How WiFi 7 is fast compared to WiFi 6 and any need to upgrade your router?

In a major technological development, the world of wireless connectivity is set to undergo another transformation as WiFi 7, the successor to WiFi 6E, makes its debut. This announcement comes nearly four years after the introduction of WiFi 6 and two years after the introduction of WiFi 6E, marking a significant advancement in wireless technology.

WiFi 7 promises a substantial speed boost, building on the groundwork laid by its predecessors. A major contributor to this growth is the use of the 6GHz band, unlocked by WiFi 6E, which provides wide open space for data transmission. Additionally, WiFi 7 is set to employ innovative technologies aimed at reducing interference and accelerating data transfer speeds while reducing network latency.

This emphasis on interference reduction and speed increases mirrors key features of both WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E, particularly the latter’s increased speeds for compatible devices. However, a key difference with WiFi 7 is its compatibility with older devices, reducing the concerns of replacing existing devices. As users gradually switch to new WiFi 7-compliant devices, the benefits of this latest standard will become increasingly apparent.

Actually, WiFi 7 is expected to provide much faster speed. According to Intel, a typical WiFi 7 laptop can potentially achieve a maximum speed of around 5.8 Gbps under theoretical conditions. Even half this theoretical speed would be a substantial improvement for most users.

The primary driver of this speed increase is channel bandwidth, which determines the capacity for data transmission. WiFi 7 doubles the maximum channel bandwidth to 320 MHz, which is a significant upgrade compared to the 160 MHz available on WiFi 5, 6, and 6E routers. This wider channel allows for more efficient data transmission, although it is exclusively supported on the 6GHz band.

Additionally, WiFi 7 introduces multi-link operation (MLO), which enables the combination of bands into a single connection. This means that if you have one connection offering 1Gbps on the 6GHz band and another offering 700Mbps on the 5GHz band, combining them can yield speeds of up to 1.7Gbps. The effectiveness of this feature in practice will require further testing with WiFi 7 routers and compatible devices.

Multiple User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) In terms of spatial streams, WiFi 7 increases the bar to 16 x 16, which is a significant improvement over the 8 x 8 support in WiFi 6. However, it’s important to note that consumer-grade WiFi 6E routers, even high-end models, typically only offer 4 x 4 MU-MIMO support. Additionally, finding devices with more than 2 x 2 MU-MIMO remains a challenge.

Improve smart home connectivity

Smart home enthusiasts will welcome WiFi 7 for its ability to increase the reliability of interconnected devices. WiFi 7 addresses the problem of airtime congestion by employing orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA). This technology maximizes the use of carrier waves even in the presence of interference, ensuring seamless transmission of data.

However, it is important to note that OFDMA is not backward-compatible with older devices. Therefore, a complete transition to WiFi 7-compliant devices is necessary to fully realize the benefits of improved smart home connectivity.

Other applications of WiFi 7

WiFi 7 offers many benefits beyond faster speeds and smart home improvements. This provides the potential for more stable mesh systems by reducing connection interruptions, allowing seamless switching between bands.

Additionally, the implementation of MLO and OFDMA in WiFi 7 may reduce network lag, as devices can connect to multiple bands simultaneously. This can lead to a smoother and more responsive network experience.

Is it time to upgrade to WiFi 7 and switch our routers?

Although WiFi 7 routers are already available for purchase, it may not be the right time to rush out and invest in this new technology. The reason is simple: only a limited number of devices can currently support this standard, and it has not even been officially finalized yet.

Some chips supporting WiFi 7 are already in circulation. For example, Qualcomm’s FastConnect 7800 mobile wireless chipset, introduced in 2022, can be found in select phones like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. However, it is worth noting that the full functionality of WiFi 7 can be realized in these phones only if Samsung enables WiFi 7 on them.

WiFi 7 compatibility is also making its way into laptops and network cards. The 16-inch Acer Swift Edge laptop offers WiFi 7 support, and Intel plans to release its BE200 WiFi 7 network card before the end of 2023. Additionally, other major computer manufacturers are expected to introduce devices that support the WiFi 7 standard in the next year.