MediaTek Champions Wi-Fi 7 As A True Wired Ethernet Replacement In First Live Demo

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Wi-Fi is fast these days. The current state of the art, known as Wi-Fi 6E, can top 1Gbps for multiple clients at once in real-world applications, not just on highly-theoretical spec sheets. It's no replacement for Ethernet yet, but refinements in real-world performance have been the target of the last several revisions of the 802.11 standard.

MediaTek may not be one of the names you associate with world-beating Wi-Fi performance, but the company is making big strides lately. Not only did it partner with AMD to provide Wi-Fi adapters for Ryzen laptops, but it's also among the first to do a live demo of Wi-Fi 7. The company's CVP, Alan Hsu, says that Wi-Fi 7 can be "a true Ethernet replacement for super-high-bandwidth applications." Given that the standard is expected to provide data rates up to 40Gbps, that might just be true, at least in some cases.

Let's take a step back, though. "Wi-Fi 7" doesn't exist yet, not even on paper. The standard that will become Wi-Fi 7 is currently known as 802.11be, and it's not even finalized yet. Heck, there's not even a full draft yet. IEEE's working group timeline says that it expects a draft to be available by November 2022, and final approval to be ready in May of 2024.

So we're still a ways out from Wi-Fi 7 hardware, but Mediatek's demo is promising for the future of what is known as "EHT Wi-Fi." EHT stands for "extremely high throughput." As we mentioned above, the last few Wi-Fi standards have been focused on improving real-world performance through eliminating bottlenecks and making connections more robust against interference.

mediatek wi fi 7 demo slide

Contrariwise, the next Wi-Fi standard is largely about massively-increased transfer rates. Through the use of 320MHz bandwidth, more efficient use of non-contiguous spectrum, support for up to 16 spatial streams, and 4K-QAM, MediaTek says Wi-Fi 7 will support "multi-player AR/VR applications, cloud gaming, 8K streaming, and beyond."

Wi-Fi 7 will also bring forward 802.1Q's "Time-Sensitive Networking" extensions. Those add quite a few features aimed at improving the reliability and reducing latency for real-time traffic. After all, the main weakness of wireless communications compared to wired networking is its relatively high latency and loss. Thanks to TSN and a technology MediaTek is calling MLO, Wi-Fi 7 could be a much more attractive option for gamers and other home users that need low-latency operation.

Even though IEEE says it doesn't expect to have the final Wi-Fi 7 standard ready until 2024, companies will surely be selling hardware based on the draft standard expected this year. Indeed, MediaTek says it expects to be marketing hardware capable of Wi-Fi 7 connections in 2023.