Why WiFi 7 is the future of wireless technology

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WiFi 7 is a quantum leap forward from WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E. With its faster speeds, lower latency, and significant capacity increases, WiFi 7 is a major evolution in wireless technology. It has much in common with WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E, but with some significant improvements to meet the growing data requirements of home and business users.

Now that standalone WiFi 7 routers and WiFi 7 mesh routers are on the market, you might be looking to upgrade. We’ll take a look at what’s changed, what’s stayed the same and what to consider when upgrading to WiFi 7.

What’s new in the WiFi 7 standard?

The headline feature of WiFi 7 is considerably faster performance over WiFi 6. Up to 46Gbps total throughput is 4.8x the speed of WiFi 6, with speeds 2.4x faster for the same WiFi configuration.

As Internet Service Providers (ISPs) continue to offer faster internet connections at home and for businesses, WiFi 7 ensures your local network has enough capacity to support the increased download speed.

These speed improvements are possible thanks to two major upgrades: doubling the channel width from 160Hz to 320Hz, and more data density, increasing the amount of data that can be encoded onto a radio signal.

Greater channel width

Each WiFi band operates in smaller bands of 20/40/80/160MHz MHz for connecting to individual devices. WiFi 7 doubles the bandwidth to 320MHz. Effectively, this doubles the WiFi speeds to individual devices and adds a lot more bandwidth to support more devices.

Increased data density

WiFi 7 increases not only speed and bandwidth but also the amount of data that can be encoded onto a radio signal. This is measured by a standard known as quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM). Where WiFi 6’s QAM limit was 1024, WiFi 7 offers an impressive 4096 (or 4K; the standard is also known as 4K QAM), boosting its peak rates to increase throughput. Each symbol transmitted can now carry 12 bits rather than 10 bits, meaning 20% higher theoretical transmission rates.

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Both the greater channel bandwidth (320MHz) and increased data density (4K QAM) account for the 2.4x improvement in WiFi speeds between WiFi 6 and WiFi 7.

The WiFi 6 standard (and previous generations) can support the 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi bands. One of the major feature additions of WiFi 6E has been the addition of a 6GHz band, offering a new way to connect without the congestion of 2.4GHz or 5GHz, a real boost in urban areas with lots of WiFi networks in range. However, until now a staple of WiFi technology has been the requirement that a client can only connect using one of these bands.

That changes with WiFi 7, as routers are able to connect across two different bands to a client device.

Imagine two highways leading to your destination. MLO is similar to giving these highways the flexibility to either spread the traffic across both routes or to quickly move traffic from one highway to another if one gets congested.

Mesh systems especially benefit from MLO as it allows for a router and a satellite, both capable of transmitting simultaneously across two different bands, to get the best possible performance.

This feature will also be very useful for switching from one band to another on your mobile device without losing the connection. If you are on a Zoom call and walk from the center of the house to the garden, WiFi 7 will allow your device to switch from 6GHz to 5GHz to 2.4GHz without dropping the call or buffering.

Flexible channel utilization

One key limitation with WiFi is that any kind of interference impacts the entire channel. However, by using “puncturing,” if a portion of a channel gets impacted due to interference, that portion alone can be blocked while continuing to use rest of the channel for data transfer. This makes WiFi more resistant to interference and ensures critical flow and latency are not impacted. Going back to our highway example, using WiFi 6, a pothole in a lane can make that lane unusable, but with WiFi 7 you can block the pothole, drive around and still use rest of the lane.

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What hasn’t changed?

With WiFi 7’s incredible specification, it’s easy to overlook how it builds on features and infrastructure already in WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E. As noted above, WiFi 6E and WiFi 7 both offer the same three bands, including the lightning-fast 6GHz band. Both feature tremendous bandwidth. Technology providers are still playing catch-up with WiFi 6E and WiFi 7, with new devices currently being introduced to unlock the full potential of both standards.

At present, the majority of mobile devices in use are still relying on WiFi 6 or earlier. Apple’s most up-to-date iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Pro and MacBook Pro laptops now support WiFi 6E, and the technology is available across many of the latest Windows laptops and Android phones.

WiFi 7 is the future, and we expect the standard will be adopted quickly on new laptops and phones. We’re already seeing announcements of gaming laptops, desktop PC motherboards and handsets with WiFi 7, and this is only set to continue.

So, investing in a mesh or router with WiFi 7 now is certain to ensure robust wireless performance for the foreseeable future.

Demanding users who plan to future-proof their home network for the next couple of years should consider adopting WiFi 7 devices when they are available. Serious gamers will appreciate the standard’s low latency and quick responsiveness. Those who engage frequently in VR/AR will benefit from WiFi 7’s incredible speeds and low latency. And those who always want the latest and greatest will enjoy knowing that their network will be ready to make the most of their future product purchases for quite a while.

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WiFi 7 for business

While home users are more likely to be early adopters of the latest technology, faster wireless performance and future proofing are critical for small and large business environments too.

WiFi 7 will add capacity and bandwidth to support a greater number of wireless devices across a business, improving performance and productivity.

But for businesses, network reliability, security and ease of administration / deployment are major considerations as well. IT managers are naturally cautious of introducing risk to working environments. The final ratification and certification of the WiFi 7 standard in January 2024 is important therefore to guarantee a consistent feature set in all devices.

IP cameras, access points, IoT devices, business routers and more are all likely to benefit from the enhanced performance that WiFi 7 offers, along with workers’ client laptops and phones. WiFi 7 will improve performance for industrial wireless technology and introduce new applications thanks to its extra throughput, which could improve efficiency across entire businesses.

We’ve listed the best Wi-Fi extenders.

This article was produced as part of TechRadarPro’s Expert Insights channel where we feature the best and brightest minds in the technology industry today. The views expressed here are those of the author and are not necessarily those of TechRadarPro or Future plc. If you are interested in contributing find out more here: https://www.techradar.com/news/submit-your-story-to-techradar-pro


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