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Reinventing Wi-Fi: Inside the Groundbreaking New Capabilities of Wi-Fi 7

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Blog-EB Wi-Fi-7-wall

We’re on the cusp of a new generation of wireless use cases, including multi-player gaming, augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR), and even mission-critical enterprise and industrial applications.

If you follow the wireless space, you know that the leadup to each new generation of Wi-Fi brings lots of buzz from vendors, analysts, and tech media alike. Yet, for this latest generation, the hype may actually be underselling things. It’s hard to overstate just how much new innovation has been packed into Wi-Fi 7.

The scope of these new technical capabilities is a testament to how mature Wi-Fi has become—and how much more it’s now being asked to do. Beyond merely increasing throughput, the biggest changes in Wi-Fi 7 reflect a broad industry push to apply Wi-Fi to new use cases, including more performance-sensitive and mission-critical applications.

Spirent recently released AWi-Fi 7 eBook: The Technology Behind the Fastest, Most Reliable Wi-Fi Ever. We offer a deep dive into what’s new in Wi-Fi 7, what’s driving these changes, and what service providers, network equipment manufacturers (NEMs), and end users can expect. Following are some of the highlights.

Envisioning a New World of Wi-Fi

Back when the first Wi-Fi products came out in 1997, connections were slow, coverage was spotty, and the service experience was far from reliable. At the time, though, Wi-Fi was basically a luxury—not something people depended on for critical applications. Fast forward to 2024, and Wi-Fi is practically everywhere, providing a primary internet connection for millions at home, at work, and in almost every public and private space.

We’re now on the cusp of a new generation of wireless use cases, including multi-player gaming, augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR), and even mission-critical enterprise and industrial applications. But the more ambitious the use case, the higher the stakes. Spotty performance might be acceptable when Wi-Fi is merely a convenience. When applying it to industrial robotics, or healthcare monitoring, or real-time AI vision applications, the margin for error shrinks considerably. Customers expect more.

Fortunately, this is exactly where Wi-Fi 7 shines. Along with huge increases in throughput, Wi-Fi 7 introduces new techniques to meet more fine-grained performance requirements—and meet them consistently enough for critical real-time applications. New Wi-Fi 7 features:

  • Improve uplink/downlink performance to minimize delays between devices and the cloud

  • Reduce delay for applications like multi-player gaming and AR/VR

  • Enable deterministic latency and quality for real-time industrial applications

  • Increase efficiency by improving performance, load balancing, and reliability

引用文

Spotty performance might be acceptable when Wi-Fi is merely a convenience. When applying it to industrial robotics, or healthcare monitoring, or real-time AI vision applications, the margin for error shrinks considerably. Customers expect more.

Improving Wi-Fi Performance

Wi-Fi 7 features multiple improvements to enhance performance, especially in use cases with many devices operating in the same airspace, and boosts throughput to 30 Gbps. Key innovations include:

  • Increasing bandwidth with 320 MHz channels: Markets worldwide have recently released spectrum in the 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi, enabling the use of channels 4x larger than Wi-Fi 6—with 4x the data transmission. Wi-Fi 7 also introduces “preamble puncturing” technology to remove the noisy, unusable parts of this spectrum, so devices can use as much channel bandwidth as possible. These changes optimize spectrum efficiency, especially when interference is present.

  • Increased quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) density: Wi-Fi 7 introduces a 4096 QAM constellation to improve throughput for use cases like AR/VR. “4K QAM” provides 20% more bits per signal and 4x more symbols than Wi-Fi 6. This change allows Wi-Fi 7 devices to transmit far more data per signal but makes it essential to minimize path loss and achieve a more precise signal-to-noise ratio (SNR).

    Blog-EB Wi-Fi-7

  • OFDMA improvements: Wi-Fi 6 introduced orthogonal frequency-division multiple access schemes, which improve spectrum efficiency by allowing multiple users to access the same channels simultaneously. Wi-Fi 7 optimizes this process by allocating multiple frequency groupings to each device on a packet-by-packet basis. This reduces channel contention and latency—especially important for high-density scenarios like gaming that are sensitive to delay.

Enabling New Use Cases

Throughput increases can help reduce delay, but Wi-Fi latency needs to get even better—and much more predictable—to support next-generation use cases. This is especially important for applications with multiple simultaneous users, like gaming and teleconferencing, where added latency and jitter can render applications unusable.

For voice applications, users will notice latency higher than 100ms. Visual delays for gaming applications must be less than 10 ms, or they can disrupt the user experience—and, with AR/VR, even make users ill.

Wi-Fi 7 introduces several new capabilities to address these requirements and achieve deterministic performance metrics. OFDMA, for example, enables more efficient multi-user transmission and spectrum allocation. It can also help guarantee maximum latency by reserving “quiet periods” for transmitting latency-sensitive packets.

New multi-link operation (MLO) techniques provide additional throughput, reliability, and load-balancing improvements by aggregating links and treating them as a single logical radio. This can increase bandwidth (by distributing the load over multiple links) or reliability (by sending duplicate packets over multiple links when coverage is poor). MLO can also improve latency by allocating links based on the delay sensitivity of the data.

Rethinking Wi-Fi Testing

As exciting as these new features are, it’s important to remember that it’s not enough to be able to meet more demanding performance requirements for new wireless use cases. Vendors and solution developers must validate that new products actually deliver them—especially for mission-critical real-time applications.

Some Wi-Fi 7 innovations (320 MHz channels, OFDMA improvements) extend existing Wi-Fi 6 features, so require only minor changes to testbeds. Others, however, create significant new challenges. To properly test and validate Wi-Fi 7 solutions, vendors and OEMs need testbeds that support:

  • Much higher SNR with minimal path loss

  • High-throughput/low path loss channel emulation to generate more precise KPIs

  • High-precision latency measuring tools that can take 10,000 measurements per second

  • Simultaneous, synchronized monitoring across multiple radio links to test MLO

  • Automation and scalability to support a much larger number of tests

  • Wireless testing to reduce the need for cabling many more devices

The good news: organizations developing new Wi-Fi solutions can work with Spirent to meet all of these requirements. With solutions like Octobox Automated Wireless Testbeds, they can take full advantage of everything Wi-Fi 7 has to offer and unleash a new generation of wireless innovation.

For more details on Wi-Fi 7 technical innovations, and the new testing capabilities needed to make the most of them, download the eBook.

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タグWi-Fi
Steve Shearer

Principal Architect, Wi-Fi

Steve Shearer joined Spirent as principal architect for Wi-Fi after the acquisition of octoScope where he was chief scientist. Previously Steve was a distinguished engineer at Wi-Fi Alliance where he led the industry wide LTE/Wi-Fi Coexistence activities and brought Easy Mesh™ and Wi-Fi 6® to market launch. Steve also worked at Philips on terrestrial radio systems such as TETRA, GSM, TDMA and CDMA where he was involved in R&D and standards activities. He architected the Philips UWB radio, contributed the OFDM PHY into 802.15.4g, and worked on smart grid at Silver Spring Networks. Steve received his BSc. From University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, and his M.S. From Georgia Tech. Steve has authored 12 patents.