On 8 January 2024, Wi-Fi 7 (IEEE 802.11be) was officially announced at CES 2024. The Wi-Fi Alliance — an organisation that brings together manufacturers of computer hardware and wireless devices — predicts that official Wi-Fi 7 support will appear on smartphones, PCs, laptops, routers and other equipment the same year. We decided to compare the latest version of Wi-Fi with the previous ones and understand whether Ukrainians should hurry to buy devices compatible with this communication protocol.
Comparison of Wi-Fi 7 with previous versions
Thanks to the Multi-Link Operation (MLO) feature inherent in the Wi-Fi 7 standard, connections are distributed over three frequency bands (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 6 GHz). Compared to the 6 GHz band in Wi-Fi 6, the 6 GHz band in Wi-Fi 7 doubles the bandwidth capacity of the network, resulting in faster network performance and stable connectivity when a large number of devices are connected to the network.
Also, Wi-Fi 7 technology provides a maximum data transfer rate of about 40 Gbps, which is 4 times higher than Wi-Fi 6. But it's worth noting here that you won't get such a figure at home, as this is the ideal laboratory maximum. Still, with Wi-Fi 7, the overall speed increase will be noticeable, especially if all your devices support the new standard.
Wi-Fi 7 offers a wider channel bandwidth of 320 MHz compared to 160 MHz with Wi-Fi 5, 6 or 6E. This allows for a significant increase in actual download speeds and throughput.
Unlike Wi-Fi 6/6E, which operate with 1024-QAM modulation, the Wi-Fi 7 generation uses 4096-QAM modulation. This allows each character to transmit 12 bits rather than 10 bits, and provides 20 per cent faster data rates.
Thanks to the multi-channel operations (MLO) function, devices are able to exchange data in several frequency bands simultaneously, which significantly increases processing capacity, reduces latency between devices, improves reliability and efficiency even in dense networks (stadiums, co-working spaces, etc.).
In Wi-Fi 6/6E versions, if any part of a large high-speed channel is used by another device, the entire channel becomes unavailable, so another channel must be used. Wi-Fi 7 solves this problem by assigning multiple RUs to a single user (Multi-RU) and combining them to improve transmission efficiency.
The number of spatial streams in Wi-Fi 7 is 16, which is double that of Wi-Fi 6. With 16 x 16 MU-MIMO, each device has enough bandwidth for smooth operation.
It's worth noting that since Wi-Fi 7 speeds depend on your Internet connection, it's not always easy to quantify the quantifiable increase over Wi-Fi 6/6E. However, in general, the standard is capable of providing noticeably faster Internet access.
Is it worth upgrading to Wi-Fi 7 enabled devices already?
According to experts, with the introduction of Wi-Fi 7 technology, such use cases as streaming, virtual/augmented/extended reality, immersive 3D learning, electronic games, etc. will become available. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, the Wi-Fi 7 specification will be finalised by the end of the first quarter of 2024, allowing for network deployment and integration of relevant equipment.
Undoubtedly, due to its technical characteristics, the 7th generation of Wi-Fi has a number of advantages over the previous ones. But since the new standard has just been launched, there is currently no rush to buy devices capable of supporting Wi-Fi 7. Besides, they are just appearing on the market and there are not many of them (in particular, these are PC adapters and routers T-Link, Netgear, Eero), because manufacturers need time to understand in detail the features of the latest standard.
That's why for home use a router with Wi-Fi 6 support will do for now. But if you're going to upgrade your equipment to one that matches the technology of the future, you may want to look at Wi-Fi 7-compatible devices. For larger companies and enterprises, it's worth waiting for fully certified devices capable of operating on "specific" frequencies.