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Intel, Broadcom show off interoperable Wi-Fi 7 kit

For those who reckon we'll make it out of 2022 alive and into 2024

Intel and Broadcom have demonstrated cross-vendor interoperability of Wi-Fi 7 kit, claiming over-the-air speeds of more than 5Gbps between an Intel-based laptop and a Broadcom Wi-Fi 7 access point.

The demo was intended to show that Wi-Fi 7 is ready to go and the potential benefits that can be gained from the new wireless network technology. What we got was Intel and Broadcom executives standing next to laptops that displayed speed indicator dials to "prove" that Wi-Fi 7 is faster than either Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E.

While this was clearly all for show, we might as well take Intel and Broadcom's word that Wi-Fi 7 is capable of delivering five times the speed of Wi-Fi 6 and 2.5 times that of Wi-Fi 6E, since the first products using the new technology are not expected to be available until sometime towards the end of next year.

Wi-Fi 7 is shaping up to be the next generation of wireless network, and Intel and Broadcom claim it will be the platform "for the next 10 years of wireless experiences." It is set to introduce a number of capabilities including wider 320MHz channels in the 6GHz portion of the wireless spectrum and 4K QAM modulation which offers a higher data rate.

Combined with the ability to have simultaneous connections using multiple frequency bands with multi-link operation and improved channel utilization efficiency, these all add up to the potential for much better performance in wireless networks.

In fact, Intel and Broadcom said that Wi-Fi 7's deterministic operation will make it much easier to deliver services involving augmented and virtual reality, which are very latency sensitive, as well as 16K media streaming, while also supporting large numbers of simultaneously connected devices in the home or office.

All of this depends on how much of that vital 6GHz spectrum is available for use, of course, and this may vary between countries. In the US, the entire 6GHz band is available for unlicensed use, with a low power indoor (LPI) operating mode for indoor operations and standard power mode that can only operate under the control of an automated frequency coordination (AFC) system to avoid interfering with existing 6GHz kit.

In the UK, only the lower three 6GHz channels in the 5.925-6.425GHz range are currently license-exempt, although the telecoms regulator Ofcom is apparently working to ensure [PDF] that some or all of the other four channels in the upper 6GHz band are also made available.

Vijay Nagarajan, Broadcom's VP of Wireless Communications and Connectivity, talked up the collaboration between the two companies when it came to ironing out the kinks in Wi-Fi 7.

"When it comes to network capacity, when it comes to the quality of networks, it is very important to make sure that the devices are interoperating with each other or working together with each other because whenever you talk networks, it's an ecosystem," he explained.

"For Wi-Fi 7 to be truly disruptive, the ecosystem needs to be ready, which is why I've been super excited about this collaboration that Intel and Broadcom have gotten going, where we're making sure that all of our devices are working together, that we're ready for the market when end devices with Wi-Fi 7 populate the market."

But there are different ideas of when this will happen. Nagarajan said "we will see devices in 2023, especially second half," while Intel previously indicated that Wi-Fi 7 will be in laptops and other PCs by 2024.

Wireless Broadband Alliance CEO Tiago Rodrigues backed this up in a statement, saying: "Their successful trial is a milestone toward bringing Wi-Fi 7's double-digit gigabit speeds, ultra-low latency, carrier-grade resilience and other next-generation capabilities to consumers and businesses worldwide."

The interoperability demonstration used three Dell Latitude 5430 laptops, one with an Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 adapter, a second using an AX211 Wi-Fi 6E adapter, and the third using a 6GHz Wi-Fi 7 NIC. The Wi-Fi 6/6E connections were handled by an Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE16000 access point, while the Wi-Fi 7 link was to a Broadcom Wi-Fi 7 Tri-band AP. ®

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