Getting ready for Wi-Fi 7
Narender Vasandani, Siemon’s technical services group manager for IMEA, on the evolution in wireless connectivity.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is actively working on a new Wi-Fi standard. This new Wi-Fi 7 standard, otherwise referred to as ‘IEEE P802.11be “Enhancements for Extremely High Throughput (EHT) Wireless LAN”, promises considerably faster speeds and the ability to handle more data compared to previous generations of Wi-Fi technology. Although Wi-Fi 7 is not projected to be released until later in 2024, some of the key characteristics are sufficiently stable for some vendors to start releasing pre-standard Wi-Fi 7 devices. What is important to consider, however, is the network cabling that supports next-generation wireless access points (WAP). Only the correct specification of the cabling will enable optimum WAP-performance so that users can take full advantage of the capabilities of next-generation WiFi.
Wi-Fi 7 capabilities
Currently, Wi-Fi 7 promises to deliver an associated theoretical maximum throughput of 46.1 Gb/s upstream and downstream combined, and a “real world” maximum throughput of greater than 20 Gb/s upstream and downstream combined.
Once this new standard has been approved, this will mean a major increase in speed, considering that the currently deployed Wi-Fi 6/6E delivers data rate capability up to 9.6 Gbit/s.
Amongst the most significant enhancements of Wi-Fi 7 is “multi-link operation”. This allows for simultaneous transmission and reception of data, enabling greater throughput and improved latency. Also under consideration are expanded frequencies (including 6GHz), wider channels (320MHz), and better modulation (4096-QAM), while maintaining backward compatibility with previous Wi-Fi generations.
It is estimated that 50 to 80 percent (depending on the country) of the world’s mobile data is now carried on Wi-Fi devices. These devices have to cope with an ever-increasing demand for throughput to support applications, including remote working and conferencing, Telehealth, IIoT/industry 4.0, IoT, AR/VR, wireless gaming, 4K and 8K video streaming etc. The development of information content to streaming ultra-high-definition video and multimedia supports the adoption of higher-speed Wi-Fi solutions. However, to deliver the right capacity for your wireless access points, the specification of high-performance network cabling is essential to effectively support users’ access layer switches and uplink connections.
Cabling strategies for Wi-Fi 7
In preparation for these higher speeds, multiple telecommunications standards, including ANSI/TIA-568.1-E, specifically recommend deploying two category 6A or higher cabling runs to each Wireless Access Point (WAP), providing the 10 Gb/s transmission performance that higher-speed Wi-Fi demands. Only class EA/category 6A and higher-rated network cabling provide guaranteed support of 10GBASE-T overall installation environments and channel topologies up to 100 metres.
Shielded cabling, such as shielded category 6A and category 7/7A is recommended when wireless access points are powered remotely over the low-voltage cabling via Power over Ethernet (PoE). This is because shielded cabling provides much better thermal stability compared to unshielded cabling. The reason is simple. Remote power delivery increases the temperature in cable bundles, and shielded cables support longer channel lengths when deployed in high-temperature environments. They also enable a larger number of cables to be bundled without concern for excessive heat build-up within the bundle.
The cabling infrastructure should also always be designed with future needs in mind and should consider equipment upgrades and future wireless technologies as well as strategies to support redundancy. To allow for additional WAP deployments, for rapid reconfiguration of coverage areas, and to provide redundant and future-proof connections, Siemon recommends a grid-based zone cabling architecture. Recommendations include that each zone enclosure supports a coverage radius of 13m (42 ft).
When a category 6A field-terminated plug is used at the equipment end of the installed channel, higher-speed wireless access points can be deployed much faster. Using field-terminated plugs avoids having to estimate the exact distance of cordage required, preventing excessive cord tension or slack at the WAP. Siemon recommends minimum of 2-connector channel topologies (i.e. links with Work Area termination) to facilitate adds, moves, and changes, field testing, and labelling.