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HPE Aruba Networking’s Integration of Wi-Fi 7 Technology

By Greg_W posted 26 days ago

  

Blog By: Josh Schmelzle (HPE Aruba Networks WLAN TME)

HPE Aruba Networking is integrating Wi-Fi 7 technology to meet the industry’s increasing requirements for faster and more reliable Wi-Fi connectivity. As modern networks require higher speeds, enhanced network capabilities and reliability, HPE Aruba’s new platform offering incorporates significant technical advancements. This post will cover information on some of the specifications and capabilities of the Wi-Fi 7 technology and products from HPE Aruba Networking. 

AP-734 and AP-735 product picture
HPE Aruba Networking AP-734 and AP-735
HPE Aruba Networking AP-734 and AP-735 

AP-734 and AP-735 

Key features: 

  • Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be) 

  • Multi-Link Operation (MLO) 

  • Tri-band support (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz) 

  • Flexible radio support enabling dual 5 GHz or dual 6 GHz operations 

  • 320 MHz channel widths in 6 GHz 

  • Ultra Tri-Band (UTB) bandpass filtering 

  • High availability with dual 5 Gbps for redundant Ethernet and PoE failover 

  • Dual IoT radios 

  • Dual USB ports 

  • 802.11az FTM support 

  • Bluetooth 5.4 with HADM support 

  • Improved GNSS receiver 

  • Barometric pressure sensor 

Device Classes in 6 GHz 

The AP-735 will have the flexibility to operate as a Low Power Indoor (LPI) or Standard Power (SP) device class. When operating as Low Power Indoor (LPI) there is no Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) requirement for 6 GHz operation. When operating as Standard Power, AFC will be required and leveraged through the Frequency Coordination Orchestrator (FCO) service in Central. 

The AP-734 is a connectorized AP requiring external antennas. The AP-734 will operate as Standard Power (SP) and requires AFC for 6 GHz operation. Note that some regulatory domains will allow Standard Power operations indoors. 

AOS-10 version required 

The AP-734 and AP-735 will require HPE Aruba Central running AOS 10.7 for operation. Not all features will be included in the first release, but they will follow in the next software updates. 

What has changed since Wi-Fi 6E? 

To start IEEE 802.11be, marketed as Wi-Fi 7 by the Wi-Fi Alliance, introduces several new features. Here are some highlights. 

  • Multi-Link Operation (MLO) 

  • Restricted TWT (R-TWT) 

  • Multiple Resource Units 

  • Static Puncturing 

  • Stream Classification Service 

  • 4096-QAM (4K QAM) 

  • 320 MHz channel widths in 6 GHz 

Let’s step through some of these to understand what is different and how these features work from a high level. 

Speeds and feeds 

Although optional in the specification and restricted to 6 GHz operation, Wi-Fi 7 APs and clients can use up to 320 MHz channel widths for double the data rate than the previous maximum of Wi-Fi 6E (160 MHz). A 320 MHz channel consists of any two adjacent 160 MHz channels in the 6 GHz band. Remember there are only three 320 MHz channels available for reuse in 1200 MHz regulatory domains. That’s like the commonly accepted 3 channels in 2.4 GHz available for re-use. For regulatory domains (regdoms for short) that only opened 500 MHz of the 6 GHz band, there is only one 320 MHz channel available. We expect certain use cases to leverage 320 MHz channels, but for most of our enterprise customers, we think many will stick to 80 MHz or 160 MHz channel widths, which are more practical for channel reuse with 14 and 7 available, respectively. 

Like the new channel width, there is also a new, optional for support per the specification, modulation of 4096-QAM (4K QAM) introduced by Wi-Fi 7. 4K QAM with MCS 13 (R=5/6 coding rate) enables ~20% faster peak rates when compared to 1024 QAM (1K QAM). Just like before when 1K QAM was released with Wi-Fi 6, 4K QAM has even more stringent RF requirements than the previous highest order modulation. This is because of a more complex modulation scheme packing more bits per symbol. 1K QAM is a 10-bit symbol. 4K QAM is a 12-bit symbol and requires close proximity between client and AP. 

Here are what the maximum rates are for a few different channel width combinations across all three bands for the AP-730 series: 

500 MHz regdom option: 

Band 

Channel bandwidth 

Maximum Rate 

2.4 GHz 

20 MHz 

344 Mbps 

5 GHz 

40 MHz 

688 Mbps 

6 GHz 

40 MHz 

688 Mbps 

Total 

100 MHz 

1.72 Gbps 

1200 MHz regdom option #1: 

Band 

Channel bandwidth 

Maximum Rate 

2.4 GHz 

20 MHz 

344 Mbps 

5 GHz 

40 MHz 

688 Mbps 

6 GHz 

80 MHz 

1.4 Gbps 

Total 

140 MHz 

2.4 Gbps 

1200 MHz regdom option #2: 

Band 

Channel bandwidth 

Maximum Rate 

2.4 GHz 

20 MHz 

344 Mbps 

5 GHz 

40 MHz 

688 Mbps 

6 GHz 

160 MHz 

2.9 Gbps 

Total 

220 MHz 

3.9 Gbps 

Maximum channel widths across all three bands: 

Band 

Channel bandwidth 

Maximum Rate 

2.4 GHz 

40 MHz 

688 Mbps 

5 GHz 

160 MHz 

2.9 Gbps 

6 GHz 

320 MHz 

5.8 Gbps 

Total 

520 MHz 

9.3 Gbps 

Please note this last table with 40 MHz in 2.4 GHz, 160 MHz in 5 GHz, and 320 MHz in 6 GHz are not recommended channel widths for Enterprise deployments due to the lack of channel reuse at these large channel widths. I included them to show what the maximum rates at the maximum channel widths are. Refer to the first few tables for maximum rates across the more common channel widths found in production networks. 

Improving reliability by using multiple links 

One of the more interesting, or most marketed, features released with Wi-Fi 7 is Multi-Link Operation which enables clients and APs to exchange 802.11 frames over multiple links instead of just one like in previous generations. Imagine a smartphone connected to an AP using both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz for connectivity and passing data. MLO can improve throughput, latency, and reliability. 

There are two primary categories of MLO device types. 

  1. One alternates between links improving latency. Clients alternating between links can perform carrier sense on multiple links and switch between links. These are called Enhanced Multi-Link Single Radio (EMLSR) clients. Single radio clients are limited to alternating or switching between links. 

  1. One can concurrently use both links to increase peak throughput. There are a few different device types for multi-radio clients. The types that can concurrently Tx/Rx on links simultaneously are called Simultaneous Transmit Receive (STR) clients. Concurrent MLO requires the client to have multiple radios. 

Most mobile clients will fall into the first type because the additional radios come with higher power requirements which will drain batteries faster and additional RF circuitry will require more physical space in the device. Many clients will instead be single radio devices. 

Leveraging the capacity of 6 GHz 

Already 70 countries around the globe have made regulatory decisions and opened 6 GHz for the operation of unlicensed technology like Wi-Fi for Low Power Indoor (LPI). Wi-Fi 7 can also leverage the additional 1200 MHz of the 6 GHz band delivered along with Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax operating in the 6 GHz band). 6 GHz is a massive increase in spectrum and capacity where Wi-Fi 7 can shine with multiple gigabit throughput potential. 

Flexible radio support 

The AP-735 will have flexible radio support enabling the possibility to flip the 2.4 GHz radio to operate on either 5 GHz or 6 GHz providing two additional tri-radio modes of dual 5 GHz plus 6 GHz and dual 6 GHz plus 5 GHz. The flexible radio modes are 2/5/6, 5/5/6, or 5/6/6. When in dual 6 GHz mode, one radio will use the lower 6 GHz band in U-NII-5 and the other will use the upper 6 GHz band in U-NII-7 or U-NII-8. Dual 6 GHz mode does not support U-NII-6. Note that flexible radio support is not available on the AP-734. 

Flexible channel utilization 

Wi-Fi 7 introduces two features that are used in conjunction to provide flexible utilization of spectrum in situations where there is interference from either overlapping Wi-Fi networks or non-Wi-Fi incumbents. A feature called static puncturing enables Wi-Fi 7 transmissions to avoid certain sub-channels. Wi-Fi 6 introduces Resource Units as contiguous blocks of spectrum of various sizes for OFDMA. Wi-Fi 7 allows for multiple resource units (MRU) that are non-contiguous. Static puncturing and MRU together enable transmissions on a non-contiguous channel to avoid sub-channel interference. 

Notes on deployment considerations 

PSE
As more components, radios, and features are added to APs, so have the power requirements increased. An 802.3af (class 3) PSE is not supported for bringing the radios up but is enough to boot the AP. This means Class 3 will allow the AP-730 series APs to boot, with all radios disabled, for staging purposes only. If the switching PSE is 802.3at (class 4), you’ll want to enable IPM otherwise the AP will automatically disable certain components. If IPM is disabled with 802.3at (class 4), both USB ports will be disabled.    

Mounting
Which mounting hardware should you use? The new AP comes with the same familiar mounting system found with the previous two generations (AP-5xx and AP-6xx). 

Snap-on covers
A cosmetic snap-on cover is available for order which fits either the AP-735 or AP-734. The snap-on covers are paintable (use non-metallic paint). 

Console cable
Just like previous platforms, the AP-730 series uses the same familiar orange Micro-B USB 3.3V TTL serial console cable (AP-CBL-SERU). 

Uplink speeds
These new APs using maximum speeds at wider channel bandwidths are multiple gigabit capable! Consider deploying Smart Rate (802.3bz) capable uplinks for these APs. 

But wait, there is more. 

The new APs are not just a specification update for a new iteration of Wi-Fi. 

HPE Aruba Networking Wi-Fi 7 access points also deliver more and go beyond the standard. 

IoT 

HPE Aruba Networking has one of the largest IoT platform ecosystems with many hundreds of partners. The new Wi-Fi 7 AP platforms now support 2x the number of IoT radios and devices than before. The AP-730 series includes two IoT radios and two USB ports. The IoT radios are assignable to Bluetooth 5.4 (with HADM support) or Zigbee (802.15.4). The assignment combinations include dual BLE or BLE + Zigbee (802.15.4). Note that dual Zigbee operation is not supported. The USB ports are what enable support for other IoT protocols like EnOcean 800/900 MHz and more. 

Locationing 

The following enhancements delivered with the new Wi-Fi 7 platforms enable more accurate and secure location-aware services across multiple technologies and methods for pinpointing location.  

Barometer 

The new platforms enhance self-location with barometric sensors which enable floor level mapping based on pressure data. The barometric sensor provides the Z coordinate (altitude). 

GNSS/GPS 

Like the AP-6xx series, both the AP-734 and AP-735 include GNSS/GPS receivers for indoor accuracy of X/Y positioning. 

Bluetooth 

Bluetooth 5.4 with High-Accuracy Distance Measurement (HADM) support for enhanced locationing services. HADM uses time of flight, angle of arrival, and signal power to calculate distances to other Bluetooth devices. The core positioning technology for HADM is known as Channel Sounding which uses phase-based ranging on multiple Bluetooth channel frequencies to calculate a distance measurement. HADM is different than previous BLE RSSI based methods and offers better accuracy. 

FTM 

Support for the latest specification of Fine Time Measurement (FTM) with 802.11az for solutions up to sub 1 meter indoor location measurement accuracy with energy efficiencies, dynamic scheduling, larger channel widths, and MIMO for indoor use cases like retail and warehouse asset tracking. Not only does 802.11az produce better accuracy than the first release of FTM with 802.11mc which delivered 1-2 meter accuracy but is more secure with PHY level anti-spoofing using Secure LTF to thwart Attacker-in-the-Middle and Time Advance attacks. 

Bandpass filtering 

Ultra tri-band filtering system enables dynamic flexible use of closely adjacent channels between radios in the same housing. This patented filtering technology eliminates interference and allows full use of both 5 GHz and 6 GHz channels. 

This is critical for deployments in regdoms where the full 6 GHz band is not allowed. Competitors that do not have a solution to the filtering challenges of housing the closely adjacent 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands in the same AP have 30% fewer channels for individual AP channel assignment. 

Intelligent power saving 

AI-powered power save is an enhanced version of what HPE Aruba Networking was previously calling Green AP. This feature enables intelligent scheduling of APs to go to sleep and wake up. The core technology behind this feature is Wake-on-LAN (WOL). 

This feature is client-aware capable and automated scheduling is based on time series data for both clients and APs. Even stationary 24/7/365 connected IoT clients are considered, and coverage is calculated to make sure coverage is still provided for them. The feature is smart enough to also consider APs that need to be always up like outdoor and mesh APs or if the AP is the designated IoT gateway. 

Currently, power save is an allowlisted feature and requires 20 or more APs. There is a plan to reduce the minimum AP requirement as our experts learn more from larger deployments. 

Security 

GCMP-256 and Beacon Protection 

With Wi-Fi 7, we’ve modified WPA3-Personal to support Galois Counter Mode Protocol with 256-bit key (GCMP-256) ciphers and Beacon Protection. The AP advertises and indicates support for GCMP-256 in the RSNE found in beacons and probe responses. GCMP-256 uses a 256-bit key which is twice the length of the 128-bit key used in CCMP-128. 

Beacon Protection is indicated in the Extended Capabilities IE bit 84 in octet 11. When Beacon Protection is enabled, a Message Integrity Check (MIC) is added to beacon frames. This is like how PMF adds a MIC to certain management frames. Beacon Protection extends the feature to beacon frames. Beacon Protection allows associated clients to verify the integrity of the beacon frame to detect attacks that forge or modify beacon frames. 

MACsec 

We’ve extended Ethernet protection with MACsec from the access switch to the AP. MACsec will be available in a future software release. 

Personal Wireless Networks 

HPE Aruba Networking has also introduced a new solution called Personal Wireless Networks (PWNs) in Central and AOS 10 which allows for the segmentation of personal devices within a VLAN based on identity. 

An example of this might include a student in a dorm with a gaming console, laptop, mobile device, and video streaming devices to share and communicate with each other but not with other students’ devices. 

Note that currently the security mode for PWNs is limited to WPA2 secured networks due to a limitation in the legacy standard. This means PWNs will not support 6 GHz operation at this time. The HPE Aruba Networking CTO team is working on a standards-based approach with the industry to address the multiple passphrase problem with WPA3-Personal. 

Summary 

HPE Aruba Networking has embraced the new era of connectivity with Wi-Fi 7 building on advancements over Wi-Fi 6E with the AP-734 and AP-735 models, including higher data transfer rates and enhanced reliability. 

These new platforms incorporate advanced features such as Multi-Link Operation (MLO), 4096-QAM to enhance data transmission speeds and reliability, flexible channel utilization to combat sub-channel interference, and flexible radio support, all which underscore technological advancements tailored for complex enterprise environments. 

We believe that supporting the standard is table stakes and that we need to do more. Our new 730 Series APs act as a platform and extend locationing, IoT, security, and AI solutions beyond just Wi-Fi operations. These platforms are the first in a new family of products to meet the growing demands of modern enterprises offering performance enhancements, new capabilities, and robust solutions. 

Thanks for reading! 

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