Wi-fi 7, the successor to Wi-Fi 6E won’t be here for more than a year, but it already promises to dramatically increase the speed and stability of your wireless connections.
While most people have only recently switched to Wi-Fi 6 , and others are still considering perhaps switching to Wi-Fi 6E, their successor is already in the works. Wi-Fi 7 is the next significant advancement on the horizon and, like its predecessors, this new technology promises faster connections, lower latency and the ability to handle more connections than ever before.
If you’re looking to upgrade your Wi-Fi today, Wi-Fi 7 isn’t the answer, as it’s still more than a year away from its potential release (and realistically, it’ll be quite a while before most of us even consider it).
What is Wi-Fi 7?
The 7th generation of Wi-Fi promises major improvements over Wi-Fi 6 and 6E and could offer speeds up to four times faster. It also includes intelligent advances to reduce latency, increase capacity, and improve stability and efficiency.
Like previous standards, Wi-Fi 7 will be backwards compatible. But to take advantage of the new features and improved performance it promises, you’ll need to upgrade your devices. This means buying new routers and access points, not to mention new smartphones, laptops, TVs, etc.
What benefits will Wi-Fi 7 bring?
Wi-Fi 7 will be faster, support more connections and be more adaptive to maintain reliable low-latency performance.
These benefits will help provide even higher quality video, a better online gaming experience, and will serve AR and VR applications that require high throughput and low latency. Wi-Fi 7 also addresses congestion and interference, bringing tangible benefits to areas with densely packed devices or overlapping neighboring networks. This last benefit is the most important for companies.
How does Wi-Fi 7 compare to Wi-Fi 6E?
You may rightly ask what distinguishes this standard from Wi-Fi 6E, which promises broadly the same benefits over previous standards by opening up the 6 GHz band. Especially since Wi-Fi 7 will use the same three bands 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 6 GHz. Here are some notable improvements.
Each band is divided into channels. The 2.4 GHz band consists of 11 channels of 20 megahertz (MHz) each. There are 45 channels in the 5 GHz band, but instead of being limited to a width of 20 MHz, they can combine to create 40 MHz or 80 MHz channels. The 6 GHz band supports 60 channels, and with Wi-Fi 6E, they can reach 160 MHz. Wi-Fi 7 supports channels up to 320 MHz wide. The wider the channel, the more data it can transmit.
A simple analogy is to imagine how much traffic a single-lane road can handle compared to a three-lane highway or a six-lane highway.
Quadrature amplitude modulation (Q AM) is a method for transmitting and receiving data in radio waves. The higher it is, the more information you can store. Wi-Fi 7 supports 4K-MAQ, Wi-Fi 6 supports 1024-MAQ and Wi-Fi 5 was limited to 256-MAQ.
The potential benefits are complicated by signal strength, background noise and interference. Therefore, as the QAM increases, the range decreases and you need a stronger signal. For example, the move to 1024-MAQ in Wi-Fi 6 offered about a 25% increase in data throughput over Wi-Fi 5. The move to 4K-MAQin Wi-Fi 7 results in a 20% increase in peak performance.
The most interesting advance of this technology is probably its multi-link operation (MLO). Each previous Wi-Fi standard establishes a connection between two devices on a single band. Even a tri-band 6E Wi-Fi router connects two devices on a single band on a fixed channel (the router decides to connect on the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz or 6 GHz band).
The MLO can combine multiple frequencies on multiple bands into a single connection. A Wi-Fi 7 router can simultaneously connect to a Wi-Fi 7 device on two or more channels in different bands. MLO potentially allows for wider channels capable of transmitting more data. Going back to our highway analogy, you can send traffic on the highway and the highway at the same time.
Speed is not always the priority, but MLO also allows for more efficient performance. A Wi-Fi 7 router can take congestion and other interference into account and transmit on the best channel to bypass it, switching to maintain a stable connection and low latency.
When will Wi-Fi 7 be available?
It will probably be more than a year before we see the first Wi-Fi 7 devices and routers rolled out, but the new standard is starting to take shape.
Qualcomm has already unveiled its new chips that can be used by router manufacturers to bring Wi-Fi 7 to consumers and businesses. Broadcom and MediaTek have also announced they are working on Wi-Fi 7 technologies. Other vendors will no doubt announce their plans in the coming months as the new standard is confirmed and officially designated by the Wi-Fi Alliance.
Even when Wi-Fi 7 arrives, it won’t sweep up Wi-Fi 6. The two will likely coexist as complementary technologies for many years to come.