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Are You Ready for WiFi 7?

It wasn’t that long ago that we saw a major update to WiFi standards with the release of WiFi 6 in 2019 and WiFi 6E in 2020. But we’re on the verge of the next generation of WiFi with the official launch of the new WiFi 7 standard in November 2022. There has already been a soft release of WiFi 7 routers in China, and we’ll start seeing the new routers in the market here sometime this year.

The performance of WiFi 7 is much improved over its predecessor:

  • A WiFi 7 router will be able to connect to more simultaneous devices, which will be useful in hotels and other public settings.
  • WiFi 7 has vastly improved theoretical speeds. WiFi 6 could support a speed as fast as 9.6 Gbps. WiFi 7 will allow for a connection as fast as 36 Gbps.
  • The new standard will be better able to maintain a low-latency connection to devices.
  • WiFi 7 will allow for WPA4 security, but this part of the standard has not been fully ratified.

The new standard achieves improvement in several ways. First, the new standard can spread a single broadband connection across frequency bands and effectively create wider bandwidth channels. Where WiFi 6 had a maximum channel size of 160 MHz, the new WiFi 7 can create a channel as wide as 320 MHz.

The new WiFi standard will use the three existing WiFi frequencies of 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz. The big improvement over WiFi 6 is that WiFi 7 can reach across all three frequencies to create a connection, while WiFi 6 was limited to only using the 6 GHz spectrum.

WiFi 7 also introduces a new feature called Multi-Link Operation (MLO) which will allow for the simultaneous sending and receiving of data within one channel—something that’s never been available with WiFi before.

WiFi 7 also has an interesting feature called Multi Resource Unit Puncturing that allows for a router to grab any unused spectrum within channels that are in use. This means that all of the bandwidth in the frequency band is available for use. In current WiFi technology, when a channel is connected to a device, the entire channel is dedicated to that one use, even if the bandwidth use is small.

Interestingly, these features look a lot like the features that are supposed to be used by 5G. It seems WiFi manufacturers have beaten the cellular companies to the market with some of these features that more efficiently use bandwidth.

An immediate use could be in offices where WiFi 7 can allow the transfer of data between devices at 10 Gbps without wires. An office only has to upgrade to WiFi 7 devices when they become available. While this also could mean a big improvement in places like a stadium or a convention center, it will take years until enough users have WiFi 7 capable devices. The ultimate benefit of the larger channel sizes and faster speeds is to enable technologies like ultra-high definition video or augmented reality.

Just like with WiFi 6, we won’t see much WiFi 7 in use until there are both routers and devices enabled to use the routers. Most of the devices in our homes are still not WiFi 6 compatible, and there are still not a huge number of homes with a WiFi 6 router. But over time, new WiFi 7 devices will include the standard and will creep into our homes and businesses.

By Doug Dawson, President at CCG Consulting

Dawson has worked in the telecom industry since 1978 and has both a consulting and operational background. He and CCG specialize in helping clients launch new broadband markets, develop new products, and finance new ventures.

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