How to maximise Wi-Fi 7 performance

Wi-Fi 7 represents a significant leap in wireless technology, engineered to triple the speeds of its predecessor, Wi-Fi 6, and support a vast array of connected devices, from smart home systems to industrial IoT applications.

The transformative power of Wi-Fi 7 lies in its ability to handle multiple high-bandwidth applications simultaneously.

These technical advancements will drastically increase network complexity, leading to more challenges in testing and measurement. Wi-Fi clients and access point manufacturers need solutions capable of testing Wi-Fi 7 standards within complex network conditions.

Advancements in Wi-Fi 7 for enhanced connectivity

Previous Wi-Fi technologies relied on a maximum of 160 MHz channels at 5GHz, as seen in Figure 1. This limitation restricted the network’s capacity to support a higher number of IoT devices. Wi-Fi 7 overcomes this by doubling the channel bandwidth to 320 MHz and introducing the 6 GHz band.

Figure 1. Wi-Fi 7’s maximum channel bandwidth in the 6 GHz band versus the 5 GHz band of Wi-Fi 6.

In addition, Wi-Fi 7 employs 12-bit 4096-QAM modulation, upgrading from Wi-Fi 6’s 10-bit 1024-QAM, as shown in Figure 2.

For the first time, Wi-Fi technology will support Multi-Link Operation (MLO), enabling devices to use all available bands and channels to transmit data simultaneously, rather than being limited to a single-channel operation, as illustrated in Figure 3. This capability significantly enhances Wi-Fi 7’s speed, latency, and overall network capacity.

Figure 2. Wi-Fi 6 1024 QAM modulation scheme vs. Wi-Fi 7 4096 QAM.
Figure 3. Single-link operation of Wi-Fi 6 versus MLO of Wi-Fi 7.

RF testing with signalling: Essential for Wi-Fi 7 performance

The advanced capabilities of Wi-Fi 7 will catalyse growth in IoT adoption across both enterprise and household environments. Increased IoT adoption will inevitably lead to more complex network conditions, negatively impacting network performance and, consequently, user experience. This progression mirrors the evolution experienced within cellular technology.

Running RF testing with signalling is one of the most effective methods to ensure device performance under these challenging conditions.

Data throughput testing is essential to verify that devices can maintain sufficient data rates in complex network conditions. This form of testing becomes particularly crucial in densely populated environments such as stadiums, offices, factories, airports, and hospitals, to name a few.

These locations host numerous devices utilising various applications, potentially causing RF signal interference. Identifying and mitigating such interference is vital to ensuring optimal performance.

As previously mentioned, Wi-Fi 7 introduces faster data rates, wider band channels, higher modulations, and MLO. RF tests are instrumental in verifying that devices and networks can achieve and sustain these enhanced capabilities in real-world scenarios. This validation is crucial for ensuring Wi-Fi 7 devices deliver consistent and reliable connectivity, especially in multi-band scenarios. Moreover, Wi-Fi 7 devices must adhere to international standards and regulations regarding signal strength, spectrum usage, and non-interference with other services, highlighting the significance of RF testing with signalling in realising the full potential of Wi-Fi 7 for faster, more efficient, and dependable wireless communication.

Another critical aspect of RF testing with signalling in Wi-Fi 7 revolves around managing network capacity and latency.

These tests evaluate how networks handle increased data loads, a fundamental requirement for supporting low-latency communication in bandwidth-intensive applications, such as extended reality (XR)—which encompasses augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and virtual reality (VR).

Furthermore, in environments saturated with dense wireless signals, it’s imperative for Wi-Fi 7 devices to perform optimally without being affected by interference from other devices and networks. RF testing with signalling is crucial in assessing devices’ capability to navigate and mitigate such interference.

Impacts of Wi-Fi 7 across industries and consumer experiences

Wi-Fi 7 heralds significant advancements for both industries and consumers. For industries, it unlocks the necessary capabilities for tasks such as real-time data analytics and the operation of autonomous systems, which are pivotal in sectors like manufacturing and logistics.

This technology facilitates the integration of various machines into the Wi-Fi network, enhancing efficiency, productivity, and security, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Interoperability of industrial IoT on the factory floor.

Consumers stand to benefit from improved daily internet experiences, experiencing reduced buffering times and faster download speeds. Household users will be able to add an increasing number of smart devices, including switches, locks, security cameras, and home appliances, to their networks without compromising performance.

With the advent of Wi-Fi 7 and 5G technologies, the use of customer premises equipment (CPE) is expected to see a drastic increase. CPEs convert 5G cellular signals into Wi-Fi signals.

This innovation promises to eliminate the need for wires and drilling holes in homes for internet access. They aim to provide a smooth transition between cellular and Wi-Fi connections.

For such scenarios, additional testing will be necessary to ensure excellent performance in cellular and Wi-Fi interworking.