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What is Wi-Fi 7?

We examine what the next generation of the wireless technology standard could bring, and when it’s expected to launch

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) declared in November 2020 that Wi-Fi 6 was ready for global roll-out after successfully completing five trial deployments. In these tests, Wi-Fi 6 demonstrated gigabit transfer rates that were nearly three times faster than its predecessor, Wi-Fi 5, with a capacity of up to 9.6Gb/sec versus 3.5Gb/sec. Wi-Fi 6 was also found to be more reliable, with lower latency, and better networking efficiency. 

This year, Wi-Fi 6 chipsets are expected to reach 1.5 billion units, with the technology more widely adopted among major smartphone brands, like Samsung, Huawei, and Apple, too.

Since homes and businesses are beginning to adopt Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E, we’ve decided to look at what the wireless industry has in store for the next generation of wireless technology. 

Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 7

Also known as IEEE 802.11be, Wi-Fi 7 is the next generation of the wireless technology standard; it's an extremely high throughput wireless network that uses 2.4Ghz, 5Ghz, and 6Ghz frequency bands. It aims to decrease latency, increase speed to all devices, and support large numbers of users.

Wi-Fi 7 will ultimately provide faster speeds for more devices, for longer. It'll operate across the three frequency bands, versus just two in Wi-Fi 6, and supports a transmission rate of up to 30Gb/sec, which is a huge jump from Wi-Fi 6E’s current targeted bitrate of 9.6Gb/sec. 

Proposed features for Wi-Fi 7 include the capacity to support 320MHz transmission, double that supported by Wi-Fi 6. This will increase speed and throughput for many devices, and users should find less interference between gadgets, too, which is important if multiple devices within close proximity are trying to connect to the same network.

This technology also wants to take on latency, and will ensure more data requests can be made with no delay. One technique it's seeking to develop is Multi-Link Operation (MLO), which allows devices to keep numerous online connections across various bands simultaneously.

Wi-Fi 7 will also increase the number of spatial streams from eight to 16, doubling the theoretical transmission rate. With more data streams, it can also support distributed Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) technology, which could help deliver a high-quality indoor 5G experience.

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The 16 data streams can be delivered by different access points at the same time, so multiple access points can coordinate with each other. Currently, there isn’t a lot of access point coordination. This feature, however, aims to optimise channel selection and adjust loads between access points to achieve efficient utilisation and balanced allocation of radio resources, according to Huawei.

Wi-Fi 7 won’t change your broadband speed in and of itself, though, so until your internet service provider (ISP) offers better packages, feeling the fullest benefits will be put on hold. Homes across the country, too, haven’t been in any great need for the maximum speeds Wi-Fi 7 might offer yet. You’re more likely to notice the difference Wi-Fi 7 will make at the workplace, or if you’re travelling, as offices are far more likely to need faster speeds for business purposes, like streaming and processing vast quantities of data.

What are the key Wi-Fi 7 use cases?

Thanks to its massive increase in speed and lower latency, there are plenty of use cases for Wi-Fi 7 as well as Wi-Fi 7 routers. Streaming is set to get a big boost, with 8K content likely to gain more traction, as is fast and seamless 4K video conferencing. Online gaming, too, will also see less lag while the greater bandwidth will facilitate advances in cloud gaming.

Wi-Fi 7 will also benefit from integration into cloud and edge computing networks, industrial Internet of Things (IoT) systems, immersive augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), as well as real-time collaboration. 

What’s the Wi-Fi 7 release date?

The IEEE is expected to publish the 802.11ebe amendment in 2024 and we might see commercial deployment at the same time. Following this, the Wi-Fi Alliance should release its Wi-Fi 7 certification programme to outline the security standards and ensure interoperability. Semiconductor firm MediaTek, meanwhile, claims Wi-Fi 7 hardware is expected to hit the market as soon as 2023.

Does Wi-Fi 7 spell the end of Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 is still currently being rolled out, so it won’t be ditched anytime soon, just as Wi-Fi 5 devices will still be common for months and years to come. Wi-Fi 7 is still in its early days of developed, and many of the purported innovations still need work. Although there isn’t a definitive picture of what we can expect from Wi-Fi 7, however, we more or less know what researchers are aiming to develop.

As for Wi-Fi 6, it'll probably stick around for some time yet. Internet speeds need to be fairly fast in order to accommodate the new technology, and since Wi-Fi 6 is ahead when it comes to development and implementation, it has a clear advantage.

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