Exploring today's technology for tomorrow's possibilities
What is WiFi 7?
October 21, 2022
Reading time: 7 minutes
If you’re excited about WiFi 7, you have every reason to be. The newest WiFi standard isn’t just faster; it’s a game-changing advancement that will usher in whole new ways of using the internet for gaming, business, and home use.
For instance, this metaverse thing you’ve heard so much about? It will leap to the forefront as bandwidth grows, becoming more vivid and immersive. Virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR) will come into their own for applications like shopping and touring locations and physical processes from remote devices. Plus, gaming will get 10 times more realistic and fast-paced.
Below, you’ll find answers to questions like when is WiFi 7 coming out, what is it, and how fast will it go? Buckle up, because the latest WiFi is about to change your online world.
What is WiFi 7?
WiFi 7 is the newest WiFi technology for routers and modems, supplying speeds four times faster than WiFi 6. This massive throughput supports virtual reality (VR), low-latency gaming, and higher quality streaming. Though it will change the way you use the web, it won’t be in full use until 2024.
The naming standard for WiFi 7 is IEEE 802.11be. WiFi 6 was IEEE 802.11ax (exactly the same except for the last two letters) and WiFi 5 was IEEE 802.11ac. The name changes are slight, but the changes in the specs amount to a complete redesign, geared to support a totally new type of internet use.
WiFi 7 will reach speeds up to a blistering 46 Gbps compared to already super-fast 9.6 Gbps for WiFi 6, but it brings other game-changing upgrades, too. You’ll be able to connect more devices from one router, with each one using massive throughput, and quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) for more efficient wireless connections.
You’ll clearly notice the changes as you play online hiccup free, conference without glitches, and use VR for business, pleasure, and shopping with a being-there feel.
WiFi 7 vs WiFi 6
WiFi 7 is magnitudes faster than the WiFi 6 you’re using now, with more data piped to more devices - all without stepping on each others’ toes. Want to watch the game upstairs while your partner streams “Andor” in the den and the kids play “Star Wars: Squadrons”with VR headsets in a bedroom? You will, without any buffering issues.
Here’s a timeline of the different standards since 1997, as shared by the WiFi alliance.
WiFi 7 speed is 4 times faster
It’s hard to picture the speed upgrades you’ll see with WiFi 7 for two reasons. First, a four-times speed jump from top theoretical speeds of 9.6 Gbps to 46 Gbps is extreme. Second, it’s hard to think what you’d need all that extra speed for. Doesn’t everything work pretty well now?
The table below puts the speed difference in perspective between WiFi 6 (2019) to WiFi 7 (2024). That extra speed will open up entirely new ways of using the internet. For example, you may virtually try on a pair of shoes or glasses with such a realistic feel that you’ll save yourself a pile of time and money during shopping.
WiFi 7 will have much lower latency compared to WiFi 6. While quadrupling the speed is a big jump, that speed increase has a big domino effect on latency, which is the delay you experience while conferencing, gaming, and streaming. According to Microsoft, you’ll see 100 times better latency in general, and 15 times better latency for VR devices - that’s significantly less waiting.
This massive falloff in latency has far-reaching practical applications for creating incredibly immersive web experiences. WiFi 7’s wider 320 MHz channels and unlicensed 6 GHz band will let you tap into realistic gaming, remote work, healthcare, and educational experiences that are much richer (and less glitchy) than what you’re used to now.
While WiFi 6 can serve multiple devices like a laptop, two phones, and a tablet at the same time, WiFi 7 does it better. That’s because WiFi 6 supports up to four devices at once with MU-MIMO technology. MU-MIMO splits a single signal into smaller signals, which means multiple devices share the same signal.
This signal sharing is convenient, but it creates latency issues - “Hey, is someone streaming upstairs?” By contrast, WiFi 7 uses Multi-Link operation, with multiple signals to support multiple devices. So WiFi 7 routers will prioritize channels that aren’t in use first.
As you add more and more devices to the network, the wireless router falls back on MU-MIMO tech to share the channels.
WiFi 6 relied on 1024-QAM to more efficiently use radio signals for sending and receiving more data. That 1K QAM architecture gave WiFi 6 a 25% speed boost over WiFi 5. In a massive upgrade, WiFi 7 uses 4K QAM, which creates its four-times speed boost over WiFi 6e.
Rather than offering added benefits to you as the user of a WiFi 7 modem, that higher QAM is the “why” behind the standard’s faster speeds.
WiFi 7 release date
WiFi 7 will be released in 2023, but it likely won’t see wide adoption until 2024. You’ll be able to buy some devices with built-in WiFi 7 in the last few months of 2022, but you won’t see it in the majority of products, such as tablets, smartphones, and laptops, until the following year.
When can you get a WiFi 7 router?
Some manufacturers are hitting the market early, with at least one WiFi 7 router up for sale already from Chinese vendor H3C. However, most vendors won’t start selling WiFi 7 routers until at least mid 2023, and late adopters may want to wait until mid 2024 to enjoy a wider product selection.
What are the benefits of WiFi 7?
As a result of much faster internet for more devices in your smart home or office, WiFi 7 offers several benefits to your quality of online life. You’ll see marked improvements to gaming, streaming, conferencing, and VR for work, school, shopping, and play. Here’s a breakdown of how WiFi 7 will matter to you.
VR gaming online is here thanks to popular titles in 2022 like the breathtaking “Star Wars: Squadrons” and the awe-inspiring “No Man’s Sky.”Playing these games online will get smoother thanks to lower latency, and WiFi 7 makes it possible for game designers to push back the boundaries even further with new titles.
With the advent of HDMI 2.1, we’ll be streaming incredibly crisp home-theater experiences once WiFi 7 fully takes hold. Those little blocks you may see and largely ignore on game day or while binging your favorite Netflix series will smooth out into gorgeous visuals that won’t feel like they’re coming in via the internet. And if multiple people are watching on a number of devices, you’ll see a lot less buffering.
“There’s just no substitute for face-to-face.”What that statement really says is that previous tech like WiFi 6e can’t deliver all the nuance of in-person interaction. But with WiFi 7, visuals will be remarkably crisper, with higher audio sampling rates to catch every microexpression and inflection, for an in-the-room experience.
The ability to snap quick pics and send explanatory videos has changed the face of remote work in just the past few years. But VR headsets underpinned by WiFi 7 tech will pave the way for deeper remote experiences in manufacturing, inventory management, maintenance, and product development.
More student engagement
While remote learning has its downsides, engaged children learn well even outside brick-and-mortar schools. WiFi 7 will help increase that engagement level by creating more immersive learning experiences. With enhanced VR, remote learning will increase focus and bring back the social interaction missing from Zoom-type classroom sessions.
More satisfying online shopping
Testing and browsing products with VR headsets like the HP Reverb G2 are swiftly moving into the mainstream. However, WiFi 7 will deliver a one-two punch to the problems around VR shopping. First, the new WiFi standard will make existing online shopping portals work more smoothly and more quickly. Second, it will let vendors create richer virtual shopping experiences that take the guesswork out of buying on the web.
WiFi 7 is more than a step forward in internet speeds - it’s an exponential leap that supports massive changes in the way we use the web. VR, XR, conferencing, and gaming will all get faster, with less hitching and stopping, and more vivid and immersive experiences.
About the Author
Tom Gerencer is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tom is an ASJA journalist, career expert at Zety.com, and a regular contributor to Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. His work is featured in Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many more.
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