Android 13 adds basic support for the next-gen WiFi 7 standard
There’s barely been enough time for consumers to adopt WiFi 6E, but that hasn’t stopped companies from talking about their plans for WiFi 7. WiFi 7, which is the likely marketing name for the IEEE 802.11be standard, won’t be seen in client devices until new products launch with support for it likely later this year. When that happens, early adopters will likely have to wait a bit for WiFi 7-supporting routers to make their way onto the market. All of this will happen while the 802.11be standard is still being revised, because the final version of the standard is expected to land in early 2024.
If it seems like companies are rushing to bring their WiFi 7 products to market, that’s because they are. There’s good reason for that, though. WiFi 7 is an exciting evolution of the WiFi standard, enabling much faster speeds and very low latency. Anshel Sag, Principal Analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, explains the most important features in the new WiFi standard that are driving these improvements. “Wi-Fi 7 adds features like 4K QAM modulation for higher peak throughput (compared to 1024). In addition to the higher-order modulation, probably the biggest feature in Wi-Fi 7 is the addition of multi-link which comes in multiple flavors and adds the ability to aggregate spectrum across multiple bands which wasn’t possible before or to switch between those bands to use the band with the least interference/latency.”
Whether the standard is finalized in time or not, WiFi 7 products are just around the corner. In anticipation of these impending product launches, Google is preparing Android to support the new WiFi 7 standard, because Android is what many of the first WiFi 7 client devices will be running.
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While poring over the Android 13 preview builds, I learned that the DeviceWiphyCapabilities class, which “contains the WiFi physical layer attributes and capabilities of the device”, has been updated with 802.11be in the list of standards and 320MHz as a supported channel width. (One of the key improvements in WiFi 7 is its improved channel bandwidth of 320MHz.) DeviceWiphyCapabilities queries the IEEE 802.11 standards and channel bandwidths supported by the WiFi driver. Android’s wificond process communicates with the WiFi driver using standard nl80211 commands, such as the ones listed in DeviceWiphyCapabilities.
The inclusion of this code in Android’s WiFi stack doesn’t mean that every device running Android 13 will support WiFi 7, of course, but it’s a necessary step to making Android 13 aware of WiFi 7-capable hardware. Another necessary step is to update the kernel’s network stack to support WiFi 7, but fortunately, that part is being taken care of upstream. In fact, patches from Qualcomm and Intel engineers have already made their way into the android13-5.15 Android Common Kernel branch. If I’m being optimistic, we may see the first Android devices with support for the draft version of the WiFi 7 standard launch in late 2022, with Android 13 on board, of course.
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