Broadcom debuts new RF front end modules for Wi-Fi 7 networking devices

Broadcom debuts new RF front end modules for Wi-Fi 7 networking devices

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Chipmaker Broadcom Inc. today debuted four RF front-end modules for powering routers that use Wi-Fi 7, a new wireless networking standard.

The company says its modules can also be used to build Wi-Fi access points, or APs. Those are the devices that enterprises use to provide wireless connectivity at their offices. 

The first routers and access points with Wi-Fi 7 support are set to become available later this year. The technology facilitates maximum network speeds of 46 gigabits per second, which is about four times higher than what current-generation systems can manage. Additionally, Wi-Fi 7 allows more devices to connect to a router at once. 

But alongside speed and usability improvements, the technology introduces new challenges. Routers that implement Wi-Fi 7 can require more power than earlier devices. In some cases, there’s also a higher risk of network interference, which can reduce the reliability of wireless connections. Broadcom says its new RF front modules address those challenges. 

Devices such as smartphones send their network traffic to a Wi-Fi router in the form of radio signals. The router can’t process radio signals in their original form, but must first translate them into electrical signals that its onboard processor will understand. That task is performed by RF front-end modules of the kind Broadcom debuted today.

RF front-end products can be found in a variety of systems ranging from smartphones to satellites. According to Broadcom, its new modules are specifically optimized for Wi-Fi 7 routers and access points. On launch, the company is offering four modules with varying configurations. 

The set of frequencies over which a router sends data is known as a radio band. Wi-Fi 7 uses three bands: 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 6GHz. According to Broadcom, a Wi-Fi 7 router can draw as much as 10 watts of power per each band it uses, which is up to several times more than what previous-generation products require.

The chipmaker’s new modules promise to reduce electricity requirements. According to Broadcom, they can cut the amount of power needed for RF front end tasks by as much as 40%. The company partly attributes the reduced energy requirements to the efficiency of its modules’ power amplifier, a component of RF front-end units responsible for amplifying radio signals.

Another technical challenge the chips promise to address is network interference.

The signals that a Wi-Fi router sends and receives can interfere with one another in some cases, which causes network outages for users. Routers include features that mitigate such issues. However, traditional methods of blocking wireless interference may become less effective once the new Wi-Fi 7 standard becomes broadly available.

Two of the radio bands over which Wi-Fi 7 sends signals, the 5GHz and 6GHz bands, are separated by only 50 megahertz. That makes it difficult for traditional interference filters to avoid connectivity issues. Broadcom says its new modules address this challenge as well.

According to the company, the modules are the first of their kind to include a so-called FBAR filter. That’s a type of advanced interference filter used for tasks such as increasing the reliability of smartphones’ 5G connections. Last month, Broadcom inked a multibillion-dollar deal to supply Apple Inc. with FBAR modules and other wireless components.

Broadcom says its modules also provide other benefits besides reducing power requirements and interference. The company claims they take up relatively little space on routers’ circuit boards and offer low insertion loss, which means the strength of the radio signals that they process isn’t reduced significantly during processing.

“Broadcom has shipped billions of highly integrated RFFE modules to the cellular market,” said Youngwoo Kwon, senior vice president and general manager of Broadcom’s wireless semiconductor business. “Our Wi-Fi 7 FiFEM leverages this deep integration expertise via our FBAR and high efficiency PA technology.”

Broadcom is currently sampling the chip to partners and early customers.

Photo: Broadcom

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