Wireless technology is being upgraded at a breakneck pace over recent years. Merely a couple of years after the release of Wi-Fi 6, the Wi-Fi Alliance is now gearing up to release a new wireless standard called Wi-Fi 7, also referred to as 802.11be. Wi-Fi 7 is touted to bring multi-fold speed improvement over Wi-Fi 6, which has only recently gained widespread adoption, and more bandwidth for the third 6GHz channel that was added in Wi-Fi 6E. If you are excited about the upcoming wireless technology, follow our article as we explain what is Wi-Fi 7 and how it compares to Wi-Fi 6 and 6E. We will discuss new technologies introduced with Wi-Fi 7, including MLO, 4K QAM, and AFC, and how they help improve the download speeds and reduce latency. On that note, let’s learn everything about Wi-Fi 7 in complete detail.
Wi-Fi 7 Explained (2022)
In this article, we have explained Wi-Fi 7 in easy terms, including the new technologies and what improvements Wi-Fi 7 brings over Wi-Fi 6 and 6E. You can expand the table below and learn about them in detail.
Basics: What is Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be)?
Wi-Fi 7, or technically 802.11be, is a new standard for wireless network communication developed by Wi-Fi Alliance, the organization that looks over the design and specifications of this wireless technology.
Wi-Fi 7 is a successor to Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax), which were released in 2019 and 2020, respectively. So fairly recently. When Wi-Fi 6 was released a few years back, it was not a massive upgrade, instead, it brought an incremental update in speed and latency. With Wi-Fi 6E, Wi-Fi Alliance added support for the 6GHz spectrum for the first time, but the new frequency was untapped, and it was not working at its full potential. All of this changes with the introduction of Wi-Fi 7.
What Frequency Bands Does Wi-Fi 7 Support?
Just like its predecessor, Wi-Fi 7 supports three frequency bands, including 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz. However, the difference here is that 6GHz is being used extensively to create an aggregated data pipeline in comparison to 6E.
Wi-Fi 7 will use two simultaneous 5GHz + 6GHz (320MHz) channels to maximize the throughput, offering much faster speeds. As I have explained in the new features section below, the 6GHz band is much closer to 5GHz so it’s easier to create a single wider channel that can offer optimal performance without much latency. This feature is called Multi-Link Operation (MLO) in Wi-Fi 7.
As for regions where the 6GHz band is not available due to regulatory restrictions, two 5GHz + 5GHz (240MHz) channels will be offered to deliver faster speeds.
Wi-Fi 7 Speed: How Fast Will Wi-Fi 7 Be?
Wi-Fi 7 is a monumental upgrade over all the past Wi-Fi standards. It brings extremely high throughput (EHT) and is also being called 802.11be EHT for the same reason. It delivers speeds up to 40Gbps, which is four times more than Wi-Fi 6E’s capacity (9.6Gbps) and six times more than Wi-Fi 5’s performance (6.9Gbps). As you can infer here, Wi-Fi 7 is truly a major step-up in local wireless transmission, and it’s going to change many facets of wireless communication in addition to 5G.
The Wi-Fi Alliance has brought many changes to Wi-Fi 7, and it is still continuing the development since the specifications have not been finalized yet. We expect the specifications of this wireless tech to be finalized in 2024.
The major changes employed in Wi-Fi 7 are Multi-Link Operation (MLO), 4K QAM, and Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC). These features help achieve a multi-fold increase in speed, reduce latency, and support the ability to handle more devices even in congested areas. It has also enhanced the existing technologies such as OFDMA, MU-MIMO, and TWT that were previously available in Wi-Fi 6E. Below, we will discuss all the new technologies in Wi-Fi 7.
New Features Supported by Wi-Fi 7
Here, we will discuss the new technologies employed in Wi-Fi 7 to deliver quadruple improvement in throughput compared to Wi-Fi 6. We have explained the best new Wi-Fi 7 features, Multi-Link Operation (MLO), 4K Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM), and Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC), in this section.
Multi-Link Operation (MLO)
The introduction of Multi-Link Operation (MLO) in Wi-Fi 7 is being touted as one of the main reasons behind extremely high throughput. It will allow devices to transmit data over several channels, including 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz, to make an aggregated data pipeline. This will significantly increase the throughput and reduce the latency. While this sort of technology was available before, what’s new here is that MLO lets you operate between 5GHz and 6GHz spectrums quickly and freely.
The frequency width between 2.4GHz and 5GHz is relatively larger than 5GHz and 6GHz. That means 5GHz and 6GHz channels are much closer and can operate quickly without waiting for other channels to catch up, as was the case with 2.4GHz. And now that a new band in the 6GHz frequency spectrum has been tapped in Wi-Fi 7 (more on this in the AFC section below), large volumes of data can be split into many packets and transferred using high-bandwidth frequency delivering great speeds.
Not to mention, when you use high-frequency channels like 5GHz and 6GHz to transfer and receive data, it will work even in congested environments with multiple devices connected at once. Simply put, Multi-Link Operation (MLO) is a great new technology in Wi-Fi 7 and can be a game-changer.
4K Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM)
QAM or Quadrature Amplitude Modulation technology has been available on older Wi-Fi standards. It’s basically a way to send multiple data packets by superimposing signals of multiple amplitudes and phases.
This feature has been upgraded, and 4K QAM has been introduced with Wi-Fi 7. It can now superimpose 4096 signals simultaneously, hence the name, 4K QAM. To put things in perspective, Wi-Fi 6 could only go up to 1024 QAM. Thus, this will increase the overall network capacity of Wi-Fi 7, reduce latency, and improve efficiency.
Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC)
When Wi-Fi 6E was released in 2020, one of the major roadblocks was to avoid interference with other devices that use the 6GHz channel. For example, NASA and other federal organizations in the US use the 6GHz channel to communicate with satellites, including the weather radar, etc. This hinders the wireless technology from fully uncapping the potential of the 6GHz channel. In other regions, there are similar regulatory roadblocks. To solve this, AFC or Automated Frequency Coordination has been introduced in Wi-Fi 7.
AFC will collect data from antenna patterns and directions from where the signals are coming to create a cloud-based database. It will run a bunch of calculations and will avoid interference in such areas. Where there are no interferences, it will enable Wi-Fi 7 to broadcast 6GHz channels at much higher power.
To give you a number, Wi-Fi 7 can operate at 63 times more power if there are no interferences. That’s a huge jump, right? So with AFC on Wi-Fi 7, we will see the usage and availability of 6GHz channels even more.
How is Wi-Fi 7 Better than Wi-Fi 6?
Along with MLO, 4K QAM, and AFC in Wi-Fi 7, there have been a number of improvements in existing technologies. For example, MU-MIMO, which is responsible for simultaneous data transmission, its streams have been increased to 16, double that of Wi-Fi 6. In addition, QAM signals in Wi-Fi 7 have been increased to 4096, which is four times more than Wi-Fi 6’s capacity (1024).
Not to mention, the maximum channel bandwidth has again doubled in Wi-Fi 7, and it supports up to 320MHz across the 5GHz and 6GHz channels. Wi-Fi 6 could only go up to 160MHz. We have also seen some enhancements in Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA), where channels are divided into multiple resource units (MRU). It’s being done more effectively in the Wi-Fi 7 standard, bringing down the interference and latency.
Finally, Target Wake Time (TWT) has been improved to consume less power by putting the device to sleep when no network access is called for. It has received a new feature called Restricted Target Wake Time (RTWT) that can put aside some bandwidth for a particular kind of data transmission.
Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6E vs Wi-Fi 6: Comparison
To recap everything, here’s a quick comparison between the key specifications and features of Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 6E:
|Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be)
|Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax)
|Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
|2.4GHz, 5GHz, 6GHz
|2.4GHz, 5GHz, 6GHz
|Maximum Channel Bandwidth
320MHz (6GHz + 5GHz)
240MHz (5GHz + 5GHz)
|MLO, 4K QAM, AFC, MU-MIMO, OFDMA, TWT, RTWT
|QAM, MU-MIMO, OFDMA, TWT
|QAM, MU-MIMO, OFDMA, TWT
When Will Wi-Fi 7 Become Available?
As mentioned above, the specs and features of Wi-Fi 7 have not been finalized yet, so we expect Wi-Fi 7 to be released in 2024. However, we might see pre-certified routers in the market as soon as next year in 2023. And once Wi-Fi 7 specs are finalized in 2024, users will be able to buy Wi-Fi 7 certified routers in the fall.
Modems and Devices That Support Wi-Fi 7
So far, Qualcomm, Broadcom, and MediaTek have announced early adoption of the Wi-Fi 7 wireless standard in their chips. In June 2022, Qualcomm released its Networking Pro platform, including the 1220, 1620, 620, and 820 series. The chipsets have employed ARM Cortex-A73 cores to bring support for Wi-Fi 7.
Similarly, MediTek announced two chipsets, namely Filogic 880 and Filogic 380, in May 2022 that support the Wi-Fi 7 standard. These chipsets will be used in high-end routers and other gateway solutions over the coming years. There’s no information on the release date just yet, but speculations suggest it will hit the market in 2023.
Broadcom also joined the race and announced Wi-Fi 7 ecosystem products in April 2022. It will release five chips, namely BCM67263, BCM6726, BCM43740, BCM43720, and BCM4398, that support Wi-Fi 7. The release date is yet to be confirmed, but Broadcom says it’s currently working with enterprise partners to bring Wi-Fi 7 to the market.
Excited for Wi-Fi 7 Routers and Devices
So that was our in-depth explainer about the upcoming Wi-Fi 7 wireless standard. As you can notice from the specs, Wi-Fi 7 is going to be a monumental upgrade over Wi-Fi 6/ 6E. It brings 4x more throughput than Wi-Fi 6, adds another band in the 6GHz channel, and MLO can aggregate both 5GHz and 6GHz channels. We are excited about the upcoming Wi-Fi standard, but what about you? Tell us in the comment section below. Besides that, if you are interested, you can learn more about 5G bands including the sub-6GHz and mmWave bands via our linked article.