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We'll get you that Wi-Fi 7 laptop by 2024, Intel says

Because if there's one thing you can trust with this x86 giant, it's deadlines and roadmaps

Intel said it intends to add Wi-Fi 7 hardware to laptops and other PCs "by 2024", and a year later for the rest of the market.

That's according to the x86 giant's Eric McLaughlin, veep of its wireless solutions and client computing group, who just the other day gave a briefing on the state of wireless connectivity. McLaughlin reportedly said Intel was seeking Wi-Fi Alliance certification of its IEEE 802.11be, aka Wi-Fi 7, products – once that certification is available.

"[Wi-Fi 7] will be installed in PC products such as laptops by 2024 … we expect it to appear in major markets in 2025," McLaughlin said. Intel's roadmap is more or less in line with the Wi-Fi Alliance's timeline for Wi-Fi 7 certification.

Hot on the heels of Wi-Fi 6E, Wi-Fi 7 would be a substantial upgrade, according to the marketing bumf. "The benefit for a typical Wi-Fi 7 laptop is a potential maximum data rate of almost 5.8 Gbps. This is 2.4X faster than the 2.4 Gbps possible with Wi-Fi 6/6E," Intel said in documentation for Wi-Fi 7.

According to the IEEE, which is stewarding this next-gen wireless technology, there are a number of techniques that make it leaps and bounds faster than Wi-Fi 6.

Wi-Fi 7 will add the full 6 GHz band that Wi-Fi 6E dabbled in, bringing the total number of Wi-Fi bands to three. It also doubles channel size from 160 MHz to 320 MHz and adds 4K Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM), which lets it better organize data streams to improve density (Wi-Fi 6 only had 1K QAM). 

Automated frequency coordination, another new Wi-Fi 7 technology, will let Wi-Fi 7 adjust to 6 GHz frequencies that aren't in use by nearby stuff like radio telescopes and weather radar, making connections more reliable, and multi-link operations will allow devices to connect to many channels at the same time to increase connection speeds, which are theoretically able to reach as high as 40 Gbps.

It's already here?

The IEEE's Wi-Fi 7 standard is still in draft form, and the Wi-Fi Alliance hasn't settled on certification standards for Wi-Fi 7, but that hasn't stopped chipmakers from jumping in. Take MediaTek, which demonstrated its Wi-Fi 7 technology in January as an example: it claimed at the time Wi-Fi 7 would make Ethernet obsolete. 

The chip shortage has also accelerated the development of Wi-Fi 7, as supply chain problems have cut into Wi-Fi 6E hardware production. According to some analysts, that may mean hardware makers simply sit the intermediary generation out and skip straight to Wi-Fi 7. 

The Wi-Fi Alliance has disputed claims that Wi-Fi 6E has been affected by chip shortages, saying that devices are available and that businesses shouldn't hold out for Wi-Fi 7, warning that the arrival of Wi-Fi 7-capable devices is further off than some have forecast.

Qualcomm, however, expects Wi-Fi 7 products to come to market in 2023. It has plans to ship enterprise-level Wi-Fi 7 products by the fourth quarter of next year. Even now, Qualcomm's OEM customers are able to sample its Wi-Fi 7 Networking Pro products in order to develop and test consumer products. Meanwhile, Apple is said to be ready to move to Wi-Fi 6E. ®

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