EE touts next-gen broadband Smart Hub with Wi-Fi 7 for 2024

Sure to lure in a few in the WFH crowd ... but no pricing yet

UK network operator EE has hooked up with telecoms silicon supplier Qualcomm on a next-gen home Smart Hub that will bring Wi-Fi 7 support to its broadband customers.

EE, now a part of BT Group’s consumer division, said it plans to roll out new in-home hardware next year that will feature Wi-Fi 7 support from Qualcomm as part of ongoing plans to boost home connectivity. It claimed this will make its customers “among the first in the world” to get access to the next-generation Wi-Fi standard.

Existing Wi-Fi standards such as Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 currently offer “a great reliable experience,” according to EE, but the company said that applications coming down the line will likely increase demands on connectivity. It pointed to services such as cloud gaming, augmented reality and 4K/8K video streaming that will call for higher bandwidth, as well as homes having an increasing number of Wi-Fi connected devices.

Intel has previously promised Wi-Fi 7 in laptops by 2024, although if recent rumors are to be believed, the company only plans to support this for Windows 11, ChromeOS, and Linux.

One advantage of Wi-Fi 7 is that it can make use of frequencies in the 6GHz band that are not supported by Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6, which could provide some welcome relief for users that find that the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands are increasingly congested and their Wi-Fi performance is impacted by interference from neighboring households. Until everyone else has Wi-Fi 7, of course, or Wi-Fi 6E, which added 6GHz support to Wi-Fi 6.

However, Wi-Fi 7 has other tricks up its sleeve, including multi-link operation that allows data to be sent over multiple bands simultaneously and a higher transmission rate that should make it at least twice as fast as Wi-Fi 6.

To deliver this, EE plans to launch its first Wi-Fi 7 home router sometime in 2024. The company said that it will expand on its long-standing collaboration with Qualcomm in the mobile network space in order to bring advanced wireless and service management capabilities to its next-gen Smart Hub offering.

High end work from home kit

In a separate announcement, Qualcomm unveiled its 10G Fiber Gateway Platform, which it said is designed for "ultimate connected home performance" with support for a 10Gbps fiber broadband connection and Wi-Fi 7 support for end user devices.

This platform has been designed around what Qualcomm calls Service Defined Wi-Fi technology, which it claims will offer a better end user experience via a unified management approach instead of the access network and home Wi-Fi parts being managed separately.

What this seems to imply is that service providers will have greater control over the home gateway, in order to optimize its configuration.

Qualcomm said that in current broadband systems, it is nearly impossible to manage for quality of service, given the diversity of devices, applications and connectivity technologies in use, and that these change regularly.

The Service Defined Wi-Fi technology features application-style orchestration that will enable providers to create "a new level of user experience based on reliable and fast end-to-end connectivity," the company states.

For example, service providers will be able to offer differentiated services optimized for applications such as gaming, streaming, and employer-supported work-from-home services, Qualcomm said.

The 10G Fiber Gateway Platform and Service Defined Wi-Fi technology are scheduled to be commercially available by summer 2024.

Given that EE is talking about its next-gen broadband Smart Hub coming in 2024 with advanced wireless and service management capabilities courtesy of Qualcomm, it seems an obvious conclusion to make that EE would use the 10G Fiber Gateway Platform. However, EE told us the service will launch using EE's own software platform, which it said will be "built on a custom hardware platform that will incorporate Qualcomm Wi-Fi 7 chipsets."

EE CEO Marc Allera said in a canned statement that: "We have a long history of collaborating with Qualcomm Technologies to create innovation in mobile for consumers - so we're delighted to evolve this strategic collaboration into our in-home products for the first time."

Qualcomm likewise indicated it is "proud to partner with one of the leading innovators in this industry to drive the transition to next generation broadband technology."

Further detail on EE's Wi-Fi 7 next-gen home broadband Smart Hub will be disclosed closer to the launch, the company said. ®

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