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Qualcomm sampling Wi-Fi 7 silicon for next-gen access points

OEMs able to develop new products with aim of 10Gbps-plus throughput

Qualcomm is sampling its Wi-Fi 7 Networking Pro Series chips aimed at throughput of more than 10Gbps for enterprise access points, gateways, and premium home routers.

The third generation of the chipmaker's Networking Pro Series platforms is set to "initiate a new era" of 10Gbps Wi-Fi, Qualcomm claimed, stating that the new portfolio is optimized for multi-user environments and low CPU utilization to power collaboration, telepresence, and metaverse applications for both home and enterprise environments.

Sampling means that the Networking Pro silicon is available to Qualcomm's OEM customers so they can develop and test the Wi-Fi 7 products that will ship to end users at some point. It isn't clear when buyers will actually be able to get their hands on kit to deploy, although Qualcomm previously said it expects to see Wi-Fi 7 products hit the market in 2023.

According to Qualcomm, the Wi-FI 7 Networking Pro portfolio will initially comprise the following products:

  • Networking Pro 1620: Quad-band, 16-stream, 33.1Gbps peak wireless capacity for stadium, large enterprise, premium home mesh systems
  • Networking Pro 1220: Tri-band, 12-stream, 21.6Gbps peak wireless capacity for enterprise, SMB, prosumer, and premium home mesh systems
  • Networking Pro 820: Quad-band, 8-stream, 13.7Gbps peak wireless capacity for enterprise, SMB, prosumer, and premium home mesh systems
  • Networking Pro 620: Tri-band, 6-stream, 10.8Gbps peak wireless capacity for enterprise, SMB, gaming, and home mesh systems

That figure of 33.1Gbps represents the peak aggregate wireless capacity of the access point or router, with individual point-to-point connections potentially exceeding 10Gbps. Meanwhile, the quad-band refers to the fact that Wi-Fi 7 can operate in the 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz portions of the wireless spectrum, with mesh routers often reserving part of the 5GHz band as a dedicated channel between mesh-connected access points.

Wi-Fi 7 itself offers increased performance by doubling the channel bandwidth to 320MHz and new capabilities such as simultaneous multi-link operation, which allows a device to use more than one channel at the same time, analogous to the way that channel bonding works in wired Ethernet networks by aggregating traffic across the links for higher overall throughput.

Qualcomm said that when paired with Wi-Fi 7 endpoint silicon such as its own FastConnect 7800, the new Networking Pro Series platform supports High Band Simultaneous (HBS) Multi-Link, which operates using only the 5GHz and 6GHz bands to provide the optimum throughput and latency.

"Combining support for the latest Wi-Fi 7 innovations with our unique product platform architecture, the platform enables solutions ranging from whole-home mesh to powerful connectivity networks for large public venues. With this product line, we anticipate a new class of customer systems for both today's applications and the emerging Wi-Fi 7 ecosystem," Nick Kucharewski, Qualcomm's senior VP for Wireless Infrastructure and Networking, said in a statement.

The Wi-Fi 7 portfolio from Qualcomm comes as network vendors are still ramping up Wi-Fi 6E products, which are compatible with Wi-Fi 6 but can also use the 6GHz band of the wireless spectrum.

This situation led analyst firm Dell'Oro Group to forecast earlier this year that many customers might skip Wi-Fi 6E entirely, with the reasoning being that supply chain problems in the semiconductor industry could limit availability of Wi-Fi 6E products, and by the time things get back to normal, Wi-Fi 7 kit will be arriving.

However, this version of events was disputed by the Wi-Fi Alliance, the non-profit organization that owns the Wi-Fi trademark, which countered that Wi-Fi 6E products are already widely available, and that adoption is growing.

Whoever turns out to be right, it looks like buyers can count on having higher-performance Wi-Fi available soon. ®

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