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Chinese vendor H3C introduces first Wi-Fi 7 router

The H3C Magic BE18000, powered by a Qualcomm chipset, offers several significant Wi-Fi 7 features, including multilink operation and 320 MHz of channel bandwidth.

Chinese network equipment maker H3C has introduced what it says is the first Wi-Fi 7 router, nearly two years before the scheduled release of the wireless standard.

The H3C Magic BE18000 offers a peak throughput of 18.443 Gbps, giving an early glimpse of the significantly higher throughput over current Wi-Fi 6 or 6E hardware.

The BE18000 can operate in the 2.4, 5 or 6GHz bands or all three simultaneously with multilink operation unique to Wi-Fi 7. Multilink operation allows connections to change frequency on the fly to avoid interference and improve latency.

The router, which can run in today's Wi-Fi networks, is equipped with 320 MHz of channel bandwidth, up from Wi-Fi 6's 160 MHz. H3C has not said when it will start taking orders for the BE18000, which it introduced late last month.

Wi-Fi 7's high throughput and low latency will be particularly useful for robotics in manufacturing. The specification also supports more connections per access point than Wi-Fi 6 or 6E, which should be helpful in areas with thousands of devices, such as a stadium during concerts or sports events.

Vendors have released pre-standard hardware for several generations of Wi-Fi. H3C's release of a Wi-Fi 7 router demonstrates that the unfinished specification is sufficient for product use.

Historically, standards have remained stable between initial hardware releases and the finalized specification. If standards do shift, vendors can update the hardware's firmware.

"Generally, that's been sufficient," said J. Gold Associates analyst Jack Gold.

H3C introduced its Wi-Fi 7 hardware years before most companies are ready to adopt the standard. Therefore, the product is less about sales and more about bragging rights and drawing attention to its brand, Gold said.

Qualcomm's Networking Pro 1220 platform drives the BE18000. The Pro 1220 is one of four Wi-Fi 7 chipsets the company announced in early May. They compete with products from Broadcom and MediaTek.

Qualcomm's Network Pro series combines Wi-Fi 7 features with the company's intelligent multi-channel management technologies. The latter increases the speed of Wi-Fi 6 and 6E devices while improving their network utilization.

The availability of Wi-Fi 7 silicon will likely lead to other hardware vendors shipping products in the future. However, most companies are unlikely to start deploying Wi-Fi 7 infrastructure until after the IEEE standards body finalizes the specification, 802.11be, in 2024.

Companies that held off on adopting Wi-Fi 6E would be the first to upgrade to Wi-Fi 7, analysts said. Developers of the standard expect it to handle up to 40 Gbps of traffic per router.

Madelaine Millar is a news writer covering network technology at TechTarget. She has previously written about science and technology for MIT's Lincoln Laboratory and the Khoury College of Computer Sciences, as well as covering community news for Boston Globe Media.

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