What is WiFi 7 and how is it different?

Be it Bluetooth, USB or WiFi, each technical standard undergoes multiple iterative upgrades over time. The next generation of Wi-Fi delivers faster transfer speeds and lower latencies, improving the connectivity of these interfaces.

The same goes for the upcoming Wi-Fi 7 standard. Formally known as IEEE 802.11be Extremely High Throughput (EHT), this newer protocol is planned to bring many improvements to wireless communications using Wi-Fi technology. Here is an overview of what will change with the transition from WiFi 6 to WiFi 7.

Faster than ever

Wireless connectivity has been second fiddle to wired options like Ethernet for decades. The low bandwidth of wireless networks has never been good enough to replace a physical connection for performance-sensitive applications like 4K streaming or multiplayer gaming.

But with Wifi 7, that is about to change. The new standard promises network speeds comparable to that of an Ethernet connection, with low latencies to support ping dependent functions

Actual numbers are still hard to come by as we haven’t seen any devices using it yet, but WiFi 7 is expected to offer speeds of 40Gbps. MediaTek and Qualcomm have already demonstrated the new capabilities in live demos to corporate customers and promise an official rollout by the end of this year.

A focus on videos and gaming

If there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, the demand for video streaming is here to stay. From watching videos to playing online games, entertainment has already moved to the internet and infrastructure needs to keep up.

WiFi 7 is optimized for video content delivery along with low latency to make gaming smoother. This is useful not only for entertainment apps, but also for business users, for VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) implementations.

Real-time video transmission becomes easier than ever on a wireless network.

Twice the Bandwidth, Double the Streams

Wi-Fi 6 offered a bandwidth of 160 MHz and eight simultaneous spatial streams. WiFi 7 directly doubles this capacity, with a bandwidth of 320 MHz and 16 streams. This makes it easier than ever to create wireless mesh networks to connect multiple devices at once.

This Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) capability also allows users to set up a network of smart home devices, giving a significant boost to Internet of Things (IoT). The WiFi 7 specification also comes with the brand new Multi-Link Operation (MLO) technology, allowing multiple users to access individual bands and channels simultaneously.

The 6GHz factor

The WiFi Alliance has long been trying to acquire a new spectrum band for wireless technology. The 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands, while they get the job done, aren’t nearly as wide enough to ensure the utmost precision.

Recently, Wi-Fi was finally assigned the 6GHz band, which was the first new spectrum assignment in a while. WiFi 6E opens up a lot of untapped space for wireless transmissions on enabled devices. This gives the wireless communication standard a lot more room to work with, but it also makes it more difficult to manage connections across multiple bands.

WiFi 7 is built to solve this problem. It can efficiently use the non-adjacent spectrum bands and provide better connectivity.

More efficient transmission

Older Wi-Fi 5 access points struggle to provide reliable, high-density connections even with the 5Ghz band. To counter this, WiFi 6 introduced Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM).

This packs more data into the same spectrum, allowing for high-density data transfers without hardware changes. Wi-Fi 7 goes one step further, turning 1024-QAM into 4096-QAM, which can compress even more data into the limited bandwidth.

On the distant horizon

The features of WiFi 7 sound neat and all, but when exactly will it come to our devices? Not too early unfortunately.

The standard has only been demonstrated in technical demos and is still a long way from the actual production. Even then, the first offers will be for business users.

We probably won’t see WiFi 7 routers hit the market until 2023. Even WiFi 6 has yet to be properly rolled out, with most PCs and smartphones still running with older versions of the standard.

Does WiFi 7 still matter?

For most people, the constant advancement in communication standards such as USB or WiFi has little impact. Sure, you’ll get faster data speeds, but that’s hardly earth-shattering. Then why bother with WiFi 7?

Because this time, the change is more than just incremental. With this new generation of Wi-Fi networks, wireless internet is finally taking on Ethernet. This may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t.

With WiFi 7, you no longer need a wired network to stream videos on your smart TV or play a demanding FPS game online. You can take advantage of the mobility and convenience of wireless networks without sacrificing bandwidth or experiencing latency issues.

So yes, WiFi 7 matters. Whether you’re a home user just looking for seamless entertainment or a business user looking to improve the efficiency of your systems, WiFi 7 hits the mark.

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