The proposed replacement for the Wi-Fi 6E is already here, barely a year after the release of the sixth generation Wi-Fi 6. The publicized name for this new wireless connection, the Wi-Fi 7, is IEEE 802.11be.
It is the seventh generation wireless connectivity standard whose features are, according to the IEEE P802.11be, a draft proposal, and it promises to reinvent wireless connection as we all know it.
Wi-Fi 7: An Overview
According to the announcement by Qualcomm, Wi-Fi 7 intends to elevate the features of the current Wi-Fi 6. In a blog article, Qualcomm said that the combination of accelerated speed, diminished latency, and increased capacity in Wi-Fi 7 would be at the heart of the most complex applications including Metaverse, edge computing, Extended Reality (XR), and more.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers stated that Wi-Fi 7 would bring higher speeds and many revolutionary improvements to Wi-Fi as we know it. In their paper, the IEEE termed it “the new basis for further Wi-Fi revolution.”
This seventh generation of Wi-Fi, known as 802.11be EHT or Wi-Fi 7 Extremely High Throughput, promises even higher data rates, lower latency, and a revolution in areas such as interactive robotics and virtual reality.
Wi-Fi 7: An Exact Definition
What, then, is the 802.11be? This new amendment is based on the IEEE 802.11 standard, as well as its predecessor 802.11ax, also known as Wi-Fi 6. It will concentrate on WLAN indoor and outdoor operation in the 2.4, 5, and 6 GHz frequency bands, with static and pedestrian speeds.
Wi-Fi 7’s new capabilities were created to support a large number of users and devices in bandwidth-intensive environments, and they result in increased network capacity, decreased latencies, and extremely fast data speeds. In a nutshell, it can be described as a quantum leap in wireless Internet performance.
Evolution of Wi-Fi Generations up to Wi-Fi 7
Wi-Fi standards have continually evolved since their introduction in 1997, resulting in faster speeds and network/ spectrum efficiency. As capabilities were added to the original 802.11 standards, they became known by their amendment.
802.11 – 1997
The first wireless Standard in the family, 802.11-1997, was released in 1997. This Standard defined the Carrier Sense Multiple Access protocols with Collision Avoidance (CSMA/CA) protocols and compatible interconnection of data communication devices in a local area network (LAN).
802.11b – 1999
In the middle of 1999, 802.11b gadgets hit the market. They had a theoretical maximum data rate of 11 Mbps and utilized the original Standard’s CSMA/CA media access technique. The considerable improvement in 802.11b throughput, combined with significant price reductions, led to the widespread acceptance of 802.11b as a wireless local area networking protocol.
802.11a Standard – 1999
The IEEE 802.11a Standard employed the same core protocol as the original Standard but at a higher frequency of 5 GHz. It had a theoretical data rate of 54 Mbps and other data rates of 6 Mbps, 9 Mbps, 12 Mbps, 18 Mbps, 24 Mbps, 36 Mbps, and 48 Mbps. It was not interoperable with 802.11b, as it operated in different unlicensed ISM frequency bands.
802.11g Standard – 2003
IEEE 802.11g Standard was released in 2003 and combined the best of both 802.11b and 802.11a to make users interested in investing in a device supporting the wireless protocol.
802.11ac Standard – 2014
The first wave of 802.11ac compatible devices was released in 2013. It supported only 80 MHz channels and up to three spatial streams, delivering up to 1300 Mbps at the physical layer.
802.11ax Standard (Wi-Fi 6) – 2019
IEEE 802.11ax is the sixth generation of Wi-Fi, built on the strengths of 802.11ac. It offers more wireless capacity and reliability by using denser modulation schemes, reduced subcarrier spacing, and schedule-based resource allocation.
It is a dual-band technology working in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, offering an upgrade in speed even for the lower frequency band. It’s designed for maximum compatibility with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac clients.
802.11be (Wi-Fi 7) – 2024
For better or worse, technology moves at a fast pace, and this is especially true in the networking world. Recently, many people have shifted to Wi-Fi 6, and some may be debating a transition to Wi-Fi 6E, but its replacement is already in the process of being developed.
Wi-Fi 7 is the next significant advancement, and, like its predecessors, the new standard promises decreased latency, faster connections, and the ability to competently oversee more links than ever before.
Features of the New Wi-Fi 7
Let us review the high-priority features that 802.11be Release 1 supports, and consider the advantages of Wi-Fi 7, particularly how it will enable and improve future connectivity.
Data Transfer Rates
Wi-Fi 7 will have a theoretical peak transfer rate of 46 Gbps. However, we can expect real-world speeds of around 40 Gbps. Simply put, a 40 Gigabyte game should take about 10 seconds to download on your PC.
The 320 Mhz Bandwidth Channels
Wi-Fi 7 has 320 MHz channels, which are twice as large as previous Wi-Fi generations. It has significantly higher speeds by packing more data into each transmission. Nevertheless, let us break it down.
Now that the 6 GHz frequency range is available for Wi-Fi functions, Wi-Fi 7 offers a 320 MHz data transfer rate along with 20/40/80/160 MHz channel widths on both the 5GHz and 6GHz bands. Moreover, it is compatible with the 2.4 GHz band’s 20/40 MHz.
Compared to existing Wi-Fi 6/6E, which currently stands at 160 MHz, adding a 320 MHz channel offers double the maximum nominal bandwidth.
4K Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (Qam)
When compared to Wi-Fi 6/6E’s 1K QAM, Wi-Fi 7’s 4K QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) allows each signal to pack more large amounts of data. Wi-Fi 7’s transition to 4K-QAM results in a 20 percent increase in peak performance.
Wi-Fi 7 incorporates Multi-Link Operation (MLO) to the combination, augments the number of MU-MIMO channels from eight to 16, and advances MIMO protocol. The user upside here is the fact that we’ll be able to enjoy high-speed connections on more gadgets at the same time. It’s worth noting that most devices, including laptops and phones, have a 22 MIMO configuration.
A Wi-Fi 7 router can simultaneously connect to a Wi-Fi 7 device across two or more channels in different bands as a single aggregated connection. The Multi-Link Operation enables wider channels capable of transmitting more data.
In general, the term “latency” refers to the interval of time between an input and a response. Wi-Fi 7’s latency performance will be lowered to below 10 ms thanks to features that operate at both the MAC (medium access control) layer and the physical layer (PHY).
These include multi-access point coordinated beamforming, time-sensitive networking, and multi-link operation.
Multi-Access Point (AP) Coordination
In the current 802.11 protocol framework, there is little harmony between both Access Points. Conventional WLAN functionalities, such as programmed radio tuning and savvy transitioning, are among the provider features in these APs.
The objective of multi-AP coordination is to maximize the selection of channels and spread the load among access points. That, and to attain optimal exploitation as well as even distribution of radio resources.
Wi-Fi 7’s coordinated booking includes shared MIMO, inter-cellular disruption coordination, and synchronized scheduling across numerous Access Points (APs) in the temporal and frequency domains. This minimizes AP interference and drastically enhances air interface resource utilization.
The Non-Contiguous Spectrum
Wi-Fi 7 improves non-contiguous spectrum usage, leading to significant improvements in data transmission speed and 6 GHz bandwidth capacity. This will make it possible to broadcast high-definition 8K video at speeds up to 2.4 times faster than those made possible by Wi-Fi 6/6E, which usually averages 2.5 Gbps.
Additional Features of Wi-Fi 7
Thanks to Multi-RU (resource units) Puncturing, Wi-Fi 7 devices will be able to use other parts of the same high-speed channel to enable very large channels (even if they are smaller than the maximum 320 MHz size.)
Enhanced Resource Allocation in OFDM
OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) denotes a group of 78.125 kHz bandwidth subcarriers (tones) used in both downlink and uplink transmissions. Under non-saturation conditions, the implementation of OFDM can decrease the mean latency from 5 ms to less than 1 ms.
OFDMA can potentially boost concentration transmission rates by more than 10 percent when paired with an effective multi-user cache status report and limited EDCA structures.
Official Release Date for Wi-Fi 7
The IEEE 802.11b Task Group (TGbe) was formally formed in May 2019 and has been working on 802.11be development since then. The 802.11be amendment is still being worked on, with an initial draft happening in March 2021 and a final version expected in early 2024.
Wi-Fi 7 was recently marketed and announced for 2023 around November and December 2022. Early adopters will be thrilled to learn that the first batch of Wi-Fi 7 routers will be available in early 2023.
If everything goes according to plan, the 802.11be Standard might be certified by 2024. Then, only a short time after, the major manufacturers will release their routers and other network equipment.
Obviously, like with any novelty, they will be highly costly at first, but as time passes, they will become more affordable to everyone. Major countries that have already permitted the use of Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 include Canada, the US, the UK, and Brazil.
Devices that Support Wi-Fi 7
As usual, Wi-Fi 7 devices will be backward compatible, meaning that they will function with all of your previous gear without all of the benefits and speed boosts that Wi-Fi 7 delivers. TP-Link has presented a comprehensive Wi-Fi 7 router collection, including the premier quad-band Archer BE900 ($700), which is marked by a unique X-shaped design with a controllable LED grid and a touch screen.
Other devices include the TP-link decoBE33000 and Deco BE33000, which will be available on March 15th for $699 and $1,199, respectively. The brand also unveiled three Deco mesh systems and the Archer GE800 Gaming router (the headline Deco BE95 is priced at $1,200 for a pair).
On the device side, Qualcomm’s Wi-Fi 7 chipset and Networking Pro Series platform can give up to 33 GB/s of quad-band connection across 16 streams. Partners are already working on incorporating its technologies into products. Broadcom and MediaTek have also unveiled Wi-Fi 7 technology.
More vendors will announce their plans in the following months when the Wi-Fi Alliance ends and officially certifies the new Standard. All these products will be launched later in 2023.
Wi-Fi 7 presents an impressive enhancement in user experience, particularly in complex uses like interactive AR/VR, 8K video streaming, and cloud gaming. In terms of reduced latency, faster speeds, and dependability, it outperforms Wi-Fi 6/6E. But it’s important to keep in mind that Wi-Fi 6 and 7 will almost certainly coexist as complementary systems for a very long time.