-MIMO technology. If users want to experience Wi-Fi -Features and network optimization under Fi 6 only need to use the relative terminal.
However, from the Wi-Fi 7 protocol specification process, we can see that the Wi-Fi scene will gradually shift from a single AP to multiple APs, and even eventually merge with communication technology to break the barriers of connection.
For example, in the 6G era, if you want to experience Wi-Fi 7 technology in a multi-AP scenario, you may not need to replace Wi-Fi 7-capable mobile phones, routers, laptops and other devices. You only need one The wireless AP supports Wi-Fi 7 characteristics, and it not only assumes the role of Wi-Fi, but also takes into account the signal transmission problems of some 5G/6G mobile communications. The whole is more like a miniature base station, which perfectly solves the cell between cross-devices. The integration of data and Wi-Fi has more advantages in terms of networking process, deployment cost, connection experience, etc., and this is actually the most concerned Multi-AP coordination in the Wi-Fi 7 protocol. Features, designed to solve the problem of integration and interoperability in multiple AP scenarios.
At the same time, IC vendors are advancing the Wi-Fi 7 layout-solving the connection problem from the bottom. The research on the multi-AP collaborative optimization feature of Wi-Fi 7 has become the consensus of the industry, including Intel, Cisco, MediaTek, Marvell, and Sony. , Samsung, Huawei, Nokia and other giants have all invested in this subject, and this seems to indeed be in line with the development trend of future technology.
In the future, mobile communications and Wi-Fi and other wireless connection technologies will inevitably be more closely integrated. The outdoor signal coverage and signal penetration problems that we are worried about will be solved one by one. In this process, whether it is from outside to inside (5G/ 6G), or attack from the inside out (Wi-Fi), it can be foreseen that the final combination will be a trend. This process may be relatively long, but the cutting-edge technology is worthy of continuous exploration.
The significance of Wi-Fi 7 to the industry
However, the above-mentioned technologies are only under planning. Whether they will be adopted eventually requires discussion and research by members of the WiFi Alliance and IEEE.
The performance and efficiency improvements of Wi-Fi 7 are impressive, but do we really need it? Is the current Wi-Fi not good enough? Wi-Fi 7 specifications are based on scenarios with strict delay and reliability requirements.
Wi-Fi 6 meets the needs of current use cases, but enhancements to Wi-Fi 7 will allow Wi-Fi to expand as adoption (and the resulting traffic density) increases and demand increases. Wi-Fi 7 provides a forwarding path to ensure Wi-Fi scalability to carry the ever-increasing traffic load and continue to meet user needs.
Wi-Fi 7 brings more flexibility and capabilities to companies undergoing digital transformation. Wi-Fi 7 and 3GPP-based 5G will work together to introduce edge computing, distributed and cloud architecture, virtualization and digitization in the emerging private wireless network (PWN). More specifically, Wi-Fi 7 will improve support for applications that need to determine delay, high reliability, and quality of service (QoS).
In enterprises, this will benefit IoT and industrial IoT applications such as industrial automation, surveillance, remote control, AV/VR and other video-based applications. Consumers can benefit from Wi-Fi 7 games, AV/VR and video applications, and smart home services.
Except for specific use cases, Wi-Fi 7 will continue to expand the availability of Wi-Fi and transmit most of the wireless traffic in corporate, public and residential environments in a low-cost manner, further improving the efficiency of the use of valuable spectrum resources.