Wireless connections are the backbone of most modern homes, providing high network availability with easy connections. Wi-Fi standards are a slow crawl toward progress, compared to most other factors in tech. However, each leap is a massive jump in capabilities.
Wi-Fi 7’s announcement has the networking world excited. For the first time since Wi-Fi’s introduction, there is a whole new frequency spectrum to use. Is it worth upgrading to a Wi-Fi 7 device? Let’s look at the capabilities of Wi-Fi 7 against its immediate predecessor, Wi-Fi 6E. Wi-Fi 6E is also a relatively recent development, a further refinement of Wi-Fi 6.
Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6E: Side-by-Side Comparison
|2.5, 5, and 6 GHz
|2.5, 5, and 6 GHz
|20, 40, 80, 80+80, 160, and 320 MHz
|20, 40, 80, 80+80, and 160 MHz
|Maximum Speed Supported
Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6E: What’s the Difference?
Wi-Fi 7 presents a pretty substantial upgrade over the previous Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 6. For a generational update, it is quite a massive leap forward, boasting even faster speeds, more bandwidth, and concurrent connections than its immediate predecessor.
Wi-Fi 7 sees a massive boost in speed, with support of transmission at rates of up to 46 Gbps. This isn’t a mere refresh in the way Wi-Fi 6 to Wi-Fi 6E was, but rather an entirely different standard. Speed is further helped along with a doubled channel width.
Wi-Fi 7 carries forward the frequency bands of its predecessor. This allows users to connect more effectively with minimal electromagnetic interference, depending on the composition and layout of their home or office.
This contrasts with the 9.6 Gbps supported by Wi-Fi 6E. The current standard is blazingly fast for a wireless connection, but its successor is closing the gap in terms of wired connections. Do note, however, that this isn’t reflective of the speeds and specifications of your internet plan.
These are the maximum speeds supported by devices bearing these certifications. And, as such, you might experience differing speeds. Local area connections should be blazingly fast, and sharing between local network shares is approaching hard-wired data rates.
Wi-Fi 7 sees massive boosts in connectivity. This isn’t entirely surprising given the new support for higher speeds but is certainly a welcome new feature. The channel width itself has doubled, going from 160MHz to 320MHz. This increase in channel width is only available for the 6GHz band, but there are some creative ways Wi-Fi 7 handles routing its bandwidth.
Wi-Fi 6E saw the ability to combine frequency bands to allow for more concurrent connections, and the same is extended to Wi-Fi 7. Users have the ability to combine these bands to allow for faster connections closer to the base station, as well as more stable connections with less speed further out from the area of highest saturation.
As with all Wi-Fi standards, this range can be extended through the usage of mesh networks or Wi-Fi repeaters. Simply put, the latest Wi-Fi standard allows for more connections and allows users to prioritize speed or connectivity.
A Matter of Standards
At the time of writing, Wi-Fi 7 is newly certified and manufacturers like Qualcomm are starting production of chips supporting the new protocol. What this means in the interim is that the defacto fastest Wi-Fi standard available is Wi-Fi 6E.
Certification and manufacturer support do take some time from wireless equipment manufacturers and, as such, it might be at least another year before consumers are able to purchase their own Wi-Fi 7-compatible hardware.
Further, current devices on the marketplace, like smartphones and tablets, won’t have native support for the newest standard. Sure, they can take advantage of the greater means of connectivity, but the wireless antennas on the device also need to be compatible to take advantage of the increase in speed.
Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6E: 6 Must-Know Facts
- Wi-Fi 7 has the fastest throughput of any wireless standard.
- Wi-Fi 7 will need full OEM support to deliver the best speeds and connections.
- Wi-Fi 7 quadruples the QAM modulation to 4K over the previous 1024.
- Wi-Fi 6E allows for bi-directional MU-MIMO.
- Wi-Fi 6E can combine frequency bands for better connection quality.
- Wi-Fi 6E only allows for the usage of one frequency band by connection at a time.
Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6E: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?
For those putting together a new wireless network, it might be worth the wait to fully incorporate Wi-Fi 7 into their home setup. The greater speeds and connections on offer bode well for those enjoying 4K streaming media or using multiple devices simultaneously.
That isn’t to discount the features boasted by Wi-Fi 6E, as it remains the current standard. For those who need a wireless router and accompanying equipment now, the current standard is still a great choice. It isn’t nearly as fast or robust with connectivity, but it is a massive leap forward from Wi-Fi 5 hardware.
As for Wi-Fi 7, users will have to engage in a waiting game as manufacturers and OEMs catch up to the latest and greatest. What it shows in the current spec sheets is a great leap forward, but when supported devices come to market is still up in the air.
Recent Technology Updates for Wi-Fi 7 and Wi-Fi 6E
Since February 2023, there have been technological advances for Wi-Fi 7 and Wi-Fi 6E, including:
- Wi-Fi 7 Chips: New Wi-Fi 7 chips have been released by chipmakers such as Broadcom and Qualcomm. These chips allow devices connect to Wi-Fi 7 networks.
- New Wi-Fi 6E Certification Programs: The Wi-Fi Alliance released new certification programs for Wi-Fi 6E devices. This will ensure that devices are Wi-Fi 6E compatible.
- Wi-Fi 7 Routers: Early Wi-Fi 7 routers were released by Netgear and Asus.
Potential Technology Advances for Wi-Fi 7 and Wi-Fi 6E
While planned technology advancements have not been announced for Wi-Fi 7 and Wi-Fi 6E, it is likely that you may see some or all of the following in the next six to 18 months:
- Higher data rates: With expected higher data rates, this will allow for faster gaming, streaming, and downloads.
- More bandwidth: With wider bandwidth, we can expect that more devices will be able to connect to the same network without experiencing congestion.
- Lower latency: Because of lower latency, we can expect to see improvements in applications such as video conferencing and online gaming that require real-time communication.
- Better compatibility: Devices are expected to be able to connect to the same network easier and be more compatible.
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