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January 20, 2022
Taiwanese chip maker MediaTek has demonstrated its new Wi-Fi 7 products to key customers and partners.
Apparently everyone is champing at the bit to play around with real-time virtual reality and stream in 8K, so tech firms have begun to work on the new generation of wifi to support these applications.
Taiwanese chip maker MediaTek wants to steal a march on its rivals, which is why this week it revealed its offering. Wi-Fi 7 is the ‘street name’ for the IEEE’s 802.11be extremely high throughput (EHT) standard, which promises to deliver a peak speed of 46 Gbps, a significant improvement over Wi-Fi 6, which tops out at 9.6 Gbps.
“The rollout of Wi-Fi 7 will mark the first time that Wi-Fi can be a true wireline/Ethernet replacement for super high-bandwidth applications,” claimed Alan Hsu, corporate vice president and general manager of MediaTek’s Intelligent Connectivity division, in a statement on Wednesday. “MediaTek’s Wi-Fi 7 technology will be the backbone of home, office and industrial networks and provide seamless connectivity for everything from multi-player AR/VR applications to cloud gaming and 4K calls to 8K streaming and beyond.”
So what is Wi-Fi 7? In a nutshell, it’s more of everything Wi-Fi 6 does, plus some extra bells and whistles. According to a draft IEEE paper published in 2020, channel bandwidths will double to 320 MHz, and so will the number of antennas, to 16. It also uses 4K quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), compared to the 1024 QAM used in Wi-Fi 6. Wi-Fi 7 will also introduce multi-link operation (MLO) to combine multiple channels in different bands into a single, larger channel, providing a faster, stronger signal. In addition, taking a leaf out of the cellular industry’s coordinated multipoint playbook, Wi-Fi 7 will also let devices simultaneously communicate with more than one access point on the same network. These are the highlights at least, and you can be sure there are probably loads of other clever and subtle things going into the specification.
“Faster broadband Internet access and more demanding applications such as higher resolution video streaming and VR gaming are driving demand for Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E, and soon Wi-Fi 7,” said Mario Morales, group vice president, Semiconductors at IDC. “Wi-Fi 7’s advances in channel width, QAM, and new features such as multi-link operation (MLO) will make Wi-Fi 7 very attractive for devices including flagship smartphones, PCs, consumer devices and vertical industries like retail and industrial.”
It needs to be said at this point that Wi-Fi 7 is still very much one for the future.
The industry has only recently begun talking about an incremental upgrade to Wi-Fi 6. Called Wi-Fi 6E, it adds a third frequency, the 6 GHz band, to improve performance (read more about it here). In addition, the sort of services Wi-Fi 7 is supposed to support haven’t exactly reached critical mass yet. Even entry level 8K TVs still cost more than a thousand pounds, and there isn’t much in the way of 8K content knocking about. Even if there was, an end user would need a home Internet connection of around 80 Mbps just to access a single 8K stream. Not everyone is getting those speeds yet.
As for home AR and VR equipment, IDC reckons global shipments reached 9.7 million units last year, and will grow to 32.8 million by 2025. Solid growth, but it’s not like there will be two in every household any time soon. Plus, anyone who’s used a headset for any length of time will know that comfort is still an issue, even once the feeling of nausea has subsided.
With that in mind, it’s clear that despite MediaTek’s enthusiasm, Wi-Fi 7 is some way off commercialisation.
Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.
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