2024: The year of Wi-Fi 7
Wi-Fi technologies have progressed rapidly in the past few years offering faster speeds and better in-home connectivity. But what sets Wi-Fi 7 apart, and how should service providers prepare to integrate it into their business strategies?
The growth of smart home devices shows no sign of slowing, with the average home now possessing over 22 devices. All these devices in homes and businesses require reliable, ultra-fast connectivity. In response, service providers have been rolling out faster multigigabit-capable networks to meet the growing bandwidth needs of the multi-user, multi-device home. With the latest evolution of Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 7), service providers have the right tools to extend multigigabit connectivity into the home and transform the subscriber experience.
Let's take a step back to understand the evolution of Wi-Fi, from its early roots as a nice-to-have option for connectivity to becoming an indispensable utility for homes and businesses.
Early generations of Wi-Fi including Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5 were focused on delivering high-speed wireless connectivity to a single device. With fewer wireless devices in the home, the approach involved a single wireless router or access point providing the highest throughput over the available bands. Newer generation Wi-Fi technologies also deliver higher speeds, but a new approach is now transforming Wi-Fi.
For reference, here’s a quick summary chart of Wi-Fi technology across generations.
Wi-Fi evolving beyond speed
As the number of wireless devices inside the home started to grow exponentially, a new approach to in-home connectivity was required. Newer generations of Wi-Fi, starting with Wi-Fi 6, focused on improving overall capacity and coverage as the KPIs. This approach involves efficiently delivering higher bandwidth (up to one Gigabit) to more devices often via a mesh network with multiple routers to achieve necessary coverage. That’s why Wi-Fi 6 or 802.11ax is also called High-Efficiency Wireless.
Cloud gaming and AR/VR
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) devices and applications continue to grow. Seamlessly blending real-world with virtual, these highly immersive applications are set to transform gaming, virtual learning and healthcare. At the same time, cloud applications and services, especially cloud gaming, have gained traction. By 2030, the cloud gaming market is expected to exceed $84 billion, encompassing over 500 million gamers worldwide. And 85% of gamers would pay more for better services and products. However, all these technologies require multigigabit bandwidth combined with low latency, stretching the limits of existing Wi-Fi networks.
Wi-Fi 7 at a glance
Wi-Fi 7 or 802.11be is the latest generation of WLAN technology that is expected to take center stage this year. Promising throughput rates of 30+Gbit/s, Wi-Fi 7 ushers in the multigigabit era, delivering up to 2.6Gbit/s on a single stream, ideal to support cloud gaming and other emerging consumer technologies. Here are the key advantages offered by Wi-Fi 7:
- Faster speeds: Wi-Fi 7 delivers up to 4x faster speeds to client devices using a combination of higher modulation (4K QAM) and wider (320MHz) channels in the 6GHz band.
- Greater reliability: Some of the most exciting advancements of Wi-Fi 7 focus on making Wi-Fi more reliable. Using innovations like multi-link operations (MLO) and multi-resource unit (MRU) puncturing, Wi-Fi 7 ensures highly reliable connectivity even in dense, high-interference environments.
- Low latency: MLO is a key innovation that delivers the twin benefits of reliability and ultra-low latency – delivering up to an 85% lower latency when compared to current generation Wi-Fi 6.
How does Wi-Fi 7 fit into your network strategy?
With fiber and 10Gbit/s networks becoming the norm, service providers need the right blend of Wi-Fi technologies to capture multiple market segments. Current generation Wi-Fi 6 and 6E (and even Wi-Fi 5) technologies are essential to address multiple residential and business subscriber needs – from low-cost broadband to Gigabit to 2+ Gigabit services. With Wi-Fi 7, service providers can raise the bar on multigigabit speeds. More importantly, service providers can now target the lucrative but hard-to-reach gaming community with low-latency, highly reliable wireless connectivity.
To learn more on the implications of the growth of cloud gaming and AR/VR and Wi-Fi 7, check out our recent webinar, Monetizing fiber investments – strategies to target the lucrative gaming industry.