The numbers for 2021 are in, and there’s no doubt about the role Wi-Fi plays in modern life
Wi-Fi 6/6E is Transformative Technology
It’s easy enough to understand why Wi-Fi 6 is taking off. Increased overall performance – with faster top speeds and better management of dense, crowded networks – plus the availability of new spectrum is a powerful combination. It means familiar experiences like video streaming and gaming get a boost, and a new generation of impressive applications, requiring high bandwidth and low latency, are now within reach.
The deployment of 5G cellular is another factor in Wi-Fi 6 growth. Wi-Fi 6 and 5G are complementary technologies and use many of the same techniques, including OFDMA and MU-MIMO transmission. When 5G mobile devices move indoors, where 5G signals may not be as strong, they can switch to Wi-Fi 6 without interrupting the workflow. That’s an essential feature for many of the most ambitious 5G applications – like autonomous vehicles, healthcare monitoring, smart manufacturing – which need uninterrupted connectivity, indoors and out, for seamless operation. The Wi-Fi Alliance reports that 63% of mobile traffic was offloaded to Wi-Fi in 2021, indicating that nearly two thirds of cellular sessions take advantage of Wi-Fi hotspots to keep mobile devices connected. As 5G continues its rollout, that number will only go up.
First to Move from Dual to Single FEMs
The first FEMs for Wi-Fi 6/6E, including those offered by NXP, were dual FEMs. Each FEM was equipped with two monolithic front-end ICs. Our WLAN8101x family, for example, introduced in mid-2020, put two front-end ICs into a single QFN package that measured 3 x 4 mm.
RF designs don’t stand still for long, though, and our engineers are always working to top their own achievements. Just eight months after the WLAN8101x family became available, we broke new ground by being first with a single Wi-Fi 6E FEM. The WLAN7205C, designed for use in smartphones, was the industry’s first single-channel Wi-Fi 6 solution to offer a monolithic integrated power amplifier (PA), switch, and low noise amplifier (LNA) in a 2 x 2 mm QFN package.
First to market with single-channel Wi-Fi 6E front-end modules. Learn more about the WLAN Front-End ICs and Modules.
Compared to the dual-IC WLAN8101x, which requires a bigger package, the single-IC WLAN7205C can be placed even closer to the antenna. That reduces post-FEM trace losses and improves performance. Low post-PA losses deliver the best possible Tx efficiency, and low pre-LNA losses maximize the Rx sensitivity. Closer placement to the antenna also improves range, increases battery life, and enables faster data transmission.
Another NXP First
Now, NXP is taking single FEMs to the next level, with the WLAN7207C (5-7 GHz) and WLAN7207H (2.4 GHz and Bluetooth). Optimized for use in the latest smartphones, these fully integrated FEMs offer exceptionally high linearity and support low-power modes. They require no external matching components, for a design that is more compact, more cost-effective, and easier to finalize. They offer three Tx operating modes per band, enabling better fine-tuning of power efficiency, and two Rx operating modes, enabling a gain step between LNA mode and bypass mode. Best of all, they use tiny packages. The WLAN7207C is housed in a 2 x 2 mm HWFLGA16 package, while the WLAN7207H is in an HFCPLGA18 package that measures just 2.4 x 2.0 mm.
Like our other Wi-Fi FEMs, the WLAN7207x series is produced in our industry leading QUBiC SiGe:C BiCMOS technology, works very efficiently and helps to ensure Wi-Fi signals experience only minimal degradation in terms of noise, distortion, and spurious signals.
Better Smartphone Experiences
Smartphones that integrate the WLAN7207x series will improve Wi-Fi performance with little effect on battery life. Signals remain linear and easy to manage, for higher data rates and longer range. That translates into a more consistent experience, since activities like video calls, made on the go, will benefit from a more reliable connection. At the same time, the high efficiency of the RF chain means that this performance improvement is achieved with little impact to battery life.
Looking Ahead to Wi-Fi 7
The WLAN7207x series reflects the latest capabilities of high-performance RF design, but it also prepares developers for what’s next. The IEEE is already working on Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be), and the Wi-Fi Alliance predicts Wi-Fi 7 will begin availability as early as 2023. Wi-Fi 7 is expected to build further on the successes of Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E, using all three bands in even more advanced ways (2.4/5/6 GHz). Therefore, the WLAN7207 series, with its Wi-Fi 6/6E support, is a natural bridge for designs that will, soon enough, transition to Wi-Fi 7.
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