In a recent post, I began to discuss the latest generation of wireless networks, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax). However, like all sectors of technology, the next new thing is already yesterday’s news. Currently, Wi-Fi 6 is finally arriving on select laptops, networking equipment, and phones, leaving the rest of the tech industry desperately trying to catch up. While staying current with modern technological advances is critical for those in IT, looking towards the future is how we, as professionals, not only embrace change, but be prepared to utilize it to enhance business operations, communication, and profit.
Much of the information about the successor to Wi-Fi 6 is still unclear. Although, I wanted to share some of my early thoughts about future updates. The changes to Wi-Fi 6 will most likely occur in a series of steps, essentially laying the foundation for the release of Wi-Fi 7 in 2024. The first step will be focusing on adding more capacity by using new US and European government airwaves for radio transmissions. Next, I suspect that that Wi-Fi 6’s speed will likely improve around 2022. Finally, a collection of upgrades will drop in about 2024, known currently as 802.11be.
Calling the next generation of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi 7, is something that nobody is ready for; especially since the program to certify Wi-Fi 6 products has still yet to occur. 802.11be, while not officially designated as Wi-Fi 7, has a probably chance of having it happen, since the last three wireless engineering standards, IEEE 802.11n, 802.11ac, and 802.11ax, have been called Wi-Fi 4, 5, and 6. So, it makes sense that 802.11be will, in turn, be hailed as Wi-Fi 7, right?
What is New?
The Need for Speed
The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), has submitted a project authorization request which proposes 30Gbps of speed. In comparison, the majority of Wi-Fi 6 speed tests show a maximum of 1.3Gbps.
Video (Didn’t) Kill the Radio Star
As mentioned before, the first step of Wi-Fi 6’s ladder to reaching Wi-Fi 7 will likely involve the introduction of 6GHz airwaves. Current Wi-Fi utilizes two radio frequency bands, 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Europe and the United States are preparing to release a new frequency band, 6GHz, which will hold many benefits over its predecessors. First, when you use either of the current radio frequency bands, you are sharing the network with many different people, devices, and locations, thus limiting the speed of which you can download or upload data; with the new 6GHz band, this issue will be remedied by only allowing Wi-Fi 6 and later versions. Outdated devices will not consume valuable network resources, allowing your Wi-F-6+ enabled devices to enjoy wired connection speeds in wireless conditions, wherever you are. So, while you are watching the big game at a stadium, you will have no problem streaming your favorite Netflix show; in this case, the video will not kill the radio star, if that makes sense.
While you may think I dragged my forehead across my keyboard for the title of this upgrade, I promise UL MU-MIMO (uplink multiuser multiple-input multiple-output) is a real thing, or at least could be. MIMO is already included with Wi-Fi 4 and 5 and merely means having a device take advantage of the multiple paths a radio transmission can take sending and receiving data from one device to another. Arriving now with Wi-Fi 6, MU-MIMO allows an access point to beam MIMO data to multiple devices at once. UL MU-MIMO, as demonstrated at Qualcomm’s Wi-Fi Day, used a total of ten phones to live stream a woman painting. Three out of ten of the phones supported UL MU-MIMO, and those three were able to upload a completely uninterrupted video of each of the painter’s actions.
Beam Me Up, Scotty
In the final stage, which will more than likely be designated as Wi-Fi 7, another improvement to MIMO will be applied to Wi-Fi 6. CMU-MOMO, or Coordinated Multiuser MIMO, can improve all three of the holy grail of Wi-Fi: range, speed, and reduced traffic. Wi-Fi 6 lets network equipment have access points with an eight-antenna build, whereas Wi-Fi 7 will handle 16; these antennas don’t even have to be on the same access point, allowing larger houses and business greater function with mesh networks.
Wi-Fi 7 is the future, and the future is interconnected. With the rising number of IoT devices, the necessity for increased Wi-Fi speed, range, and networks need to adapt to the steadily rising network requirements of modern devices. Although most of the information in this post is speculative, I already see a bright future for the world of Wi-Fi.
Shankland, Stephen. (3 Sept. 2019). CNET. “Wi-Fi 6 is barely here, but Wi-Fi 7 is already on the way.” Retrieved from https://www.cnet.com/news/wi-fi-6-is-barely-here-but-wi-fi-7-is-already-on-the-way/.