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Embracing Wi-Fi 7, Broadcom Unveils Complete End-to-End Chipset Solutions

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Wi-Fi 7 just got decidedly closer.

Today Broadcom announced a collection of its new Wi-Fi chips supporting the standard — all five of them, including the BCM67263, BCM6726, BCM43740, BCM43720, and BCM4398.

Don’t let the boring names fool you — that’s generally how Broadcom names its hardware components that power the Wi-Fi function inside fancy gadgets we use. So, this is excellent news for Wi-Fi fans.

While Broadcom is not the first chip maker that’s boarded the Wi-Fi 7 bandwagon — Qualcomm already did that early this year — it’s been the most prolific vendor on the Wi-Fi front.

Indeed, most existing Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E broadcasters have a Broadcom chip inside. According to Vijay Nagarajan, Broadcom’s VP of Marketing, so far, the chipmaker has shipped one billion Wi-Fi 6/6E chips.

And the company’s new round of Wi-Fi 7 chips to continue that momentum.

Broadcom Wi Fi 7 chips
Broadcom just made Wi-Fi 7 official with a bunch of new chips

Broadcom’s Wi-Fi 7 approach: A complete set of chips

The new chips cover all aspects of the latest Wi-Fi standard, including different speed grades and hardware applications, on both the broadcasting and receiving ends.

Specifically, of the five, four are made for access points and one for Wi-Fi clients.

All flavors of Wi-Fi 7

Broadcom says all five chips feature the new 4096-QAM modulation and fully comply with IEEE and WFA Wi-Fi 7 specifications.

If you haven’t heard of Wi-Fi 7 before, the extra content below will give you some quick highlights.

But the biggest takeaway on Wi-Fi 7 is that it has double the speed of Wi-Fi 6 and 6E with better efficiency that might also increase the range while lower network latency.

Extra: Wi-Fi 7’s highlights

This portion of extra content is part of the explainer post on the new Wi-Fi 7 standard.

There are four areas where the new standard is better compared to the existing Wi-Fi 6 (and 6E).

1. The all-new 320MHz channel width

The first is the new and much wider channel width, up to 320MHz or double that of Wi-Fi 6/6E.

This new channel width is generally available on the 6GHz band, with up to three 320MHz channels. However, Wi-Fi 7 can also combine portions of the 6GHz and 5GHz bands to create this new bandwidth — more in the Multi-Link Operation section below.

Details of Wi-Fi channels can be found here, but the new channel width generally means Wi-Fi 7 can double the base speed, from 1.2Gbps per stream (160MHz) to 2.4Gbps per stream (320MHz).

So, in theory, just from the width alone, a 4×4 broadcaster 6GHz Wi-Fi 7 can have up to 9.6 Gbps of bandwidth — or 10Gbps when rounded up. But there’s more to Wi-Fi 7’s bandwidth below.

Depending on the configuration, Wi-Fi 7 routers and access points will be available in different speed grades, including those offering bandwidths higher or lower than 10Gbps on the 6GHz band.

Wi-Fi 7 also supports double the partial streams, up to 16. As a result, technically, a 16-stream (16×16) Wi-Fi 7 6GHz band can deliver up to over 40Gbps of bandwidth, especially when considering the new QAM support below.

Like Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, initially, Wi-Fi 7 will be available as dual-stream (2×2) and quad-stream (4×4) broadcasters and dual-stream clients. Going forward, the standard might have 8×8 broadcasters and single-stream or quad-stream clients.

Again, you need a compatible client to use the new 320MHz channel width. Existing clients will connect using 160MHz at best. In reality, the 160MHz will likely be the realistic sweet-spot bandwidth of Wi-Fi 7, just like the 80MHz in the case of Wi-Fi 6.

2. The 4K-QAM

QAM, short for quadrature amplitude modulation, is a way to manipulate the radio wave to pack more information in the Hertz.

Wi-Fi 6 supports 1024-QAM, which itself is already impressive. However, Wi-Fi 7 will have four times that, or 4096-QAM. Greater QAM means better performance for the same channel width.

As a result, Wi-Fi 7 will have a much higher speed and efficiency than previous standards when working with supported clients.

Wi-F 7 vs Wi-Fi 6/6E: The realistic real-world speeds

With the support for the wider channel width and higher QAM, Wi-Fi 7 is set to be much faster than previous standards.

The table below summarizes what you can expect from Wi-Fi 7’s real-world organic performance compared to Wi-Fi 6E when working on the 6GHz.

Wi-Fi 6EWi-Fi 7
Max Channel Bandwidth
(theoretical/top-tier equipment)
160MHz320MHz
Channel Bandwidth
(widely implemented)
80MHz160MHz
Number of Available Channels7x 160MHz or 14x 80MHz channels3x 320MHz or 6x 160MHz channels
Highest Modulation 1024-QAM4096-QAM
Max Number
of Spatial Streams
(theoretical on paper / commercially implemented)
8 / 416 / 8 (estimate)
Max Bandwidth
Per Stream
(theoretical)
1.2Gbps (at 160MHz)
600Mbps (at 80MHz)
β‰ˆ 2.9Gbps (at 320MHz)
β‰ˆ 1.45Gbps (at 160MHz)
Max Band Bandwidth
(theoretical on paper)
9.6Gbps
(8×8)
46.1Gbps
(16×16)
Commercial Max Band Bandwidth Per Band
(commercially implemented)
4.8Gbps
(4×4)
23Gbps
(8×8)
Available Max Real-word Negotiated Speeds(*)2.4Gbps (via a 2×2 160MHz client)
1.2Gbps (via a 2×2 80MHzclient)
β‰ˆ 11.5Gbps (via a 4×4 320MHz client)
β‰ˆ 5.8Gbps (via a 2×2 320MHz client or a 4×4 160MHz client)
β‰ˆ 2.9Gbps (via a single stream 320MHz client or a 2×2 160MHz client)
β‰ˆ 1.45Gbps (via a single stream 160MHz client or a 2×2 80MHz client)
Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 7: Theoretical data rates on the 6GHz band
(*) The actual negotiated speed depends on the client, Wi-Fi 7 specs, and environment. Real-world sustained rates are generally much lower than negotiated speeds. Wi-Fi 6/6E has had only 2×2 clients. Wi-Fi 7 will also use 2×2 clients primarily, but it might have 4×4 and even single-stream (1×1) clients.

Considering the 2×2 implementation and the sweet-spot 160MHz channel width, generally, it’s safe to conservatively expect real-world rates of the mainstream Wi-Fi 7 (160MHz) to be about 20% faster than top-tier Wi-Fi 6E (160MHz).

Multi-Link Operation, or MLO, is the most exciting and promising feature of Wi-Fi 7 that changes the norm of Wi-Fi: Up to Wi-Fi 6E, a Wi-Fi connection between two direct devices occurs in a single band, using a fixed channel at a time.

In a nutshell, MLO is Wi-Fi band aggregation. Like Link Aggregation (or bonding) in wired networking, MLO allows combining two Wi-Fi bands, mostly 5GHz and 6GHz, into a single Wi-Fi network (SSID) and connection. The bonded link delivers higher bandwidth and reliability.

One Plus 11 5G Wi Fi information MLO
Here are the Wi-Fi setting pages of the One Plus 11 5G. Note that its “Dual Wi-Fi acceleration” might have nothing to do with MLO since the feature uses a single SSID. Also, a Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster, such as TP-Link Deco BE85 used in the screenshot above, has a separate MLO network in addition to the existing traditional network for backward compatibility. At the time of writing, this SSID might just be a placeholder since the feature needs the support of the client to work.

Generally, MLO will help increase the efficiency of Wi-Fi 7’s range, allowing a broadcaster to deliver faster speed over longer distances than previous standards.

It can be a game-changer in a wireless mesh network by fortifying the wireless link between broadcasters — the backhaul — both in terms of speed and reliability. While that doesn’t apply to systems with wired backhauling, MLO can make seamless handoff (or roaming) truly seamless.

On top of that, MLO allows each band to intelligently pick the best channel and channel width in real-time — it can channel-hop, just like Bluetooth, though likely less frequently.

For clients, in more ways than one, MLO is the best alternative to the existing so-called “Smart Connect” — using the same SSID (network name) and password for all the bands of a broadcaster — which doesn’t always work as smartly as expected.

But MLO is not all perfect — a few things to keep in mind:

  • MLO only works with Wi-Fi 7 clients. Older clients, such as Wi-Fi 6 or 6E, will still use a single band at a time when connecting to a MLO SSID. (As mentioned, a computer needs to run at least Windows 11 version 24H2, set to release in late 2024, to support MLO.)
  • MLO requires the WPA3 encryption method and generally won’t work with Wi-Fi 5 or older clients.
  • The reach of the combined link (of 5GHz and 6GHz) has a range as far as that of the shorter band.

By default, the 6GHz band has just about 75% of the range of the 5GHz when the same broadcasting power is applied. That said, MLO can only be truly meaningful with the help of Wi-Fi 7’s next feature, Automated Frequency Coordination.

4. Automated Frequency Coordination

Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) applies only to the 6GHz band, which is the fastest yet the shortest range compared to the 5GHz and 2.4GHz. AFC is an optional feature, it’s not required for the general function of a Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster.

At any given time, there can be existing applications already using the spectrum. For example, fixed satellite services (FSS) or broadcast companies might have already had called dibs on certain parts of the 6GHz band. A new Wi-Fi broadcaster must not impact those existing services — a concept similar to DFS channels in Wi-Fi 6 and 5.

That’s when the AFC feature comes into play. The idea is that all new 6GHz broadcasters check with a registered database in real-time to confirm their operation will not negatively impact other registered members. Once that’s established, the broadcaster creates a dynamically exclusive environment in which its 6GHz band can operate without the constraint of regulations like the case of Wi-Fi 6E and older standards.

Specifically, the support for AFC means each Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster can use more broadcasting power and better flexible antenna designs. How much more? That depends.

But it’s estimated that AFC can bring the broadcasting power up to 36 dBm (from the current 30 dBm max) or 4 watts (from 1 wat). The goal of AFC, at least initially, is to bring the 6GHz band’s range to be comparable with the 5GHz band — about 25% more.

When that happens, the MLO feature above will be truly powerful. But even then, Wi-Fi 7’s range will remain the same as that of Wi-Fi 6. Its improvement is that its 6GHz band now has a longer reach than in Wi-Fi 6E.

Before you get all excited, this feature requires certification, and its availability is expected to vary from one region to another. It likely won’t be available in the US before late 2024.

All hardware released before that is said to be capable of handling AFC, which, when applicable, can be turned on via firmware updates.

A crude AFC analogy

Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) is like checking with the local authorities for permission to close off sections of city streets for a drag race block party.

When approved, the usual traffic and parking laws no longer apply to the area, and the organizers can determine how fast traffic can flow, etc.

Wi-Fi 7’s other improvements

On top of that, Wi-Fi 7 will also have other improvements, including support for Flexible Channel Utilization (FCU) and Multi-RU.

With FCU, Wi-Fi 7 handles interference more gracefully by slicing off the portion of a channel with interference, 20MHz at a time, and keeps the clean part usable, as opposed to the case of Wi-Fi 6/6E, when there’s interference, an entire channel can be taken out of commission. FCU is the behind-the-scene technology that increases the efficiency of Wi-Fi, similar to the case of MU-MIMO and OFDMA.

Similarly, with Wi-Fi 6/6E, each device can only send or receive frames on an assigned resource unit (RU), which significantly limits the flexibility of the spectrum resource scheduling. Wi-Fi 7 allows multiple RUs to be assigned to a single device and can combine RUsΒ for increased transmission efficiency.

The new chips Broadcom announced today collectively support all these new features of Wi-Fi 7.

And, like existing standards, Wi-Fi 7 is also available in different speed grades and feature sets. And that’s where Broadcom’s new chips differentiate between themselves.

The BCM67263: Top-tier single-band Wi-Fi 7 for the home

This chip is designed for the residential Wi-Fi access point market. It’ll be the one to go inside a home router or mesh system. Its key features include:

  • Support for 4 streams of Wi-Fi 7
  • Up to 11.5Gbps PHY rate
  • Single 6GHz radio
  • Up to 320 MHz channel bandwidth
  • Multi-link operation (MLO)

The BCM67263 will likely be added to an existing Wi-Fi 6 solution as a single radio chip to form a complete Wi-Fi package.

The BCM6726: A Mid-tier tri-band Wi-Fi 7 home solution

Like the one above, the BCM6726 is also optimized for the residential Wi-Fi access point market. However, it has more to offer in terms of the wireless band. Specifically:

  • Support for 4 streams of Wi-Fi 7
  • Single radio that supports 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, or 6 GHz bands
  • Up to 5.75 Gbps PHY rate
  • Up to 160 MHz channel bandwidth
  • Multi-link operation (MLO)

In all, the BCM6726 seems to be a complete Wi-Fi solution but has lower bandwidth, just half of what Wi-Fi 7 has to offer, or the same as the existing Wi-Fi 6E.

The BCM43740: Top-tier Wi-Fi 7 for enterprise broadcaster

The BCM43740 is the first chip designed for enterprise Wi-Fi access points. Key features include:

  • Support for 4 streams of Wi-Fi 7
  • Single radio that supports 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, or 6 GHz bands
  • Up to 11.5 Gbps PHY rate
  • Up to 320 MHz channel bandwidth

This powerful chip is a complete Wi-Fi solution. However, it doesn’t support MLO, meaning there’s no band or channel aggregation, which can be a downer.

The BCM43720: Entry-level Wi-Fi 7 solution for enterprise applications

The BCM43720 is the second chip for the enterprise access point market. It’s a selectable single radio chip. Specifically:

  • Support for 2 Streams of Wi-Fi 7
  • Single radio dedicated for scanning in the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, or 6 GHz bands
  • Up to 2.88 Gbps PHY rate
  • Up to 160 MHz channel bandwidth
  • Multi-link operation (MLO)

This one is an interesting chip that can work on a single band at a time, giving hardware makers flexibility in hardware design.

Specifically, they can use three in a broadcaster to deliver the Wi-Fi on all three bands or two to support just two bands at a given time.

The BCM4398: Interragted Wi-Fi 7 receiver

The BCM4398 is the only chip built for the receiving end. Apart from Wi-Fi, it also has built-in support for Bluetooth 5.0. In a way, it’s like the current Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E chip plus the support for Wi-Fi 7.

This chip’s features include:

  • Support for 2-stream Wi-Fi 7
  • 320 MHz channel bandwidth
  • 6.05 Gbps PHY rate
  • Client multi-link operation (MLO)
  • Compliance with Bluetooth 5.0 standard

No matter how fast the chips above are, the BCM4398 determines the Wi-Fi 7’s speed on a client.

The 6.05Gbps mentioned here is just the theoretical ceiling, but likely the chip will be capable of at least half that in real-world usage. And that’s a huge improvement over the existing 2×2 Wi-Fi 6/6E chips, which have a theoretical cap of 2.4Gbps.

***

In all, none of these chips include everything Wi-Fi 7 has to offer, but collectively, they paint the full picture of the new standard. And there might be even new chips in the future.

In any case, we have to wait to see how they pan out when actual routers, access points, and clients of the new standard are available.

Availability

Broadcom says it’s currently “sampling these Wi-Fi 7 chips to early access partners and customers in retail, enterprise and smartphone, service provider, and carrier segments.”

As for when you can get a device with one of them on the inside, the company didn’t say, likely because that depends on networking vendors.

However, at this rate, chances are we’ll find the first Wi-Fi 7 router by the end of 2023 or early 2024.

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8 thoughts on “Embracing Wi-Fi 7, Broadcom Unveils Complete End-to-End Chipset Solutions”

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  1. Hi, first time visitor here.
    I’m still on WIFI 5 wave 2 Router.
    If my WIFI 5 router could survive that long, would you suggest me wait for WIFI 6e or WIFI 7 (or WIFI 6)?
    TBH, WIFI 6 feels like “WIFI 5 wave 3”, just another enhancement over WIFI 5 but still on 5GHz band. (WIFI 6e = WIFI 6, WIFI 7 = WIFI 6e or WIFI 6 Wave 2)

    Reply
    • My advice is to get whatever that works for you at the time being. I pretty much said that in all primer posts of different standards, like this one of Wi-Fi 7 — at the end in case you don’t want to read the whole thing.

      Stay awhile, you’ll get above the semantics.

      Reply
  2. Fascinating. Technology never ceases to amaze!

    1. So do you estimate late 2023, or 2024 when we start seeing Wifi 7 Tri band Mesh systems?

    2. I am guessing it is still worth going for the Wifi 6E mesh systems (Quad band Netgear), or Triband Wifi 6 systems like the Asus XT12 now? Given those could last you for that 2 year wait.

    3. Would we actually ever see widespread Wifi 6E consumer devices? I know there are some phones that have it, but it doesn’t appear to be built in for many new computers, or phones in general yet. I would certainly opt for a new Wifi 6 AX capable device over a Wifi 5 one if I was making a new purchase, but Wifi 6E, not so sure.

    Reply
    • 1. That’s my guess, nobody knows for sure, though.
      2. Yes, it’s always about getting what works for you *today*.
      3. Many new phones and new computers, running Windows 11, already have it. Basically, they use the Intel AX210 chip.

      Reply
  3. I think the first consumer application will be dedicated WiFi7 5Ghz band for backhaul in high end mesh products. That along with 10 Gb ports may make a compelling case for upgrading one’s mesh network.Such systems may be a serious alternative to dedicated APs with ethernet POE backhaul in the sense that the difference in end user experience may not be worth the effort to invest in a full blown Omada type solution for most households.

    Reply
  4. 1) why when i buy a router, its doesn’t say which chip it’s using?
    2) another problem will be to find a router with WiFi 7 to buy. Here in Portugal we still do not have the ASUS ZENWIFI PRO XT12 and ASUS GT-AXE11000 despite being available in USA for almost a month already.
    3) would be great if routers had an option to remove the chip and put a newer one whenever needed avoiding the purchase of a new router.
    4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_802.11be …………..##Development of the 802.11be amendment is ongoing, with a goal of an initial draft by March 2021, and a final version expected by early 2024. ##
    why vendors are sending chip samples if the protocol is not yet finished?

    Reply
    • 1. Not everyone is interested in that detail. Note the model names of the chips — they are boring. Those interested, like you, will figure that extra information out.
      2. But a nice bottle of Port is SO much more affordable over there! (Seriously!)
      3. It’s not that easy. Each chip is used as part of a FEM — more in this post which is proprietary. By the way, you can’t even do this with new Apple computers anymore.
      4. Most vendors start making hardware with the draft and finalize it via firmware. It’s been the case with all existing standards.

      Reply

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