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What is WiFi 7? (The latest WiFi standard)

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Since the release of WiFi in 1997, referred to as IEEE 802.11, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has been setting the standards for WiFi and all of its future iterations.
 
Released in early 2024, WiFi 7 is the latest WiFi standard, succeeding WiFi 6 and WiFi 6e.
 
For over 19.5 billion devices in use, WiFi 7 may soon become the current standard for all users. In this article, we’ll discuss the history, the speed and the current state of WiFi 7.

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What is WiFi 7?

WiFi 7 is the latest WiFi standard, established by the Wi-Fi Alliance on January 8, 2024. It offers significantly improved support for a greater number of simultaneous low-latency connections in congested environments streaming ultra-high-definition video to multiple devices.
 
WiFi 7 introduces 320 MHz channels and 4K QAM, doubling the channel width of previous standards and packing more data into each transmission. Additionally, more devices can connect simultaneously on multiple bands, reducing interference in crowded networks.
 
For home internet users, WiFi 7 means faster and more reliable performance, perfect for high-bandwidth applications like streaming 8K videos, immersive gaming and supporting a large network of connected smart home devices.
 
As WiFi 7 is the latest standard, routers and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will need time to develop compatible hardware and software to operate effectively with WiFi 7.

When is WiFi 7 coming out?

WiFi 7 is already here and ready for early-adopters. TP-Link has released a line of WiFi 7-enabled routers starting at $600. Currently, these products are on store shelves, but they are largely marketed to hardware enthusiasts. Most devices in homes and available for sale today aren’t WiFi 7-compatible so consumers cannot reap the benefits of this latest technology. 
 
Moreover, although the WiFi 7 standards may be developed, many enterprises are still catching up with the rapid pace of Wi-Fi development. Research shows 41% of the respondents in the WBA Annual Industry Report 2024 plan to deploy “WiFi 6 or WiFi 6e as their next wireless investment.’
 
However, we will see affordable consumer WiFi 7-enabled hardware, as companies like Microsoft, Intel, Apple and other giants build WiFi 7 capabilities into their products and encourage mass adoption. Expect to see more phones, laptops, smart devices and routers supporting WiFi 7 in the near future.

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What are the advantages of WiFi 7?

WiFi 7’s specific advancements make it well-suited for modern digital life and both new and developing technology. Here are some of the specific advantages of WiFi 7 compared to previous generations.

Increased Channel Width

WiFi 7 supports channel widths up to 320 MHz, double WiFi 6’s 160 MHz.

Advanced Modulation

WiFi 7’s advanced QAM modulation improves data encoding, increasing throughput by 20% compared to Wi-Fi 6/6e​​​​.

Multi-Link Operation (MLO)

WiFi 7 enables simultaneous data transmission over multiple frequency bands, like 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 6 GHz.
 

Altogether, the combination of larger channel width, advanced modulation and MLO improve data transmission. This enables applications that demand high throughput and low latency, such as immersive 3D training, HD and 4K video streaming, massive online multiplayer gaming and large-scale virtual and in-person events.

WiFi 7 technical specifications

Over previous generations of WiFi – namely WiFi 6e, WiFi 6, and WiFi 5 – WiFi 7 is more powerful overall. Let’s take a closer look at some of WiFi 7’s technical specifications.

Increased Speeds

WiFi 7 offers speeds up to 46 Gbps, compared to 9.6 Gbps in WiFi 6 and 6e, and 3.5 Gbps in WiFi 5.

Frequency Band Range

WiFi 7 can use different frequency bands (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz) simultaneously, compared to previous generations like WiFi 5, which only could only use a single frequency band.

Wider Channel Bandwidth

WiFi 7 supports channels up to 320 MHz wide, doubling the 160 MHz max of WiFi 6 and 6e. WiFi 6 and WiFi 6e introduced 160 MHz channels, which were a step up from the 80 MHz maximum of WiFi 5.

QAM Modulation

WiFi 7’s 4096-QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) improves pre-existing QAM technology used in WiFi 6 and 6e, packing more data into each transmission and boosting speeds.

Enhanced MIMO Capabilities

WiFi 7’s enhanced MIMO capabilities (16 spatial streams) can handle more simultaneous connections and higher aggregate data rates. WiFi 6 and WiFi 6e support up to 8×8 MU-MIMO (8 spatial streams), which was an improvement over the 4×4 MIMO configurations of WiFi 5.

WiFi generations

Comparisons WiFi 5 WiFi 6 WiFi 6e WiFi 7
Launch date 2013 2019 2021 2024
IEEE standard 802.11ac 802.11ax 802.11ax 802.11be
Max data rate 3.5 Gbps 9.6 Gbps 9.6 Gbps 46 Gbps
Bands 5GHz 2.4, 5GHz 6GHz 2.4, 5, 6GHz
Channel size 20, 40MHz 20, 40, 80, 80+80, 160 MHz 20, 40, 80, 80+80, 160 MHz Up to 320MHz
Modulation 256 QAM 1024 QAM 1024 QAM 4096 QAM
MIMO 4x4 MIMO, DL MU-MIMO 8x8 MIMO, UL/DL MU-MIMO 8x8 MIMO, UL/DL MU-MIMO 16x16 MIMO, UL/DL MU-MIMO
Comparisons
Launch date
WiFi 5
2013
WiFi 6
2019
WiFi 6e
2021
WiFi 7
2024
Comparisons
IEEE standard
WiFi 5
802.11ac
WiFi 6
802.11ax
WiFi 6e
802.11ax
WiFi 7
802.11be
Comparisons
Max data rate
WiFi 5
3.5 Gbps
WiFi 6
9.6 Gbps
WiFi 6e
9.6 Gbps
WiFi 7
46 Gbps
Comparisons
Bands
WiFi 5
5GHz
WiFi 6
2.4, 5GHz
WiFi 6e
6GHz
WiFi 7
2.4, 5, 6GHz
Comparisons
Channel size
WiFi 5
20, 40MHz
WiFi 6
20, 40, 80, 80+80, 160 MHz
WiFi 6e
20, 40, 80, 80+80, 160 MHz
WiFi 7
Up to 320MHz
Comparisons
Modulation
WiFi 5
256 QAM
WiFi 6
1024 QAM
WiFi 6e
1024 QAM
WiFi 7
4096 QAM
Comparisons
MIMO
WiFi 5
4x4 MIMO, DL MU-MIMO
WiFi 6
8x8 MIMO, UL/DL MU-MIMO
WiFi 6e
8x8 MIMO, UL/DL MU-MIMO
WiFi 7
16x16 MIMO, UL/DL MU-MIMO

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New features with WiFi 7

WiFi 7 brings new features to enhance wireless network performance, efficiency, and reliability, setting it even further apart from previous WiFi standards.
 
Let’s take a closer look at some of the features.

Multi-Link Operation (MLO)

MLO allows devices to simultaneously send and receive data across different frequency bands (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, 6 GHz) and switch between them, improving throughput, reducing latency and enhancing reliability.

Multi-RU

With WiFi 7, a single user can leverage multiple Resource Units (RUs), depending on their needs. By using multiple RUs, a user can more precisely manage their bandwidth allocation, giving just enough resources to a specific device based on its requirements.

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Power-saving WiFi Operation

WiFi 7 also includes cross-wake-up signaling to assist in power-saving, which allows devices to monitor links, even in idle mode, and use power more efficiently.

Preamble Puncturing

This feature enables WiFi transmission to maximize its use of the spectrum by avoiding highly congested channels, or subchannels with interference. Preamble puncturing maintains high transmission speeds and quality in environments with significant interference.

How fast is WiFi 7?

WiFi 7 is the fastest WiFi standard yet.
 
Theoretically, WiFi 7 enables devices to transmit data over the 2.4, 5, and 6GHz wireless frequency bands at speeds of up to 46 Gbps. However, devices available to the general public are limited by the physical layer (PHY) specifications, which are the standard for modulating and receiving transmissions of WiFi.
 
In an ideal setting, WiFi 7 can reach speeds of about 4.8 Gbps. Early adopters of WiFi 7 have taken to Reddit, showing their speed tests reaching 3.8 Gbps in real time.
 
However, these speeds are dependent on many factors, such as channel configuration, spectrum and range. Your actual speed experience may vary due to network congestion, device performance and the quality of your WiFi connection.

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Mesh WiFi with eero Secure

Enhanced Whole Home WiFi enables multiple WiFi routers (or eeros®) to work as a team, resulting in improved range, speed and stability of your WiFi network. Plus, with eero Secure now included at no additional cost, it keeps your family safe with parental controls, ad blocking and internet backup so you’re always connected.
 

Do I need a WiFi 7 router?

Yes, you will need a WiFi 7 router In order to achieve speeds beyond a Gigabit, increased bandwidth and the enhanced features of WiFi 7.
 
WiFi 7 will be backward compatible with older WiFi standards like WiFi 6e. However, to achieve the speeds that WiFi 7 offers, both transmitting/receiving devices must support WiFi 7, meaning that not only your router and modem must be WiFi 7 enabled but also your phones, computers or tablets.
 
However, no matter your WiFi standard, all home networks can benefit from a mesh WiFi system. These systems, like eero, create a mesh network that enables multiple WiFi routers to work together, bringing improved range, speed and stability into your home.
 
Whether it’s an apartment, a townhome or a single family home, enhanced Whole Home WiFi is easy to install and works no matter the shape or size of your home.

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The future of WiFi technology

WiFi technology is constantly evolving and the IEEE is already planning for future developments of WiFi 8. Known as 802.11bn, WiFi 8 aims to enhance multi-access point (AP) coordination and build upon the multi-link operations introduced in WiFi 7.
 
Though WiFi as a technology is reaching incredible levels of speed, WiFi 8 will also focus on Ultra High Reliability (UHR), which is crucial for technologies that rely on consistent and dependable wireless communication like robotic-assisted surgeries or autonomous vehicles.
 
While WiFi 7 significantly increased data rates, WiFi 8 is set to revolutionize the stability and efficiency of wireless connections.

Bottomline: Is WiFi 7 worth it?

Compared to older WiFi standards, WiFi 7 offers the best speed and connectivity developed yet. However, WiFi 7 hardware and software are still in development and adoption of the technology may take some time.

For homes with many users, devices and connected IoT gadgets, WiFi 7 will provide the fastest speed possible.

Because of WiFi 7’s Gigabit speeds, simultaneous 4K video streams, online gaming, large file downloads, data transfers, remote work and school all become effortless tasks. With the right ISP, hardware configuration and software access, WiFi 7 is certainly worth it.

However, to be an early adopter of WiFi 7, you will have to pay a high price to reap the rewards. At the moment, the technology is for WiFi enthusiasts or the curious few who want to own the newest WiFi networking systems.

If you’re on an older generation of WiFi and you experience a surge in users and devices, want to expand your network or access Gig+ speeds, consider upgrading to WiFi 6. It’s an established, affordable solution that will improve your home WiFi network overall.

No matter your WiFi version or set up, understand your internet needs first and choose the right ISP.

Frequently asked questions

On January 8, 2024, the Wi-Fi Alliance introduced the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 7 program. As such, the current WiFi standard is WiFi 7.

WiFi 7 outperforms previous generations by offering speeds up to 46 Gbps, double the channel width of WiFi 6 and 6e (up to 320MHz), and introduces Multi-Link Operation for more efficient bandwidth use, making it faster and more reliable than WiFi 6e, WiFi 6 and WiFi 5.

WiFi 7 is the most secure WiFi standard produced thus far. WiFi 7 supports WPA4, the latest in WiFi security, enhancing network protection overall. However, the security of your home WiFi network depends on your ability to prevent users with malicious intent from accessing your network and devices.

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