Broadcom's new family of Wi-Fi 7 chips for enable will help implement the speed, latency and determinism, and features like multi-link operation offered by the new Wi-Fi standard.
Broadcom Inc. has announced details of five chips as part of its Wi-Fi 7 portfolio, targeting residential and enterprise access points and mobile handsets.
Wi-Fi 7 doubles the bandwidth of Wi-Fi 6 and 6E making it a good complement to the expanded worldwide Wi-Fi spectrum in the 6 GHz band. The theory is that Wi-Fi 7 will allow users to expect up to 2.4 times more throughput, reduced latency, and extended range, all with much higher reliability. These would enhance emerging applications like 16K video streaming, real-time collaboration, wireless gaming, and immersive augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR).
The new standard doubles Wi-Fi channel bandwidth with the introduction of 320 MHz channels. In combination with the upcoming 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.
A feature of Wi-Fi 7 is advanced multi-link operation (MLO). This allows devices to aggregate channels and to rapidly switch between channels, making it ideal for high-density and congested networks. MLO allows networks to guarantee commercial-grade quality of service and enables Wi-Fi as a time-sensitive networking technology for industrial and IoT applications.
MLO picks the less congested channel for data
To give this some context, Vijay Nagarajan, vice president of marketing for the wireless communications and connectivity division at Broadcom, explained, “Beyond just the raw speeds, Wi-Fi 7 introduces the notion of multi-link operation (MLO). MLO is to wireless data, what Google Maps is to me when I drive. When heading home from work, I religiously look at various route options on Google Maps. I choose the one that’s fastest—typically the one with least traffic. And this route is not the same each day. The net effect of this process though, is that I reach home faster on an average, and don’t suffer from bumper-to-bumper traffic.”
He added, “MLO, similarly, picks the less congested channel for your wireless data. This, in turn, drives sub-millisecond latency and higher determinism for your data. In other words, a higher percentage of your data has much lower latency than with prior Wi-Fi generations. In a high density, congested network MLO also simultaneously drives greater capacity as the device load gets balanced across multiple channels and each device is optimized for congestion. As a result, we see five times better throughput in congested networks with Wi-Fi 7, compared to Wi-Fi 6.”
In other words, MLO brings a focus on latency and capacity as society moves more and more into living in hyper-connected smart homes and enterprises that need multi-gigabit aggregate speeds across devices in the network.
The research director at analyst IDC, Phil Solis, reiterates this point. He said, “Aside from higher data rates, lower latency, and better network capacity, it is Wi-Fi 7’s spectrum flexibility across three bands, its emphasis on the large 6 GHz band, and new techniques like MLO that will greatly improve Wi-Fi’s deterministic performance. This is valuable to many different product types and especially to primary devices such as smartphones that have the combination of volume and heavy data usage across a wide variety of applications in both consumer and enterprise settings.”
Broadcom said it is sampling its new chips to early customers, who have underlined the significance of MLO. For example, Nabil Bukhari, chief technology officer and chief product officer, Extreme Networks, said, “Opening the 6 GHz spectrum marked significant advancements for Wi-Fi, particularly the impact it has had on our customers’ businesses. We’ve seen hospitals advance patient care because they can now flawlessly run bandwidth-intense medical applications, and large sports stadiums provide services like touchless transactions and mobile concessions. Wi-Fi 7 will only build on that success by offering new features like multi-link operation, which will provide a boost to mobile applications demanding low latency and high throughput. Extreme is proudly collaborating with Broadcom to continue to push the boundaries of Wi-Fi forward to create new ways for customers to bring innovative new services to market.”
And Pingji Li, VP & GM for TP-Link Corporation, added, “Wi-Fi speeds have almost reached unimaginable heights and now Wi-Fi 7 will take it a step further where throughput is no longer a limiting factor. In addition, new features like multi-link operation will elevate the stability and flexibility of networks to enable new applications like VR, 8K streaming, edge computing, and other premium experiences that create profound impactful changes for all.”
Addressing the need for deterministic wireless data
Nagarajan, writing in a blog, also explained why the time for Wi-Fi 7 has come. He said, “Today, our digital lifestyles are even more dependent on reliable broadband connectivity, and the need for 10G broadband is around the corner. The multi-gigabit broadband coming into our homes drives a conscious demand for reliable, deterministic wireless data. There are also studies pointing to the fact that consumer spending on gaming has increased by a whopping 40 percent, as compared to pre-pandemic levels. Consumers are increasingly using augmented reality and virtual reality headsets as new gaming devices to experience unprecedented levels of immersiveness.”
As a result of this digital transformation, he said there is a need for Wi-Fi that is not just high speed, but one that offers data at very low, deterministic latencies—across the whole home or office. “Our future wireless networks must also be built for the modern connected home, powering tens of high-speed devices connected to the internet at the same time. Wi-Fi 7 is tailor-made for this and bridges our mobile devices with multi-gig broadband entering our homes, venues and offices.”
He also believes Wi-Fi 7 will help fuel many metaverse ambitions, an immersive world “replete with advanced IoT applications, state-of-the-art medical applications and other new-age experiences.” Because of the speed, latency and determinism of Wi-Fi 7, it will be easier to create the metaverse vision in which people interact in real-time with renditions of other people, places and things.
Like everyone who talks about the metaverse, Nagarajan describes the scenarios enabled. He said, “Envision a world of immersive gaming experiences in your backyard, job training in the comfort of your living room, real-time fan experiences that make you feel like you’re there—all while your smart speakers, security cameras, sprinkler systems and 4K TVs are connected to your home network.”
Broadcom said it is the first company to unveil an ecosystem of Wi-Fi 7 solutions for residential (BCM67263, BCM6726), enterprise (BCM43740, BCM43720) and client devices (BCM4398). Its’ Wi-Fi 7 solutions are built on the success of its Wi-Fi 6E devices powered by 6 GHz (last month it announced it had sipped one billion Wi-Fi 6 and 6E Broadcom chips to individuals and enterprises across the world). The 320 MHz channels in the 6 GHz band, together with the 4096-QAM more than double the speeds. This helps improve overall network performance and coverage that complement the high broadband speeds that DOCSIS 4.0 and multi-gigabit PON technologies bring to the home.
The BCM67263 and BCM6726 target residential Wi-Fi access points, with key features including:
The BCM43740 and BCM43720 target enterprise Wi-Fi access points, with key features including:
The BCM4398 is a highly integrated Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5 combo chip optimized for mobile handset applications. Key features include:
This article was originally published on Embedded.
Nitin Dahad is a correspondent for EE Times, EE Times Europe and also Editor-in-Chief of embedded.com. With 35 years in the electronics industry, he’s had many different roles: from engineer to journalist, and from entrepreneur to startup mentor and government advisor. He was part of the startup team that launched 32-bit microprocessor company ARC International in the US in the late 1990s and took it public, and co-founder of The Chilli, which influenced much of the tech startup scene in the early 2000s. He’s also worked with many of the big names—including National Semiconductor, GEC Plessey Semiconductors, Dialog Semiconductor and Marconi Instruments.