What Is Wi-Fi 7?
Next-gen wireless networks are nearly here. Does it matter?
- Wi-Fi 7 offers unparalleled speeds (up to 30 Gbps), lower latency, and a greater capacity than Wi-Fi 6E.
- Wi-Fi 7 is useful for 8K streaming, virtual reality, IoT (Internet of Things), telemedicine, and smart transportation applications.
- Early versions of Wi-Fi 7 technology are available ahead of the 2024 official release.
Wi-Fi 7, formally referred to as IEEE 802.11be, is the future of Wi-Fi technology, offering the most advanced features and capabilities to date. Building upon the foundation laid by its predecessors, Wi-Fi 7 promises to revolutionize wireless connectivity with unprecedented speed, reduced latency, and increased capacity. Let’s look at the new standard’s specifics, exploring its technological advancements and potential impact on various sectors.
Benefits of Wi-Fi 7
The new Wi-Fi 7 standard improves on previous standards in three key ways:
- Enhanced speed and capacity: These improvements make Wi-Fi 7 ideal for bandwidth-intensive applications like 8K video streaming, virtual reality experiences, and large-scale data transfers.
- Lower latency: The reduced latency is crucial for online gaming, real-time video conferencing, and the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem, providing seamless, interruption-free experiences.
- Improved efficiency: Wi-Fi 7’s efficiency is particularly noticeable in high-density environments like stadiums, airports, and large office spaces, where network congestion is a common issue.
Wi-Fi 7 vs. Wi-Fi 6E
With many of us just beginning to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6E, you might wonder what the difference is between that still relatively new standard and the upcoming Wi-Fi 7 standard.
The short answer is that Wi-Fi 7 expands on the capabilities of Wi-Fi 6E by providing faster speeds of up to 30 Gbps, lower latency, and the innovative Multi-Link Operation (MLO) feature, which allows simultaneous transmission over multiple frequency bands for enhanced performance. With wider channel bandwidths up to 320 MHz and operation across 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz bands, Wi-Fi 7 will deliver a more efficient and powerful wireless experience, making it a potential game-changer for bandwidth-intensive applications like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), automation, and AI.
Wi-Fi 6E vs. Wi-Fi 7: A Technical Comparison
|IEEE 802.11ax (extension)
|2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, 6 GHz
|2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, 6 GHz
|Up to 9.6 Gbps
|Up to 30 Gbps
|Up to 160 MHz
|Up to 320 MHz
|Lower than previous generations
|Even lower than 6E
Wi-Fi 7: Building on Past Standards
The progression of Wi-Fi technology has been marked by significant milestones, each denoted by a new standard: from Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n) offering increased speed and range to Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) further enhancing efficiency and capacity. These developments have consistently paved the way for more sophisticated and robust wireless networks, setting the stage for the arrival of Wi-Fi 7.
Early Adopters: Want Wi-Fi 7 now? The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) has been developing Wi-Fi 7 since 2019, and the standard is set for official release in May 2024. However, manufacturers are already producing Wi-Fi 7 products based on a preliminary version, planning firmware updates for those products when the standard’s final details are released.
Should You Upgrade to Wi-Fi 7?
While Wi-Fi 7 will eventually be the standard, switching to it now would make you a very early adopter. Here are some factors you should consider before you upgrade to Wi-Fi 7:
- Compatibility: While Wi-Fi 7 will be backward compatible with older devices, harnessing its full potential requires a supporting ecosystem of Wi-Fi 7-enabled devices and infrastructure.
- Cost: As with any emerging technology, the initial costs for Wi-Fi 7 devices and infrastructure upgrades will be higher, posing a barrier to early adoption.
- Infrastructure: Existing networks will require significant upgrades to support the advanced features of Wi-Fi 7, necessitating investment in new hardware and software solutions.
Technical Specifications of Wi-Fi 7
Wi-Fi 7 brings many new changes to the previous Wi-Fi standards. Here are the main features and technologies behind Wi-Fi 7.
Wi-Fi 7 will reach speeds up to 30 Gbps, a substantial leap from Wi-Fi 6’s maximum of 9.6 Gbps. Wi-Fi 7 will achieve these enhanced speeds through more efficient data encoding and wider channel bandwidths.
Wi-Fi 7 operates across three frequency bands: 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and the newly introduced 6 GHz. This expansion allows for larger channel sizes of up to 320 MHz and more simultaneous data streams, drastically increasing network capacity and flexibility.
Multi-Link Operation (MLO)
A standout feature of Wi-Fi 7 is its Multi-Link Operation (MLO), which enables devices to transmit data over multiple frequency bands simultaneously. This functionality not only improves data throughput, but also ensures more reliable connections by adapting to the best available band. This results in a more stable and consistent internet experience, which is particularly beneficial for activities requiring uninterrupted connectivity, like video conferencing and online gaming.
With 4096-QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation), Wi-Fi 7 offers more complex and efficient data encoding, translating to higher throughput and better overall network performance. This advanced modulation technique not only enhances the efficiency of the network, but also makes Wi-Fi 7 better suited for environments with high-density Wi-Fi usage, ensuring smoother and more reliable connections even in crowded areas like airports and stadiums.
How Wi-Fi 7 Will Change the World — and the World Wide Web
The adoption of Wi-Fi 7 is anticipated to accelerate rapidly, given its compelling benefits. With a growing number of Wi-Fi 7-enabled devices expected to enter the market, both consumers and businesses are ready to embrace this new standard. The transition, however, will be gradual, as it depends on the broader ecosystem’s ability to adopt and integrate these advancements.
When it does become widely adopted, Wi-Fi 7 will revolutionize web-based technologies. The superior speed, lower latency, and increased capacity it brings will significantly enhance VR and AR experiences, enable seamless 8K video streaming, and improve cloud gaming.
The technology will also support the expanding IoT ecosystem, advance telemedicine, optimize smart transportation, and facilitate large-scale event connectivity. Additionally, Wi-Fi 7 will bolster industrial automation, enrich online education, and transform home entertainment systems, marking a new era in high-speed, reliable wireless communication.
Wi-Fi 7 stands at the forefront of a new era in wireless connectivity, offering unparalleled speed, efficiency, and reliability improvements. Its adoption will redefine the capabilities of wireless networks, catering to the ever-increasing demands of modern digital life and technology. As the standard matures and becomes more accessible, Wi-Fi 7 will undoubtedly become a pivotal component in the evolution of wireless communication.