What Is Wi-Fi 7?

The new Wi-Fi standard is coming. Here's what it can do

Also known as IEEE 802.11be Extremely High Throughput (EHT), Wi-Fi 7 is the next generation of Wi-Fi technology being developed to provide faster and more efficient wireless connectivity for devices.

Wi-Fi 7 is over four times faster than Wi-Fi 6, supports five times the network capacity, and has much lower latency. Greater speeds and more capacity is especially important in crowded environments like large public events, where there may be a lot of interference from other devices.

It's believed to be formally standardized by 2024, but the first devices supporting it are expected to hit the market before then.

Wi-Fi 7 Key Features

Its main feature is the ability to provide faster speeds and lower latency compared to previous generations of Wi-Fi. This is possible by using a new frequency band (6 GHz) in addition to the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands used by Wi-Fi 6 and older generations.

Below are other new features and improvements Wi-Fi 7 makes over older Wi-Fi standards:

Larger Channel Size

Wi-Fi 7 doubles the bandwidth of Wi-Fi 6, from a channel width of 160 MHz to 320 MHz. The width of a Wi-Fi channel determines how much data can pass through—the wider the channel, the more data it can transfer. This means not only faster speeds but also more simultaneous data transmissions.

Multi-Link Operation

Multi-link operation (MLO) allows aggregation of two or more channels from any available frequency band (6/5/2.4 GHz) so devices can simultaneously send and receive data across different bands. The benefits of this can be seen in situations that call for lower latency and more bandwidth, like video conferencing, cloud computing, and extended reality gaming.

4096-QAM

Quadrature amplitude modulation is the technique of encoding data on a radio signal. Wi-Fi 7 offers enhanced modulation of 4096-QAM, which packs more data for higher speed.

TP-Link explains why 4K-QAM matters for Wi-Fi 7:

This is crucial for consistently serving a large number of clients and ensures fast and reliable WiFi coverage in high-density deployment scenarios.

MU-MIMO

Multi-user multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO) allows a Wi-Fi router to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously to more effectively target specific devices and improve the efficiency of the wireless connection. Wi-Fi 7 increases the number of spatial streams from 8 to 16 to essentially double the physical transmission rate compared to Wi-Fi 6.

Automated Frequency Coordination

Everything RF defines AFC best, as a "spectrum use coordination system that consists of a registered database of all the bands in use by various types of radio frequency services in a particular area."

So how does this relate to Wi-Fi 7? AFC is used by Wi-Fi devices that operate on the 6 GHz band, like Wi-Fi 7 and Wi-Fi 6E access points. However, this band is already used by NASA, weather radar systems, and other crucial services.

In an effort to reduce Wi-Fi 7 networks from negatively impacting those services, AFC is used to understand if interference is an issue, and if it is, to reduce transmission power. If no such disturbances are predicted, then the access point can deliver more power, and thus normal throughput and wireless service.

Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6

In terms of overall performance, Wi-Fi 7 is expected to offer significant improvements over Wi-Fi 6. Its theoretical maximum speed is 46 Gbps, which is significantly faster than Wi-Fi 6's 9.6 Gbps.

Wi-Fi 7 is also expected to offer lower latency, making it ideal for applications that require fast response times, such as online gaming and virtual reality.

Here's a quick comparison of Wi-Fi 7, Wi-Fi 6E, and Wi-Fi 6:

  Wi-Fi 7  Wi-Fi 6E Wi-Fi 6
Standard 802.411be  802.11ax 802.11ax
Bands 6 GHz, 5 GHz, 2.4 GHz 6 GHz, 5 GHz, 2.4 GHz 5 GHz, 2.4 GHz
Channel Size Up to 320 MHz 20, 40, 80, 80+80, 160 MHz 20, 40, 80, 80+80, 160 MHz
Max Data Rate  46 Gbps 9.5 Gbps 9.6 Gbps
QAM 4096-QAM 1024-QAM 1024-QAM
Release Date 2024 (est.) 2021 2019

Wi-Fi 7 Availability

Wi-Fi 7 is still in the development phase and as such hasn't yet been widely adopted. While it is expected to be a significant upgrade over Wi-Fi 6 in terms of speed and performance, it will likely be some time before it reaches the masses because it requires new hardware.

TP-Link is one company that's already advertising compatible devices, including mesh Wi-Fi 7 systems, Wi-Fi routers, and access points.

Do You Need Wi-Fi 7?

Wi-Fi 6 isn't going away anytime soon. It will continue to be used for years as Wi-Fi 7 is integrated into our homes and businesses. But Wi-Fi 7 still clearly has a target audience.

Specifically, if network congestion, buffering, and the like are symptoms that plague your network, Wi-Fi 7 will offer substantial improvements. Not only at home and work but, as you read above, public spaces are one clear scenario where you'd find Wi-Fi 7 useful.

Consider hundreds or thousands of devices competing for bandwidth at the same time for cloud gaming, smart home connectivity, video calls, streaming, etc. We no doubt have more devices every year that need online access, so to support that demand, we need to upgrade how we access the internet through new technologies like Wi-Fi 7.

Even if your network doesn't support gigabit speeds, Wi-Fi 7 could still be useful when you consider local devices. If your router, VR headset, and other devices support Wi-Fi 7, they could communicate with each other at ultrafast speeds even if your ISP-provided internet can't.

For example, there'd be no issue utilizing Wi-Fi 7 to support your VR headset's immersive experience it's designed to create or stream crystal-clear movies from your media server to your TV.

FAQ
  • Will Wi-Fi 7 improve my Wi-Fi?

    It all depends on what you mean by improve. Troubleshooting Wi-Fi is difficult because there could be a myriad of issues affecting your ability to use Wi-Fi. A very common one is a weak signal. If your equipment is working properly but you aren’t getting a strong Wi-Fi signal, following the steps in the linked article can help (and then maybe you don’t yet need to upgrade to Wi-Fi 7 when it becomes available). Keep in mind, thick walls and floors can impede the signal of a properly working Wi-Fi router.

  • Will my existing computer and other items work with Wi-Fi 7?

    Yes, your existing equipment will work as it does now. But do understand your older equipment may not be able to take advantage of the higher speeds Wi-Fi offers.

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