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Broadcom adds speed and reliability with Wi-Fi 7 chipsets

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In a move that the company says will more than double the speed of current Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7 performance, Broadcom has announced the availability of chipset solutions for the Wi-Fi 7 ecosystem (product details below). This will greatly improve the user experience by delivering reliable, low-latency communications and extended range. It doubles Wi-Fi channel bandwidth with the introduction of 320 MHz channels.  

“Wi-Fi 7 will be beneficial everywhere, from [the] general enterprise space for better virtual meetings with video to any vertical market requiring higher data rates and/or more reliable connectivity,” said Phil Solis, an analyst at IDC. “It adds value to many different product types and especially to primary devices such as smartphones that have the combination of heavy volume and heavy data usage across a wide variety of applications in both consumer and enterprise settings.” 

Wi-Fi evolves to address consumer and enterprise needs 

Demand for high-performance Wi-Fi has accelerated since COVID-19 served as a catalyst to work-from-home. People are keen to take advantage of the steady improvement in features and performance offered by Wi-Fi networks over the past decade. 

Wi-Fi 4 provided basic features for internet and multi-device homes, but lacked enterprise capabilities. Wi-Fi 5 not only solved the exploding need for consumer/home video consumption, it provided enough bandwidth, resilience and speed to make wireless communication attractive for businesses. But the growth of bidirectional video applications such as WhatsApp and WebEx and social media videos from TikTok and Facebook Live called for a redesign. 

Wi-Fi 6 streamlined wireless transmissions and improved uploads. Such was its popularity that regulatory efforts against unlicensed access brought about Wi-Fi 6E, which boosted performance yet again. As a result, 60% of consumers upgraded their home Wi-Fi in 2021 and 75% plan to purchase additional Wi-Fi devices in 2022, according to Comcast’s Wi-Fi Trends Report. Broadcom benefitted, too. It has shipped over a billion Wi-Fi 6 and 6E devices since 2019. 

The need for Wi-Fi 7 speed

10G broadband is coming soon. It will drive further demand for high-speed wireless offering data at low, deterministic latencies across the home or office. Thus, wireless networks are gearing up to be able to connect large numbers of devices in one locale without a loss in performance. 

Enter Wi-Fi 7 as the bridge between mobile devices and multi-gig broadband for homes, event venues and offices. In combination with the impending launch of Automatic Frequency Coordination (AFC), Wi-Fi 7 uses optimal spectrum allocation to enable high-power access points and extends the 6 GHz transmit range in both indoor and outdoor environments. 

Broadcom’s Wi-Fi 7 design with native AFC makes is said to offer up to 63 times more transmit power than low power indoor 6 GHz Wi-Fi devices. 

“Wi-Fi 7 improves network capacity and latency performance, both of which are as important for enterprise deployments as for residential access,” said Vijay Nagarajan, vice president, Wireless Connectivity Division at Broadcom. “Together with AFC, Wi-Fi 7 will now bring the ability to operate in 6 GHz bands both indoors and outdoors. Venues, office buildings, hospitals and other dense environments will all benefit from these improvements.”  

He added that Wi-Fi 7 bridges mobile devices and multi-gig broadband entering homes. Wi-Fi 7’s focus on speeds, latency and de-congesting network performance is in line with connectivity improvements across the digital value chain. 

“This meets the demanding trends evolving from a mixed-mode work office where you see greater collaboration over the Internet,” said Nagarajan. “Applications using augmented reality and virtual reality for rendering, diagnostics and training are expected to become more mainstream as Wi-Fi 7 is made available.” 

Those bringing this technology into a business setting are likely to need upgrades to complement Wi-Fi 7. As well as upgrading routers and access points, there will be a need for more data storage, cloud resources and network edge servers, devices and networking. 

Wi-Fi 7 benefits 

With the rise of remote and home-based work, as well as growing demand for immersive gaming and streaming in the consumer sphere, Wi-Fi 7’s 320 MHz channels, together with 4096-QAM modulation, more than double the throughput of Wi-Fi 6E for residential customers. 

“Enterprise settings will benefit from Wi-Fi 7’s faster speeds and lower latencies from the improved specification, heavy use of the large 6 GHz band and backwards compatibility with Wi-Fi 6 and 6E,” said Solis. “More importantly, network capacity will be much more deterministic because there is more spectrum across the three bands and especially the 6 GHz band, there is more efficient use of non-contiguous pieces of spectrum and different access points can use the same channels at the same time.”

Enterprise and residential networks will also find value in the advanced multi-link operation (MLO) capabilities of Wi-Fi 7. MLO enables devices to aggregate channels and switch rapidly between channels. This opens the door to guaranteed commercial-grade quality of service. A higher percentage of organizational data has much lower latency than with prior Wi-Fi generations. 

In a high-density, congested network, the device load gets balanced across multiple channels. Each device is optimized for congestion and capacity improves by up to five times for congested networks, compared to Wi-Fi 6. Further, Wi-Fi becomes capable of serving a time-sensitive networks for industrial and internet of things (IoT) applications, as well as video streaming and applications that require reliability in congested environments.

“The performance metrics for Wi-Fi 7 — speed, latency and determinism — solve the edge connectivity challenge with many devices competing for airtime with relatively low-latency, high-data needs,” said Nagarajan. “With Wi-Fi 7, our partners have inspired products and applications for immersive gaming experiences in the backyard, job training in the comfort of [a] living room, real-time fan experiences that make you feel like you’re there — all while smart speakers, security cameras, sprinkler systems and 4K/8K TVs are connected to the home network. Further, Wi-Fi 7’s focus on low latency, high reliability and high-speed communication can power bandwidth-intense applications in hospitals, stadiums, office buildings, hotels and beyond.”  

Solis added that two separate connections can be made between the client and access point for increased speed and reliability – one link might have a little interference while the other is stable – or the device can connect to an access point and a peripheral (AR headset for example) at the same time.  

“This is something that has existed in Wi-Fi for a while but will be standardized and improved upon,” said Solis. 

Wi-Fi 7 product details 

Rather than release a few Wi-Fi 7 tools, Broadcom has announced a family of available connectivity solutions for residential (BCM67263, BCM6726), enterprise (BCM43740, BCM43720) and client devices (BCM4398).

The BCM67263 for the residential Wi-Fi access point market includes the following features:

  • Support for 4 streams of Wi-Fi 7
  • Single radio that supports 6 GHz band
  • Up to 11.5 Gbps PHY rate
  • Up to 320 MHz channel bandwidth
  • 4096-QAM modulation
  • Multi-link operation (MLO)
  • Full compliance to IEEE and WFA Wi-Fi 7 specifications

The BCM6726 is optimized for the residential Wi-Fi access point market. Key features include the following

  • Support for 4 streams of Wi-Fi 7
  • Single radio that supports 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, or 6 GHz bands
  • Up to 5.75 Gbps PHY rate
  • Up to 160 MHz channel bandwidth
  • 4096-QAM modulation
  • Multi-link operation (MLO)
  • Full compliance to IEEE and WFA Wi-Fi 7 specifications

The BCM43740 for the enterprise Wi-Fi access point market includes the following:

  • Support for 4 streams of Wi-Fi 7
  • Single radio that supports 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, or 6 GHz bands
  • Up to 11.5 Gbps PHY rate
  • Up to 320 MHz channel bandwidth
  • 4096-QAM modulation
  • Multi-link operation (MLO)
  • Full compliance to IEEE and WFA Wi-Fi 7 specifications

The BCM43720 for the enterprise Wi-Fi access point market includes the following:

  • Support for 2 Streams of Wi-Fi 7
  • Single radio dedicated for scanning in the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, or 6 GHz bands
  • Up to 2.88 Gbps PHY rate
  • Up to 160 MHz channel bandwidth
  • 4096-QAM modulation
  • Multi-link operation (MLO)
  • Full compliance to IEEE and WFA Wi-Fi 7 specifications

The BCM4398 is an integrated Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5 combo chip for mobile handset applications. Key features include:

  • Support for 2-stream Wi-Fi 7
  • 320 MHz channel bandwidth
  • 6.05 Gbps PHY rate
  • 4096-QAM modulation
  • Client multi-link operation (MLO)
  • Compliance to IEEE and WFA Wi-Fi 7 standards, as well as Bluetooth Denver standard

Broadcom has begun sampling these Wi-Fi 7 chips to early access partners and customers in retail, enterprise and smartphone, service provider and carrier segments. Meanwhile, companies such as Arcadyan, Asus, Extreme Networks, NetGear, Sagemcom, Sercomm, Technicolor Connected Home and TP-Link have announced products such as routers, gateways, access points and client devices that support these new Wi-Fi 7 Broadcom chipsets. 

“We forecast that in five years, Wi-Fi revenue will exceed that of any other Wi-Fi technology,” said Chris DePuy, an analyst at 650 Group. “Wi-Fi 7 takes advantage of the new 6 GHz spectrum. The emergence of 6 GHz is so compelling that we expect well over half of the revenues for both the consumer and enterprise markets to come from Wi-Fi systems based on 6 GHz devices.” 

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