Introduction to Wi-Fi 7
Wi-Fi standards have continued to evolve over the years, with each new version bringing faster speeds and expanded capabilities. Wi-Fi 6, which was released in 2019, has become the most common standard implemented over the past few years. Now, the Wi-Fi Alliance, the organization in charge of developing Wi-Fi standards, is preparing to release Wi-Fi 7 – the next generation of wireless networking technology.
Wi-Fi 7, also known by its technical name of IEEE 802.11be, promises to once again push the boundaries of wireless performance and features. The new standard will offer faster multi-gigabit speeds, lower latency, increased reliability, and support for more simultaneous connected devices. Overall, Wi-Fi 7 aims to meet the growing needs of data-hungry applications and environments where many smart devices are connected. While further technical specifications are still being finalized, Wi-Fi 7 is shaping up to be a major leap forward for Wi-Fi connectivity.
Wi-Fi 7 can reach maximum speeds up to 30 Gbps, a huge leap over Wi-Fi 6’s top speeds of 9.6 Gbps. This massive boost is achieved through a combination of wider channels and new 4096-QAM modulation.
Specifically, Wi-Fi 7 supports 320MHz-wide channels, double the 160MHz maximum in Wi-Fi 6. Wider channels allow more data to be transmitted at once. 4096-QAM modulation packs more data into each Wi-Fi signal. Together, these two technical advancements give Wi-Fi 7 the capacity to transfer data incredibly fast – up to 3X faster than Wi-Fi 6.
Real-world speeds will be lower than 30Gbps maximum, but still faster than preceding standards. Expect to see speed increases of 1.8-2.4X over Wi-Fi 6, meaning multi-gigabit speeds are achievable over Wi-Fi for the first time. This unlocks new performance levels for bandwidth-heavy uses like AR/VR, 8K video streaming, and cloud gaming. Wi-Fi 7 brings a generational leap in Wi-Fi speeds.
Latency refers to the time it takes for devices to communicate over a network. It measures the delay between when a device sends a request and when it receives a response. Low latency is critical for applications like video conferencing, online gaming, autonomous vehicles, and virtual reality. Even a slight delay can degrade the experience and make applications feel unresponsive.
Wi-Fi 7 achieves significantly lower latency than previous versions of Wi-Fi by optimizing the underlying protocols. It introduces several key enhancements:
- Multi-link operation – Devices can combine multiple channels and data streams simultaneously. This parallel transmission reduces delay.
- 2×2 MU-MIMO – Support for two multi-user multiple-input and multiple-output (MU-MIMO) uplink connections doubles the capacity. Devices spend less time waiting to transmit.
- Frame aggregation – Multiple data frames can be combined into one large frame. This amortizes overhead across more data, increasing efficiency.
- 6 GHz spectrum – The new 6 GHz band provides seven additional 160 MHz channels, reducing interference and congestion which cause latency.
- Precise Timing Measurement – Wi-Fi 7 adds mechanisms to synchronize devices and measure timing, enabling applications that require precise coordination.
Together, these improvements mean Wi-Fi 7 can deliver less than 3 milliseconds of latency under optimal conditions. This allows time-sensitive applications to operate smoothly without lag or interruptions. The combination of high bandwidth and real-time connectivity unlocks new possibilities with Wi-Fi 7.
More connected devices
The number of devices connecting to Wi-Fi networks has exploded in recent years. With more homes installing multiple smart devices and the rise of IoT, networks are becoming congested. Older Wi-Fi standards were not built to handle the demands of large numbers of devices all trying to connect at once.
Wi-Fi 7 introduces several optimizations that will allow networks to support more devices simultaneously. One key technology is Multi-Link Operation (MLO), which allows a device to use multiple channels and radio links concurrently. This splits the traffic across different bands and access points, increasing overall network capacity and efficiency. Devices can connect faster and reduce interference issues.
Another improvement is the use of wider 320MHz channels in the 6GHz band. With more bandwidth available, networks have greater throughput to service many devices. Scheduling algorithms are also enhanced in Wi-Fi 7, allowing more precise coordination of traffic across users and devices. Together, these advancements will enable Wi-Fi 7 networks to support highly dense environments with minimal congestion. Public places like stadiums and airports will benefit, as well as smart homes filled with connected appliances and gadgets. Even as the number of devices continues to grow, Wi-Fi 7 will be ready to handle the increased demand.
6 GHz spectrum
One of the key features of Wi-Fi 7 is the use of the new 6GHz spectrum band. This band offers a massive amount of new wireless spectrum that can be used to transmit data.
The 6GHz band sits between the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands. Opening up this band for Wi-Fi use effectively increases the available spectrum for Wi-Fi by over 50%, allowing for more bandwidth and less interference between devices.
Many countries around the world are now approving the use of 6GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi networks. The FCC approved it for use in the USA in 2020. Other countries like South Korea, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Canada and the UAE have also opened up the 6GHz band for Wi-Fi recently.
Having this huge chunk of new interference-free spectrum allows Wi-Fi 7 networks to achieve faster multi-gigabit speeds, support more simultaneous connections, and have lower latency. It helps make next-gen applications like 8K video streaming, VR/AR and connected cars more viable over Wi-Fi networks.
The 6GHz band can be used for both indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi networks. It provides a dedicated space for Wi-Fi traffic that is less susceptible to interference from devices like microwaves, cordless phones, etc. This makes Wi-Fi more reliable in home and office environments.
In summary, the addition of the 6GHz spectrum band is a game-changer for Wi-Fi 7. It provides the foundation for major performance improvements that will change how we use Wi-Fi networks. More bandwidth, speed, capacity and reliability are all unlocked through this key spectral ingredient.
Wi-Fi 7 is designed to be backwards compatible with older Wi-Fi generations including Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 5. This means that Wi-Fi 7 devices will work on older Wi-Fi networks and routers.
Consumers will not need to replace their existing routers and devices to benefit from Wi-Fi 7. You can gradually introduce Wi-Fi 7 devices into your home network without replacing everything at once. Both Wi-Fi 7 and older Wi-Fi devices will be able to connect to the same network and coexist.
Wi-Fi 7 access points and routers will allow connections from Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 5, and even older device generations. So you can still use your older smartphones, laptops, smart home gadgets, and more on a brand new Wi-Fi 7 network. Backwards compatibility ensures a smooth transition to the latest standard without the need for widespread hardware upgrades.
This backwards compatibility makes Wi-Fi 7 more attractive for consumers. You can buy the latest Wi-Fi 7 phones, tablets and computers without worrying about compatibility with your existing network equipment. Over time you can upgrade your routers and access points to Wi-Fi 7 to take advantage of the faster speeds and lower latency it provides. But there is no urgent need to change everything at once.
OFDMA and MU-MIMO for faster speeds
Wi-Fi 7 utilizes Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) and Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) technologies to increase speed and capacity on the network.
OFDMA allows multiple devices to share a channel at the same time by dividing the channel into smaller sub-channels. This prevents devices from having to wait for their turn to transmit data, increasing the total throughput. With OFDMA, multiple devices can transmit simultaneously rather than taking turns.
MU-MIMO is an extension of MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output) that enables an access point to transmit data to multiple devices simultaneously. The access point uses multiple antennas to spatially multiplex signals to multiple devices, rather than sending a signal to each device sequentially.
Together, OFDMA and MU-MIMO allow more devices to connect to the network at once without slowing things down. More simultaneous transmissions can take place, increasing overall network capacity and speed. This is especially useful in crowded environments like stadiums or apartment buildings where many devices are trying to connect.
Wi-Fi 7 builds on Wi-Fi 6’s usage of OFDMA and MU-MIMO by allowing more sub-channels in OFDMA and support for up to 16 simultaneous transmissions with MU-MIMO. This pushes the boundaries of Wi-Fi speed and capacity even further.
Use cases for Wi-Fi 7
Wi-Fi 7 will enable new applications and use cases thanks to its increased performance. Here are some of the key areas that will benefit:
Augmented and Virtual Reality
The high bandwidth and low latency of Wi-Fi 7 will help unlock the full potential of AR/VR applications. Streaming very high resolution 360 degree video content to VR headsets will be possible without any lag or buffering. AR apps can offload compute tasks to the cloud for real-time processing. Multi-user AR/VR environments will benefit from the increased simultaneous connections Wi-Fi 7 enables.
Managing a smart home full of connected devices putting strain on the network will be easier with Wi-Fi 7. More appliances, sensors, cameras and other IoT gadgets will be able to connect without congestion. Time sensitive commands like adjusting smart thermostats or turning on smart locks will happen instantly without delays.
Businesses and Enterprise
In office environments, Wi-Fi 7 will enable more robust networks to support increasing bandwidth demands. High throughput connections to back-end cloud services and servers will be possible. Latency sensitive applications like video conferencing, VR meetings and cloud desktops will perform flawlessly. More wireless devices like tablets, laptops, phones and wearables can connect per access point without degrading the experience.
Wi-Fi 7 is still under development by the Wi-Fi Alliance with contributions from many companies. The technical specification 802.11be is expected to be finalized in 2024.
Once the standard is finished, we can expect companies to quickly start releasing Wi-Fi 7 certified devices and routers. Many chipmakers like Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Broadcom are already developing Wi-Fi 7 chips. Based on typical timelines, we could see the first consumer Wi-Fi 7 products hitting the market in 2024 or 2025.
Initially, Wi-Fi 7 will likely only be found in premium devices and high-end routers. But over the next several years after release, prices will come down and Wi-Fi 7 will become more mainstream. We saw a similar pattern when Wi-Fi 6 was first introduced in 2019.
For infrastructure, Wi-Fi 7 enabled access points for businesses and consumers will roll out gradually. It often takes time to upgrade large networks, so deployment will happen over several years. We can expect major venues, offices, and public hotspots to upgrade eventually.
Overall the timeline has Wi-Fi 7 devices and infrastructure ramping up in 2024-2025, with widespread deployment over the late 2020s. But this could shift depending on how fast standardization and product development progresses.
Wi-Fi 7 brings exciting improvements in speed, latency, capacity and coverage that will transform wireless connectivity. With theoretical maximum speeds up to 30Gbps, latency as low as 3ms and support for up to 16 8K video streams simultaneously, Wi-Fi 7 will enable a new generation of wireless applications.
The addition of the 6GHz spectrum more than doubles the available spectrum for Wi-Fi, allowing for up to 16 different spatial streams and reduced interference. Along with multi-link operation which aggregates channels, Wi-Fi 7 will be able to handle very dense environments with many connected devices much more efficiently.
Backward compatibility ensures that Wi-Fi 7 access points and devices will work with older Wi-Fi generations, providing a smooth transition to the new standard.
Looking ahead, the future of Wi-Fi looks very promising. With each new generation delivering major improvements, we can expect even faster speeds, lower latency, increased capacity and new capabilities that will enable innovative wireless applications. The new technologies introduced in Wi-Fi 7 lay the groundwork for future advancements like coordinated access points, AI/ML integration and ultra-low power operation. The future of connectivity will be wireless.
Read more details about Wi-Fi 7 technology: https://t.ly/MfDOe