What does Wi-Fi 7 mean for service providers?
by Kajsa Arvidsson
The telecom industry is anxiously waiting for Wi-Fi 7 to be available. Not to mention, consumers have probably heard about the speed and performance it promises. So let’s take a closer look at what we can expect from the latest generation of Wi-Fi technology and what Wi-Fi 7 means for the communications service providers (CSPs) offering broadband services for smart homes.
What is Wi-Fi 7?
Wi-Fi 7 is based on the IEEE802.11be standard, which still requires approval and is expected during 2024. So by early 2024, we can look forward to certification becoming available, according to Wi-Fi Alliance.
The latest generation introduces a paradigm shift in technology and a significant evolution of Wi-Fi. It will have a major impact. Some of the main benefits include:
• Higher throughput: capable of supporting a maximum physical rate of 46 Gbps*, almost four times the maximum speed of Wi-Fi 6.
• Reduced latency and higher reliability: essential for time-sensitive networking, such as cloud computing, AR/VR applications, gaming, and 4K and 8K video streaming.
• Works across several frequencies: 2.4, 5 and 6 GHz frequency bands.
• Load balancing with Multi-Link Operation (MLO): this is the primary feature and what CSPs have been waiting for. This means balancing loads and aggregation by combining multiple channels on the same or different frequency bands to improve performance.
Why is MLO key?
Previous generations of Wi-Fi could only connect client devices to any one of the two (or three considering 6GHz**) Wi-Fi bands at any point in time. In Wi-Fi 7, multiple frequency bands in client devices can be used simultaneously to establish Multi-Link with a Wi-Fi 7 capable Access Point (AP). This positively impacts speed for a modern smart home crowded with devices and competing for bandwidth. From the end-user perspective, MLO will dramatically improve speed, performance and overall experience.
*Maximum physical rate is computed considering the maximum supported configuration, f.e. Wi-Fi 7 maximum physical rate is 46Gbps considering 4K QAM, 5/6 coding rate, 16 SS, and at 320MHz bandwidth.
**Wi-Fi 6E defines operation in the 6GHz UNII-5 to UNII-8 (i.e. 5955 MHz ~ 7115 Mhz) band. Wi-Fi 7 also includes operation in this same band.
What should CSPs think about?
Wi-Fi 7 is backward compatible – this means it supports legacy Wi-Fi devices in all the bands. As a result, consumers won’t need all new devices or hardware to connect to a Wi-Fi 7 router. For CSPs, the upgrade to Wi-Fi 7 is a potential opportunity and headache at the same time. It is an opportunity because CSPs can upsell for router upgrades. It is a headache because consumers might expect Wi-Fi 7 performance from their older router, increasing customer tech-support calls. To experience all the benefits of Wi-Fi 7, consumers will need Wi-Fi 7 devices and routers at some stage.
CSPs should consider separating software from hardware to manage the complexity and coexistence of different generations of routers. By separating the two, CSPs can deploy a single unified software where the homogeneous software layer applies to all routers CSPs offer for the home. In addition, with a unified software approach, adding third-party applications requires only ONE integration versus one for any router. The application remains when the consumer upgrades to a next-generation router.
If you have open-source software, this also makes it easier to handle a variety of devices efficiently and quickly. An open-source operating system such as IOWRT provides a software platform for CSPs to meet consumer demand and manage the competition. IOWRT combines technology from the OpenWrt* community with carrier-grade requirements for broadband and IoT.
Wi-Fi 7 is just around the corner and IOPSYS can help CSPs develop their services to meet smart home needs.
*OpenWrt is a trademark owned by software in the Public Interest, Inc.