Why Multi-link Operation (MLO) makes WiFi 7 great

Multi-Link Operation (MLO) is one of the major upgrades for WiFi 7, and it is expected to make internet connections faster than ever. Here is a basic guide to MLO to help users understand how it might help improve their internet experience.

What is MLO?


First, a quick review of the significant features of MLO:

  1. It highly increases throughput and reduces latency.
  2. It allows a single device (client) to concurrently use multiple bands and connections (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, 6 GHz) and quickly cross between them.
  3. It allows a router or access point (AP) to transmit and receive packets simultaneously through any available connection.

MLO is one of the key features of WiFi 7 that advances the protocol beyond WiFi 6 and 6E. It offers higher throughput by transmitting duplicated data simultaneously across multiple connections, and it delivers lower latency by dynamically switching to secondary connections when the primary one is unavailable or congested.

Transmitting duplicated data simultaneously in multi-link for higher throughput.

Switching one another to achieve lower latency.

Although MLO is considered to be a single major upgrade for WiFi 7, it works differently for clients and APs. For clients like mobile devices, MLO grants the power to concurrently transmit data using two high bands (5 GHz and 6 GHz) transmitting in a single radio band, plus the 2.4 GHz radio. A device that supports MLO is free to use these bands at the same time to raise throughput, or to quickly alternate between them for lower latency.

MLO mechanism operates differently on client and AP.

Meanwhile, for APs, MLO provides the capability to transmit and receive data simultaneously across multiple links. Such a device will be able to use up to three radios at a time, depending on how many it comes with. This not only highly increases throughput, but it also reduces latency by transmitting data across multiple links to prevent interruptions.

If you are using a mesh network, MLO could also improve the reliability of backhaul connection between access points. In the past, WiFi 6 and 6E backhaul were limited to specific bands; for a tri-band router, it could be labeled as “5 GHz 2.” If the 5 GHz 2 band encountered signal interference or blockage, internet speeds would be degraded due to the reconstruction process of the backhaul. With MLO, backhauls can switch freely between bands to provide a reliable network, even if the original band is down.

MLO has many transmission modes, such as Simultaneous Transceiver Reception (STR), Non-Simultaneous Transceiver Reception (NSTR), Multi-Link Multi-Radio Reception (MLMR), and Multi-Link Single-Radio Reception (MLSR). And complicated types require more sophisticated hardware support. Without getting too technical, these modes can all achieve multi-link operation, but the actual use case will vary according to the available hardware and other technical concerns.

Why do we need MLO and high-quality network connections?

With the capability and reliability of MLO, the sizeable data transmission requirements of online virtual reality can be realized completely though AR/VR devices available to the general public. Soon, you might not only watch video streams on your home couch, but you could also sit in a virtual stadium anywhere in the world and witness the next FIFA World Cup. Or go on a virtual adventure with characters from your favorite game. Individual online experiences on the internet could be totally brought to another level.

And for business use cases, IoT has now moved to industry 4.0. We now require more communication from the cloud to IoT devices, and massive data transmissions between pieces of IOT equipment. MLO could provide rapid and reliable connections at each site as needed.

However, the value of MLO is best demonstrated when using multiple devices simultaneously in heavy traffic, and with multiple bands. Which means that WiFi 7 devices and access points may be the best bet to future-proof your networks.

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