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November 6, 2023

Wi-Fi 7 to Offer ‘Flawless’ 8K Streaming

The Wi-Fi Alliance has said that it will start certifying Wi-Fi 7 devices from the first quarter of 2024. That is the next generation of the ubiquitous wireless technology so we had a look at what it means for 8K distribution.

Wi-Fi 7 is in the IEEE 802.11 series and will be known as 802.11be. Wi-Fi 6E had already allowed access to the higher frequency 6 GHz band but Wi-Fi 7 boosts the throughput of the technology. That’s a real advantage if you want to move big video files around or stream high resolution video such as 8K. The earlier generations of Wi-Fi were limited to the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, and Wi-Fi 7 is expected to boost performance even at these frequencies.

Image: Wi-Fi Alliance

Key Changes

Key changes in Wi-Fi 7 are:

  • 320 MHz channels. Wi-Fi 6 is designed to use a maximum of 160MHz channels in the 6 GHz band and that immediately doubles the potential throughput.
  • 4K QAM Quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) is a modulation system for data transmission and is used in Wi-Fi, cable and other video transmission systems. Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E used 1K QAM which has a reduced density of data per signal, so moving to 4K QAM can add another 20% of performance in Wi-Fi 7. This change is claimed to allow for “flawless streaming of 4K and 8K video, social cloud-based gaming without lag, and video conferencing with impeccable audio-visual quality”.
  • Multi-Link Operation (MLO). MLO adds further capacity as it allows devices to combine different channels across frequency bands together for simultaneous transmission and reception of data over multiple links. So, in busy and congested environments, Wi-Fi 7 devices will be able to combine data from 2.5 GHz and 5 GHz bands as well as exploiting the 6 GHz band. This can help to reduce latency as well as boosting throughput. Broadcom has said that “We’ve seen latencies drop from a second all the way down to 10, 20 milliseconds by the use of MLO.”

The changes are designed to allow the support of coming generations of multigigabit connectivity and is said to be able to support 10 Gigabit broadband connections (in the US, companies such as Quantum Fiber are already offering 8Gbps fiber-based connections in some very limited geographies).

Different Geographies

Peak performance will differ around the world as not all countries will open the full 6GHz band to Wi-Fi. The frequency range is also used for other applications. The FCC in the US has just decided to allow unlicensed access to the 6GHz band to Very Low Power (VLP) devices such as VR and AR headsets. VR headsets are seen as a significant application for the future of 8K video.

The Wi-Fi Alliance expects as many as 84 million devices to be certified and shipped to the Wi-Fi 7 level in 2024 so there will be a significant impact in the market.

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