Your Complete Guide to WiFi 7

By Mark Bartley
November 24, 2023
Lego character using a laptop in a coffee shop enabled with WiFi 7

While the tech world has been buzzing with the adoption of WiFi 6 and the exploration of WiFi 6E, the horizon is already brightening with the arrival of WiFi 7. This latest iteration in wireless technology promises to elevate our connectivity experience, boasting faster speeds, lower latency, and enhanced capacity for handling numerous devices simultaneously. WiFi 7 stands as a testament to the relentless evolution of wireless communication, poised to surpass the capabilities of its predecessors.

Currently, for those looking to immediately upgrade their WiFi setup, WiFi 7 may seem a bit distant due to its emerging support and availability. However, the landscape is rapidly changing, especially with the recent introduction of the first WiFi 7-ready devices, sparking excitement among tech aficionados and early adopters.

Despite this progress, a widespread shift to WiFi 7 may still remain on the horizon for most users. For those considering an upgrade in the near term, it’s crucial to understand the key factors in choosing a router. This knowledge is invaluable, whether you’re navigating the best WiFi routers on the market or delving into the realm of top-tier mesh WiFi systems.

What is WiFi 7?

WiFi 7, officially designated as IEEE 802.11be Extremely High Throughput (EHT), marks a significant advancement in the field of wireless networking technology.

As the latest development following WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E, WiFi 7 is poised to redefine the capabilities of wireless internet by delivering unprecedented speed, increased capacity, and improved efficiency. This new standard is designed to meet the demands of a digital era that is increasingly dependent on high-bandwidth applications, such as ultra-high-definition video streaming, augmented and virtual reality, and the seamless functioning of numerous smart devices.

One of the key characteristics of WiFi 7 is its compatibility with a broad spectrum of devices, facilitated by its operation across the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz frequency bands. This feature not only ensures a wide range of device compatibility but also opens the door to significantly higher speeds and more stable connections.

WiFi 7's commitment to addressing the growing need for internet speed and the burgeoning number of connected devices is evident in its enhanced throughput and substantially reduced latency. This makes it an ideal solution for both current and future demands of individual users, businesses, and technologically advanced environments.

With WiFi 7, the promise is not just of incremental improvement, but of a transformative shift that aims to elevate the standard of our digital interactions, offering smoother, faster, and more reliable online experiences.

The Basics of WiFi 7

WiFi 7, or IEEE 802.11be Extremely High Throughput, if you talk as though you're Captain Holt in Brooklyn 99, represents the latest chapter in the evolution of wireless networking standards.

It's a technology engineered to significantly boost the performance of wireless networks, characterised by its ability to support multi-gigabit speeds and handle a large number of devices simultaneously. This is achieved through its operation across the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz frequency bands, with each band contributing to a considerable increase in bandwidth and speed.

WiFi 7 is not just about faster internet; it's about a more efficient and robust way to transmit data wirelessly, making it a pivotal advancement in the world of wireless communication.

WiFi 7-dice_rollover

WiFi 5, 6, 7...

The journey to WiFi 7 began with previous iterations like WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E, each playing a crucial role in setting the stage for this latest development. WiFi 6, introduced as an improvement over WiFi 5, focused on enhancing network efficiency and capacity, particularly in environments with a high density of connected devices. It brought about significant improvements in terms of managing network congestion and boosting overall speeds.

Following this, WiFi 6E extended these capabilities by incorporating the newly opened 6 GHz band, offering more bandwidth and less interference. However, WiFi 6E was still limited by certain constraints in bandwidth and speed, primarily in its inability to fully utilise the 6 GHz band's potential.

Enter WiFi 7, which takes these advancements to the next level. It dramatically increases the maximum achievable speeds—up to 46 Gbps, a stark contrast to the 9.6 Gbps peak of WiFi 6. This surge in speed is partly due to the support for wider channels of up to 320 MHz, compared to the 160 MHz channels in WiFi 6. Moreover, WiFi 7 introduces Multi-Link Operation (MLO), enabling devices to transmit data across multiple frequency bands simultaneously, further boosting speed and reducing latency.

WiFi 7 stands as a testament to the ongoing evolution of wireless technology. It builds upon the foundational improvements introduced by WiFi 6 and 6E, pushing the boundaries of speed, capacity, and efficiency. This progression signifies not just an upgrade in technology but a transformation in how wireless networks will cater to the ever-growing demands of the digital age, making WiFi 7 a pivotal milestone in the wireless networking saga.

Key Features of WiFi 7

With its groundbreaking improvements in speed, bandwidth, latency, and efficiency, WiFi 7 is poised to address the ever-growing demands of our increasingly connected lives. From households bustling with smart devices to businesses reliant on heavy data transfer and real-time communication.

Speed and Performance

One of the most notable features of WiFi 7 is its remarkable increase in speed. The standard boasts maximum speeds of up to 46 Gbps, a significant leap from the 9.6 Gbps peak of WiFi 6. This substantial enhancement in speed makes WiFi 7 a game-changer in wireless networking. Such speeds are not just about faster downloads; they enable a host of high-bandwidth applications and services, revolutionising the way we interact with digital content. The impact of this increased speed is particularly evident when compared to previous generations, marking WiFi 7 as a major milestone in wireless technology evolution.

Bandwidth and Frequency Bands

WiFi 7 extends its prowess into bandwidth and frequency bands, offering support for the traditional 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and the newer 6 GHz bands. This trifecta of frequency bands enables a more versatile and robust wireless connection. The introduction of ultra-wide 320MHz channels is another critical enhancement. These broader channels allow for more data to be transmitted simultaneously, greatly increasing the overall efficiency and capacity of the network. This feature ensures that WiFi 7 can handle more devices and more data-intensive applications, making it ideal for both current and future wireless needs.

Latency Improvements

For applications where timing is crucial, such as online gaming and video conferencing, latency is a key concern. WiFi 7 addresses this with significant latency improvements, ensuring better real-time responsiveness. The reduced latency means smoother gameplay, more fluid video calls, and an overall enhanced interactive experience. This improvement is particularly important as we move towards more real-time applications in our digital lives.

Multi-Link Operation (MLO)

Multi-Link Operation (MLO) is a revolutionary feature in WiFi 7. MLO allows devices to send and receive data simultaneously across different WiFi bands. This simultaneous operation across multiple bands significantly increases the network throughput. For users, this means faster data transfers, more efficient use of the network, and reduced chances of bottlenecking, especially in environments with many connected devices.

Preamble Puncturing

Preamble Puncturing is an innovative solution introduced in WiFi 7 to combat network congestion. This feature allows the network to utilise parts of a channel that are not fully occupied, even if the rest of the channel is in use. By doing so, it effectively reduces network congestion and makes more efficient use of available bandwidth. This aspect of WiFi 7 is particularly beneficial in densely populated areas or environments with numerous overlapping networks, as it ensures more reliable and consistent connectivity.

Overall, these key features make WiFi 7 not just an upgrade, but a significant leap forward in wireless networking technology, promising faster, more efficient, and more reliable wireless connections.

WiFi 7 vs. WiFi 6: Head-to-Head

wifi6-car-wifi7-race

The advent of WiFi 7 marks a significant progression in wireless networking technology, particularly when compared to its predecessor, WiFi 6E. Although both standards operate across the same frequency bands—2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz—WiFi 7 introduces several key enhancements that set it apart and ahead.

Wider Channels

One of the most significant upgrades in WiFi 7 is the support for wider channels. To understand this, it's helpful to visualise channels as roads that data travels on. In the 2.4-GHz band, WiFi 6E offers 11 channels, each 20 MHz wide, while in the 5-GHz band, it can combine channels to create 40-MHz or 80-MHz pathways. The leap comes in the 6-GHz band, where WiFi 6E supports channels up to 160 MHz wide, but WiFi 7 doubles this to a massive 320 MHz. The wider the channel, the more data it can transmit at once, akin to comparing a single-lane road to a multi-lane motorway.

Higher QAM

Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) is a technique used to transmit data using radio-frequency waves. The higher the QAM, the more data you can pack into these waves. WiFi 6 made strides by supporting 1024-QAM, up from 256-QAM in WiFi 5, resulting in about a 25% increase in data rate. WiFi 7 takes an even bigger leap to 4K-QAM, translating to a 20% boost in peak performance compared to WiFi 6. However, with higher QAM, the effective range decreases, necessitating a stronger signal for optimal performance.

Multi-Link Operation (MLO)

Perhaps the most groundbreaking feature in WiFi 7 is Multi-Link Operation (MLO). Previous WiFi standards, including WiFi 6E, establish a connection between devices on a single band at any given time. MLO, however, changes the game by allowing a WiFi 7 router to connect to a device using multiple frequencies across different bands simultaneously. This capability not only enables wider channels for transmitting more data but also allows for dynamic adjustment to maintain stable connections and low latency, effectively utilising the dual-carriageway and motorway simultaneously.

MLO offers a strategic advantage, particularly in managing the short range of the 6-GHz band. By considering factors like congestion and interference, MLO enables a WiFi 7 router to choose the most efficient channels for data transmission. This flexibility ensures a more reliable connection, maintaining high performance even in challenging wireless environments.

In summary, while WiFi 6E laid the groundwork by introducing access to the 6-GHz band and improving overall performance, WiFi 7 builds upon this foundation with significantly wider channels, higher QAM, and the introduction of MLO. These enhancements collectively contribute to making WiFi 7 not just a successor to WiFi 6E, but a superior and more advanced wireless networking standard, ready to cater to the ever-increasing demands of modern digital connectivity.

What is WiFi 7 Good For?

For Businesses

In the business sphere, WiFi 7 stands as a transformative technology. With its unparalleled speeds and reduced latency, WiFi 7 is set to significantly enhance various aspects of business operations. One of the key benefits is the reduction of login waits, a common bottleneck in large networks. This improvement in speed means that employees can access network resources more quickly and efficiently, leading to increased productivity.

Virtual meetings, which have become a staple in the modern business world, will benefit greatly from WiFi 7. The enhanced bandwidth and lower latency ensure smoother video conferencing with fewer interruptions and better-quality video and audio. This improvement is vital for maintaining effective communication in a globalised and increasingly remote working environment.

Home and Entertainment

For home networks, gaming, streaming, and smart home devices, WiFi 7 offers a plethora of benefits. In households with multiple devices connected simultaneously, WiFi 7's increased network capacity and speed ensure that each device maintains optimal performance. This is particularly beneficial for gaming, where WiFi 7's low latency and high-speed data transfer can provide a more seamless and immersive gaming experience, reducing lag and improving reaction times.

Streaming services also stand to gain, as WiFi 7's high bandwidth supports better quality streaming of 4K and even 8K content without buffering. This enhancement elevates the home entertainment experience to new heights. Moreover, as homes become smarter and more connected, the ability of WiFi 7 to handle numerous smart home devices simultaneously ensures that each device functions effectively, enhancing the overall smart home experience.

Future Technologies

The impact of WiFi 7 extends into the realm of emerging technologies, particularly augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). These technologies require high bandwidth and low latency to provide immersive experiences, and WiFi 7 is well-equipped to meet these demands. With its ability to transmit large amounts of data quickly and efficiently, WiFi 7 can significantly enhance the performance of AR and VR applications, making them more responsive and realistic. This advancement could accelerate the adoption and development of AR and VR technologies, potentially leading to more widespread and varied uses in education, training, entertainment, and beyond.

Whether in business, home entertainment, or cutting-edge technological applications, WiFi 7 offers substantial improvements that will shape the way we connect and interact with the digital world.

WiFi 7 Security Features

A crucial aspect of any new wireless technology is its security features, and WiFi 7 is no exception. With the introduction of this advanced standard comes the anticipation of enhanced security protocols, notably the proposed WPA4 (WiFi Protected Access 4) support. This potential addition to WiFi 7's security arsenal represents a proactive approach to addressing the evolving landscape of cyber threats.

WPA4 is expected to build upon the foundations laid by its predecessor, WPA3, which brought significant improvements in encryption and authentication methods. The move to WPA4 with WiFi 7 is indicative of the ongoing commitment to bolster wireless network security, particularly crucial in an era where digital threats are becoming more sophisticated.

However, it's important to note that as of now, the WPA4 standard has not been formally ratified. This means that while the framework for enhanced security measures is being laid out in conjunction with the rollout of WiFi 7, the full details and implementation of WPA4 are still in the works. The ratification process involves thorough testing and validation to ensure that the new security protocols meet the stringent requirements necessary to protect against current and future security challenges.

The introduction of WPA4 in WiFi 7 is expected to offer stronger encryption, improved protection against brute-force attacks, and enhanced privacy in public networks. These advancements are particularly vital as the number of connected devices continues to grow, and the reliance on wireless networks for both personal and professional use increases.

The security features of WiFi 7, with the anticipated support for WPA4, show a clear commitment to advancing the safety and integrity of wireless networks. This move is essential in maintaining user trust and ensuring that WiFi 7 not only delivers in terms of performance and speed but also stands strong against the ever-evolving threats in the digital world.

When Will WiFi 7 Be Available?

The rollout of WiFi 7 is on the horizon, with its market availability gradually unfolding. As of now, the landscape is buzzing with anticipation, especially following showcases at major tech events like CES. Key players in the industry, such as TP-Link, have already unveiled their consumer WiFi 7 router models, with the TP-Link Archer BE9000 being a notable example. This router, along with others revealed in these events, indicates that manufacturers are already gearing up for the adoption of WiFi 7.

While these initial unveilings are promising, widespread availability of WiFi 7 access points and compatible devices across the IT industry is expected to take some time. The transition to a new WiFi standard is a significant shift, requiring not only the availability of routers but also a broad range of compatible devices, from smartphones to smart home appliances.

In terms of a specific timeline, consumers & businesses can expect to see the first batch of WiFi 7 access points from vendors entering the market in the near future, with more widespread availability likely ramping up throughout the year and beyond. As for the complete integration of WiFi 7 into everyday technology, this will be a gradual process, evolving as more manufacturers adopt the standard and release compatible devices.

While the initial steps towards WiFi 7 are already being taken, its full-scale availability and adoption will be a progressive journey, unfolding over the upcoming months and years.

When Will My Devices Get WiFi 7?

As WiFi 7 begins its rollout, a common question arises: When will existing devices be able to support this new technology? The transition to WiFi 7 compatibility for consumer devices is a phased process, closely tied to the general availability of WiFi 7 networking devices and the broader adoption of the standard by device manufacturers.

Initially, the most likely candidates for early WiFi 7 support will be high-end smartphones, laptops, and tablets. These devices typically lead the way in adopting new wireless standards due to their rapid development cycles and the premium features often sought by users in these categories. Following these, other smart devices such as televisions, gaming consoles, and home automation products will gradually incorporate WiFi 7 compatibility.

However, it's important to note that upgrading to WiFi 7 isn't just a matter of software updates. It requires hardware capable of supporting the new standard. This means that for many current devices, WiFi 7 compatibility will not be possible through updates; instead, it will necessitate the purchase of new hardware that is specifically designed with WiFi 7 capabilities.

For consumers and businesses looking to take full advantage of WiFi 7, the focus should initially be on acquiring WiFi 7 compatible user devices. Once these become more widely available, we can expect to see a corresponding increase in the number of WiFi 7 enabled network devices in the market.

Is WiFi 7 Backwards Compatible?

Yes, WiFi 7 is designed to be backwards compatible with previous WiFi standards. This means that WiFi 7 routers will be able to communicate with devices that support older WiFi technologies, such as WiFi 6, WiFi 5, and even earlier versions. The inclusion of backwards compatibility ensures a smoother transition to WiFi 7, allowing users to gradually update their devices without losing connectivity or facing compatibility issues. However, to fully utilise the advanced features and performance improvements of WiFi 7, both the router and the connecting devices need to support this latest standard.

Everything You Need To Know About WiFi 7

As we stand on the edge of a new era in wireless technology with WiFi 7, it's clear that this latest standard is set to revolutionise the way we connect and interact in the digital world. From enhancing business operations to transforming home entertainment and fueling the growth of emerging technologies, WiFi 7 is poised to reshape our digital experiences. Here's a summary of the key takeaways:

  • Revolutionary Speed and Performance: With speeds up to 46 Gbps, WiFi 7 significantly outpaces its predecessors, facilitating a host of high-bandwidth applications and services.
  • Enhanced Bandwidth and Frequency Support: The introduction of ultra-wide 320MHz channels across 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz bands increases network capacity and efficiency.
  • Reduced Latency for Real-Time Applications: Significant latency improvements in WiFi 7 enhance real-time responsiveness, crucial for gaming and video conferencing.
  • Innovative Multi-Link Operation (MLO): MLO allows simultaneous data transmission across multiple WiFi bands, increasing throughput and network reliability.
  • Preamble Puncturing to Reduce Congestion: This feature enables efficient use of available bandwidth and reduces network congestion in densely populated areas.
  • Backwards Compatibility: Ensures a smoother transition to WiFi 7 by allowing communication with devices supporting older WiFi standards.
  • Anticipated WPA4 Security Standard: Although not yet ratified, WPA4 is expected to offer enhanced encryption and improved protection against digital threats.

FeatureWiFi 7 AdvantagesImpact
SpeedUp to 46 Gbps, significantly higher than previous generationsFaster downloads, streaming, and data transfer
BandwidthSupports ultra-wide 320MHz channelsIncreased network capacity and efficiency
Frequency BandsOperates across 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz bandsGreater device compatibility and stability
LatencySubstantially reducedImproved performance for real-time applications
Multi-Link OperationSimultaneous operation across multiple bandsEnhanced throughput and network reliability
Preamble PuncturingEfficient utilization of partially occupied channelsReduced network congestion in high-density areas
SecurityAnticipation of WPA4 standardStronger encryption and enhanced network protection
Backwards CompatibilityCompatible with older WiFi standardsEasier transition for users upgrading to new technology

In conclusion, WiFi 7 is not just a technological upgrade but a transformative shift, promising to bring unparalleled speed, efficiency, and reliability to wireless networking. As we progress through 2024 and beyond, the adoption of WiFi 7 is expected to mark a significant milestone in the evolution of connectivity, setting a new benchmark for what we can expect from wireless technology.

Mark Bartley