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Wi-Fi 7 Explained (vs Wi-Fi 6/6E): The Late-2023 State of the Gradually Game-Changing Wireless Standard

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You must have heard of Wi-Fi 7 by now. Since the end of 2021, this latest wireless standard has been a major topic in getting your devices connected. Among a sea of marketing superlatives and online clickbait content, Wi-Fi 7 can be confusing.

And that’s where this post comes into play. I will explain the new Wi-Fi standard in the most down-to-earth manner. Still, things can get a bit technical — we’re talking about something that can’t be seen.

In any case, as of right now, the first and most important thing to remember is this: Wi-Fi 7 is not fully there yet. It’s still in draft. We’ll likely have to wait until late 2024 to know all it can offer.

But on the other hand, with some effort and a good amount of cash, you can genuinely taste (part of) the new standard today. I speak from experience.

With that, let’s dig in.

Dong’s note: I first published this post on November 19, 2021. Since then, it’s been updated multiple times to reflect the evolving state of the new wireless standard. I last updated it on November 18, 2023, and plan to do that at least one more time until the standard is ratified.

One Plus 11 5G is the first Wi Fi 7 client
Available in early May 2023, the One Plus 11 5G is the first Wi-Fi 7 client.

Wi-Fi 7: What it is and its current state

The name alone is telling. It’s the 7th generation of Wi-Fi, the most common way to connect devices locally and, hence, to the Internet.

Technically, Wi-Fi 7 is the friendly name of the 802.11be standard, which is why you’ll see “BE” in the (model) name of broadcasters (routers or access points) supporting this standard. That’s similar to Wi-Fi 6, which is for 802.11ax; Wi-Fi 5 means 802.11ac, etc. It’s much easier to remember that 7 comes after and is “more” than 6.

Like all previous Wi-Fi standards, Wi-Fi 7 will be backward compatible. (Most of) your existing devices will be able to connect to a Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster, and so will a Wi-Fi 7 client to a router of an older standard. However, this backward compatibility is only true when there’s no security involved — that’s when you use a Wi-Fi network (or SSID) in an “Open” state.

New Wi-Fi broadcasters tend to require higher security protocols, and most Wi-Fi 7 routers I’ve tested require at least WPA2 for 5GHz and/or 2.4GHz bands. (The 6GHz band always requires WPA3). In this case, older clients supporting WPA or lesser protocols — those with the first-gen Wi-Fi 5 or earlier standard — are no longer supported when security is enabled. (Your iPhone 5 and older are among those.)

Considering most of us nowadays use the 2nd-Gen (Wave 2) Wi-Fi 5 and newer clients, this might not be a huge issue, and you can take the “backward compatible” notion of Wi-Fi 7 at its face value. So, in most cases, it doesn’t hurt to get a new Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster today.

On the other hand, if you’re still clinging to old devices — and there’s nothing wrong with that — keep in mind that Wi-Fi 7 won’t necessarily render them obsolete. You’ll continue to see vendors releasing new Wi-Fi 6E and even Wi-Fi 6 hardware options for the foreseeable future.

Wi-Fi 7: The first devices you can buy today

To experience Wi-Fi 7, you will need new hardware on both ends of a connection.

On the broadcasting side, many networking vendors announced their first Wi-Fi 7 routers in late 2022, but it wasn’t until May 2023 that you could buy the first hardware, the TP-Link BE85. As the year progressed, we saw more and more hardware. I’ve worked on a handful, and there will soon be more.

On the receiving side, on May 2, 2023, the One Plus 11 5G became the first device in the US to support Wi-Fi 7, (similar to how the Samsung S21 Ultra was the first with Wi-Fi 6E years ago). Soon after, the Motorola Edge + was the second phone to join the club and then came the Pixel 8 Pro and others. It’s safe to say most future releases of flagship phones will follow suit. (Interestingly, the iPhone 15 doesn’t, but that’s how Apple rolls. The company took a decade to finally move its phone to USB-C.)

While smartphones are legit clients, we’d need only so much bandwidth on one, making the Wi-Fi 7 support on this type of device less impactful. That said, most significantly, Intel announced its BE200 and BE202 Wi-Fi 7 chips in September. They became available in November as add-on adapters and built-in components within new Intel-based motherboards.

The two chips put me in a mini-quest to build my own Wi-Fi 7-enabled PCs, and after some epic-worthy efforts, I succeeded (possibly with glory). But the achievement revealed an unexpected twist:

A true Wi-Fi 7 experience must still wait a while, possibly until late 2024. That’s when the software drivers supporting the standard become available. For now, these new Wi-Fi 7 chips, while identified as such within a computer, function largely like Wi-Fi 6E counterparts.

Intel BE200 320MHz Connection Status
Wi-Fi 7: Here’s the connection status of an Intel BE200 adapter on a Windows 11 23H2 computer connected to a Wi-Fi 7 router. Note how it connects at the same speed as a 2×2 160MHz Wi-Fi 6E adapter.

Rumors have it that Microsoft and Intel will not fully support Wi-Fi 7 until Windows 11 24H2 (or Windows 12), expected to be released in the second part of next year. (Windows 11 23H2, which fully supports Wi-Fi 6E, came out in October this year.)

And that makes sense since that’s also the timeline when Wi-Fi 7 is expected to be ratified. Until then, existing BE200 and BE202 chips will work similarly to their Wi-Fi 6E counterparts.

So, here’s the current deal: You can get a Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster and build your own or upgrade your existing computer into a Wi-Fi 7 client today. And they will work to an extent. But a real Wi-Fi 7 experience, with all of its bells, whistles, and, most importantly, speeds, still needs more time.

Wi-Fi 7 and Ethernet: Multi-Gig is the norm

While on the wireless front, things are still somewhat up in the air. On the wired front, one thing is clear:

The new Wi-Fi standard will not and is not meant to “replace Ethernet,” as you might have read somewhere by lazy tech “journalists” or Wi-Fi “experts” who likely repeated the nonsensical marketing languages of some networking vendor.

Quite contrarily, Wi-Fi 7 reinforces the relevancy and solidifies the use of multi-Gigabit wired connections widely available via the Multi-Gig standard, turning it into the minimum requirement for any broadcasters.

All Wi-Fi 7 broadcasters I’ve worked with include multiple Multi-Gig ports — except the Linksys Velop Pro 7, which has only one. Most have two or more 10Gbps ports and don’t even have Gigabit ports anymore.

And that has to be the case since Wi-Fi 7’s theoretical wireless speeds are too great for the good old Gigabit standard — no matter how fast a Wi-Fi broadcaster is, its wireless bandwidth is limited by its network port.

It only makes sense for a Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster to embrace Multi-Gig. And that’s great. Multi-Gig is the way of the future.

Network connection: Wi-Fi vs Wired

Fundamentally, Wi-Fi can never replace Ethernet.

Wi-Fi: Partial bandwidth and always Half-Duplex. Data moves using a portion of a band (spectrum), called a channel, in one direction at a time. You can think of Wi-Fi as the walkie-talkie in voice communication.

Wired: Full bandwidth and (generally) Full-Duplex. Data travel using the entire cable’s bandwidth and in both ways simultaneously. That’s similar to a phone call in voice communication.

While Wi-Fi is super-convenient, it’s only relevant when operating on top of a reliable and fast wired connection.

So, if you have a large home and need multiple broadcasters to blanket it, the only way to truly enjoy Wi-Fi 7 is to run a couple of network cables.

The connection rates aside, compared to Wi-Fi 6E, Wi-Fi 7 likely won’t increase the range by much, and if so, only on the 6GHz band.

Let’s find out more.

TP Link Deco BE85 Wi Fi 7 Mesh System port side on hand
Available in early May 2023, the TP-Link Deco BE85 is the first Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster you can buy. It goes big on Multi-Gig and no longer has any Gigabit port.

Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6/6E: Four key items to potentially turn it a game-changer

In many ways, Wi-Fi 7 combines Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E.

The new standard uses all three bands, including 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz. However, the 6GHz is still where it can deliver top speeds. Additionally, when ratified, it also has unprecedented improvements in the other two bands, especially the 5GHz.

It’s important to note that the availability of the 6GHz band varies from one region to another due to local regulations. I’m writing from the perspective of the US market.

By default, Wi-Fi 7 shares theoretical coverage similar to existing standards that use the same frequencies, with the 2.4GHz having the longest range, then the 5GHz, and then the 6GHz with the shortest range.

However, the new standard may have a longer effective range, depending on the environment and implementation, thanks to four important (and exciting) new features of Wi-Fi 7. Generally, the first two better the standard’s throughput speeds, and the other two improve its range.

A quick refresher: Wi-Fi works via three frequency bands. Each has multiple channels to deliver traffic via streams. The cabinet below contains some quick highlights on these confusing terms.

Wi-Fi in brief: Bands vs Channels vs Streams

Wi-Fi uses three frequency bands, including 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz.

Depending on the Wi-Fi standards and hardware, each band can have multiple channels of different widths, including 20MHz, 40MHz, 80MHz, 160Mhz, and 320MHz. The wider a channel is, the more bandwidth it has.

Data moves in a channel via streams, often dual-stream (2×2), three-stream (3×3), or quad-stream (4×4). The more streams, the more data can travel at a time.

Here’s a crude analogy:

If a Wi-Fi band is a freeway, then channels are lanes, and streams are vehicles (bicycles vs cars vs semi-trailer trucks). On the same road, you can put multiple adjacent standard lanes (20MHz) into a larger one (40MHz, 80MHz, or higher) to accommodate oversized vehicles (higher number of streams) that carry more goods (data) per trip (connection).

A Wi-Fi connection generally occurs on a single channel (lane) of a single band (road) at a time. The actual data transmission is always that of the lowest denominator — a bicycle can carry just one person at a relatively slow speed, even when used on a super-wide lane of an open freeway.

1. The all-new 320MHz channel width

The first is the new and much wider channel width, up to 320MHz or double that of Wi-Fi 6/6E.

This new channel width is generally available on the 6GHz band, with up to three 320MHz channels. However, Wi-Fi 7 can also combine portions of the 6GHz and 5GHz bands to create this new bandwidth — more in the Multi-Link Operation section below.

Details of Wi-Fi channels can be found here, but the new channel width generally means Wi-Fi 7 can double the base speed, from 1.2Gbps per stream (160MHz) to 2.4Gbps per stream (320MHz).

So, in theory, just from the width alone, a 4×4 broadcaster 6GHz Wi-Fi 7 can have up to 9.6 Gbps of bandwidth — or 10Gbps when rounded up. But there’s more to Wi-Fi 7’s bandwidth below.

Depending on the configuration, Wi-Fi 7 routers and access points will be available in different speed grades, including those offering bandwidths higher or lower than 10Gbps on the 6GHz band.

Wi-Fi 7 also supports double the partial streams, up to 16. As a result, technically, a 16-stream (16×16) Wi-Fi 7 6GHz band can deliver up to over 40Gbps of bandwidth, especially when considering the new QAM support below.

Like Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, initially, Wi-Fi 7 will be available as dual-stream (2×2) and quad-stream (4×4) broadcasters and dual-stream clients. Going forward, the standard might have 8×8 broadcasters and single-stream or quad-stream clients.

Again, you need a compatible client to use the new 320MHz channel width. Existing clients will connect using 160MHz at best. In reality, the 160MHz will likely be the realistic sweet-spot bandwidth of Wi-Fi 7, just like the 80MHz in the case of Wi-Fi 6.

2. The 4K-QAM

QAM, short for quadrature amplitude modulation, is a way to manipulate the radio wave to pack more information in the Hertz.

Wi-Fi 6 supports 1024-QAM, which itself is already impressive. However, Wi-Fi 7 will have four times that, or 4096-QAM. Greater QAM means better performance for the same channel width.

As a result, Wi-Fi 7 will have a much higher speed and efficiency than previous standards when working with supported clients.

Wi-F 7 vs Wi-Fi 6/6E: The realistic real-world speeds

With the support for the wider channel width and higher QAM, Wi-Fi 7 is set to be much faster than previous standards on paper.

Vendors will continue to combine the theoretical bandwidth of a broadcaster’s all bands into a single colossal number — such as BE19000, BE22000, or BE33000 — which is great for advertising. Like always, these numbers don’t mean much.

In reality, until the MLO feature below is available, a Wi-Fi connection generally happens on a single band at a time — that’s always true for Wi-Fi 6E and older clients — and is limited by the client.

The table below summarizes what you can expect from Wi-Fi 7’s real-world organic performance compared to Wi-Fi 6E when working on the 6GHz.

Wi-Fi 6EWi-Fi 7
Max Channel Bandwidth
(theoretical/top-tier equipment)
160MHz320MHz
Channel Bandwidth
(widely implemented)
80MHz160MHz
Number of Available Channels7x 160MHz or 14x 80MHz channels3x 320MHz or 6x 160MHz channels
Highest Modulation 1024-QAM4096-QAM
Max Number
of Spatial Streams
(theoretical on paper / commercially implemented)
8 / 416 / 8 (estimate)
Max Bandwidth
Per Stream
(theoretical)
1.2Gbps (at 160MHz)
600Mbps (at 80MHz)
β‰ˆ 2.9Gbps (at 320MHz)
β‰ˆ 1.45Gbps (at 160MHz)
Max Band Bandwidth
(theoretical on paper)
9.6Gbps
(8×8)
46.1Gbps
(16×16)
Commercial Max Band Bandwidth Per Band
(commercially implemented)
4.8Gbps
(4×4)
23Gbps
(8×8)
Available Max Real-word Negotiated Speeds(*)2.4Gbps (via a 2×2 160MHz client)
1.2Gbps (via a 2×2 80MHzclient)
β‰ˆ 11.5Gbps (via a 4×4 320MHz client)
β‰ˆ 5.8Gbps (via a 2×2 320MHz client or a 4×4 160MHz client)
β‰ˆ 2.9Gbps (via a single stream 320MHz client or a 2×2 160MHz client)
β‰ˆ 1.45Gbps (via a single stream 160MHz client or a 2×2 80MHz client)
Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 7: Theoretical data rates on the 6GHz band
(*) The actual negotiated speed depends on the client, Wi-Fi 7 specs, and environment. Real-world sustained rates are generally much lower than negotiated speeds. Wi-Fi 6/6E has had only 2×2 clients. Wi-Fi 7 will also use 2×2 clients primarily, but it might have 4×4 and even single-stream (1×1) clients.

Considering the 2×2 implementation and the sweet-spot 160MHz channel width, generally, it’s safe to conservatively expect real-world rates of the mainstream Wi-Fi 7 (160MHz) to be about 20% faster than top-tier Wi-Fi 6E (160MHz).

Multi-Link Operation, or MLO, is the most exciting and promising feature of Wi-Fi 7 that changes the norm of Wi-Fi: Up to Wi-Fi 6E, a Wi-Fi connection between two direct devices occurs in a single band, using a fixed channel at a time.

Details are still sketchy, but in a nutshell, MLO is Wi-Fi band aggregation. Like Link Aggregation (or bonding) in wired networking, MLO allows combining two Wi-Fi bands, mostly 5GHz and 6GHz, into a single Wi-Fi network (SSID) and connection.

The bonded link delivers higher bandwidth and reliability. How much higher? That’s still to be determined, but chances are it can’t exceed the specs of a client. So an MLO connection is likely to deliver the same bandwidth — dependent on the channel width and number of streams — as an organic connection, but using the spectrum unavailable previously.

One Plus 11 5G Wi Fi information MLO
Here are the Wi-Fi setting pages of the One Plus 11 5G. Note that its “Dual Wi-Fi acceleration” might have nothing to do with MLO since the feature uses a single SSID. Also, a Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster, such as TP-Link Deco BE85 used in the screenshot above, has a separate MLO network in addition to the existing traditional network for backward compatibility. At the time of writing, this SSID might just be a placeholder since the feature needs the support of the client to work.

Generally, MLO will help increase the efficiency of Wi-Fi 7’s range, allowing a broadcaster to deliver faster speed over longer distances than previous standards.

It can be a game-changer in a wireless mesh network by fortifying the wireless link between broadcasters — the backhaul — both in terms of speed and reliability. While that doesn’t apply to systems with wired backhauling, MLO can make seamless handoff (or roaming) truly seamless.

On top of that, MLO allows each band to intelligently pick the best channel and channel width in real-time — it can channel-hop, just like Bluetooth, though likely less frequently.

For clients, in more ways than one, MLO is the best alternative to the existing so-called “Smart Connect” — using the same SSID (network name) and password for all the bands of a broadcaster — which doesn’t always work as smartly as expected.

But MLO is not all perfect — a few things to keep in mind:

  • MLO only works with supported Wi-Fi 7 clients. Some Wi-Fi 7 clients might not support it.
  • Wi-Fi 6E and older clients will still use a single band at a time when connecting to a MLO SSID. (As mentioned, a computer needs to run at least Windows 11 version 24H2, set to release in late 2024, to support MLO.)
  • MLO requires the WPA3 encryption method and generally won’t work with Wi-Fi 5 or older clients.
  • The reach of the combined link (of 5GHz and 6GHz) has a range as far as that of the shorter band.

By default, the 6GHz band has just about 75% of the range of the 5GHz when the same broadcasting power is applied. That said, MLO can only be truly meaningful with the help of Wi-Fi 7’s next feature, Automated Frequency Coordination.

4. Automated Frequency Coordination

Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) applies only to the 6GHz band, which is the fastest yet the shortest range compared to the 5GHz and 2.4GHz. AFC is an optional feature, it’s not required for the general function of a Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster.

At any given time, there can be existing applications already using the spectrum. For example, fixed satellite services (FSS) or broadcast companies might have already had called dibs on certain parts of the 6GHz band. A new Wi-Fi broadcaster must not impact those existing services — a concept similar to DFS channels in Wi-Fi 6 and 5.

That’s when the AFC feature comes into play. The idea is that all new 6GHz broadcasters check with a registered database in real-time to confirm their operation will not negatively impact other registered members. Once that’s established, the broadcaster creates a dynamically exclusive environment in which its 6GHz band can operate without the constraint of regulations like the case of Wi-Fi 6E and older standards.

Specifically, the support for AFC means each Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster can use more broadcasting power and better flexible antenna designs. How much more? That depends.

But it’s estimated that AFC can bring the broadcasting power up to 36 dBm (from the current 30 dBm max) or 4 watts (from 1 wat). The goal of AFC, at least initially, is to bring the 6GHz band’s range to be comparable with the 5GHz band — about 25% more.

When that happens, the MLO feature above will be truly powerful. But even then, Wi-Fi 7’s range will remain the same as that of Wi-Fi 6. Its improvement is that its 6GHz band now has a longer reach than in Wi-Fi 6E.

Before you get all excited, this feature requires certification, and its availability is expected to vary from one region to another. It likely won’t be available in the US before late 2024.

All hardware released before that is said to be capable of handling AFC, which, when applicable, can be turned on via firmware updates.

A crude AFC analogy

Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) is like checking with the local authorities for permission to close off sections of city streets for a drag race block party.

When approved, the usual traffic and parking laws no longer apply to the area, and the organizers can determine how fast traffic can flow, etc.

Wi-Fi 7’s other improvements

On top of that, Wi-Fi 7 will also have other improvements, including support for Flexible Channel Utilization (FCU) and Multi-RU.

With FCU, Wi-Fi 7 handles interference more gracefully by slicing off the portion of a channel with interference, 20MHz at a time, and keeps the clean part usable, as opposed to the case of Wi-Fi 6/6E, when there’s interference, an entire channel can be taken out of commission. FCU is the behind-the-scene technology that increases the efficiency of Wi-Fi, similar to the case of MU-MIMO and OFDMA.

Similarly, with Wi-Fi 6/6E, each device can only send or receive frames on an assigned resource unit (RU), which significantly limits the flexibility of the spectrum resource scheduling. Wi-Fi 7 allows multiple RUs to be assigned to a single device and can combine RUs for increased transmission efficiency.

Wi-Fi cheatsheet

Standard
(name)
AvailabilityChannel Width
Options/Theoretical Speed per Stream

(rounded numbers)
Top Real-World Client Streams
(theoretical speed)
SecurityFrequency
and Bands
Status
802.11b199920MHz/11MbpsSingle-stream or 1×1Open
WEP
2.4GHzObsolete
802.11a200020MHz/54Mbps1×1Open
WEP
5GHzObsolete
802.11g200320Β MHz/54Mbps1×1Open
WEP
2.4GHzObsolete
802.11n
(Wi-Fi 4)
200920MHz/75Mbps
40MHz/150MBps
Quad-stream or 4×4
(600Mbps)
Open
WEP
WPA
2.4GHz, 
5GHz,
Dual-band
Legacy
802.11ac 
(Wi-Fi 5)
201220MHz/108Mbps
40MHz/217Mbps
80MHz/433Mbps
4×4
(1732Mbps)
Open
WPA
WPA2
5GHz,
Dual-band,
Tri-band
Mainstream
802.11ad
(WiGig)
20152.16GHz/multi-Gigabitn/aOpen
WPA
WPA2
60 GHzLimited Use
Obsolete
802.11ax
(Wi-Fi 6)
201920MHz/150Mbps
40MHz/300Mbps
80MHz/600Mbps
160MHz/1200Mbps
Dual-stream or 2×2
(2402Mbps)
Open
WPA
WPA2
WPA3
2.4GHz
5GHz
Dual-band,
Tri-band
Mainstream
802.11axe
(Wi-Fi 6E)
202120MHz/150Mbps
40MHz/300Mbps
80MHz/600Mbps
160MHz/1200Mbps
2×2
(2402Mbps)
OWE
WPA3
6GHz,
Dual-band,
Tri-band,
Quad-band
Mainstream
802.11be
(Wi-Fi 7)
2023 20MHz/225Mbps
40MHz/450Mbps
80MHz/730Mbps
160MHz/1.45Gbps
320MHz/2.9Gbps
still in draft
2×2
(β‰ˆ5800Mbps)
OWE
WPA3
6GHz,
5GHz,
2.4GHz,
Dual-band,
Tri-band,
Quad-band
Latest
802.11ah
(Wi-Fi HaLow)
2024
(esitmate)
1MHz
2MHz
4MHz
8MHz
16MHz
still in draft
(85Mbps to 150Mbps)
OWE
WPA3
900MHzUpcoming
Wi-Fi Standards in Brief
Netgear NIghthawk RS700 Wi Fi 7 Router Back
Netgear’s first Wi-Fi 7 router, the Nighthawk RS700, also goes full Multi-Gig with two 10Gbps ports and four 2.5Gbps ports.

The takeaway

Wi-Fi 7 combines the fragmentations in Wi-Fi 6 and 6E to form a uniform wireless approach that delivers faster speeds and more reliable connectivity.

Collectively, the new standard promises improvements in all aspects of Wi-Fi, including throughputs, connection quality, and range. Finally, we might have a Wi-Fi connection that can sustain true multi-Gigabit speeds, fast enough to deliver 10Gbps Internet.

However, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  • Wi-Fi 7’s improvements apply only to supported clients, those with the 6GHz band.
  • Wi-Fi 6 and most Wi-Fi 5 devices generally get nothing extra from the new standard other than the possibly better coverage via a stronger backhaul link of a fully wireless Wi-Fi 7 mesh system.
  • Legacy clients, including some Wi-Fi 5 and all Wi-Fi 4 and older, will no longer be fully supported by Wi-Fi 7 broadcasters due to the higher security requirements (WPA2 or WP3). (The 6GHz band always requires WPA3)
  • Wi-Fi 7 won’t offer all of its features until ratified, which is likely in late 2024.

Wi-Fi 7 has materialized gradually, with the real-world performance expected to be significantly worse than the hype, and the use of mix-standard hardware will continue to be commonplace — it will be at least a decade before existing Wi-Fi 5 and older clients are no longer in use.

Come to think about it, it’s been years since Wi-Fi 6 became commercially available, yet today, we still don’t even have clients faster than dual-stream (2×2), and Wi-Fi 5 clients are still commonplace. And don’t get me started on Wi-Fi 6E.

As a rule, waiting for the latest and greatest is never a good idea. When it comes to getting connected, the availability of the connectivity needed is always more important than the connection method.

The point is that you should buy a Wi-Fi solution that best fits your needs today. Wi-Fi 7 is just one of the options, and for how much it costs and its current draft status, it’s still far from the best of what it can potentially be.

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79 thoughts on “Wi-Fi 7 Explained (vs Wi-Fi 6/6E): The Late-2023 State of the Gradually Game-Changing Wireless Standard”

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  1. Hi Dong
    This is a older post but I have a question about WiFi7.
    Like said on the MLO, it will use few bands together to increase the bandwidth and capacity. I’m thinking if older gen phone can benefit from WiFi7 Tri-band Mesh network. Certainly, MLO won’t work on non-WiFi7 client like older phones and such. However, the Mesh Network is built by multiple WiFi7 Router and Satellites. If my understanding of the MLO is correct, the Mesh Network will start to use the MLO and communicate between them using MLO. In return, that should be improvement on the overall network performance over just normal Tri-Band or Quad-Band WiFi 6E Mesh network? Even the phone or ipad or tablet are just normal WiFi6 or 6E, the overall performance such as latency and throughput suppose to improve?

    Reply
      • Hi there again, I like and appreciate your works, so I did read the post, and re-read the post as recommended. I understand you mentioned about those, but I think I need little help to clarify it in my head.
        1. You did mention “Wi-Fi 6 and most Wi-Fi 5 devices generally get nothing extra from the new standard other than the possibly better coverage via a stronger backhaul link of a fully wireless Wi-Fi 7 mesh system”, so to my understanding, the backhaul between the Mesh units will still get improvement.
        2. You also mentioned: “MLO only works with Wi-Fi 7 clients” So does this only applies to “Client” side? Like between Client and Broadcasters . Or will older client using the channel cause the Broadcaster to function differently?

        From just reading your post, My first understanding is certainly: broadcasters will keep using MLO between them regardless. The broadcasters with older type will use the old method to connect between them “Only”. So the performance of WiFi7 Mesh with MLO will perform better than WiFi6E Mesh due to backhaul improvement. (Because older method only allow 1 dedicated for backhaul.) This also mean, a lower end or entry level Wifi7 may perform better than “Higher” end WiFi6E ? (If both using 2.5G port with same internet speed)

        Apologize that my brain is looping awkwardly and bricked. Can’t clarify the answer myself, especially I was just reading some about Quad Band Mesh (Yeah, the split style you said in other posts).

        Reply
        • 1. You read it right. Still that remains to be seen when AFC and MLO are available. You seem to ignore the word “possibly”. It’s NOT a done deal.
          2. The receiver has to support MLO to work and only receivers that support Wi-Fi 7 can have MLO. It’s plain English. You need Wi-Fi 7 clients, other than those I mentioned, none of exiting clients are Wi-Fi 7 clients.

          Wi-Fi 7 mesh is only better when/if MLO AND AFC are available. Else, when without the 320MHz, it’s pretty much the same as Wi-Fi 6/6E. But even then, the wireless range is limited — it can only go so far and depends greatly on the environment — and you’d want to use wired backhauling anyway. In that case, there’s no difference for Wi-Fi 6E and older clients.

          My advice is do NOT look for stuff that validates what you want to believe, you’ll be able to understand things much better. It seems to me that you just want me to say that Wi-Fi 7 is “better”, the quick answer is that depends. And like all Wi-Fi standards, the benefits require BOTH ends of a connection. Even then, it’s nuanced. Give the post another read with an open mind, as though you wanted to learn something instead of validate the possible nonsense you had consumed elsewhere.

          Reply
          • Thanks for clarification.
            Nah, I asked the question because I got confused and like to seek correct answer from knowledgeable pro. Not seeking an answer to meet what I have in mind. again, thanks!!

          • πŸ‘

            As mentioned, there’s still a lot of unknown and I intend to update the post at least once more. It’s hard enough to wade through the nonsense vendors want you to believe, just like the case with previous standards.

  2. Awesome article as usual !! Thank you for sharing with us such deep details and your opinion about this new standard.
    Regards

    Reply
  3. @Dong Ngo: “Here are the Wi-Fi setting pages of the One Plus 11 5G. Note how it has the new “Dual Wi-Fi acceleration.”

    I am unsure if the One Plus 11 5G’s implementation of the new “Dual Wi-Fi acceleration.” on the UI is actually MLO or their old existing Dual Wi-fi feature.

    OnePlus (+Oppo), Realme and Vivo phones have had “Dual Wi-Fi acceleration.” since 2021? And they have allowed you to concurrently connect to 2.4ghz + 5ghz networks (even with different SSIDs).

    The dual Wi-fi clients in these phones can operate independently, and can even offer wi-fi repeater modes under a SSID of your choice. (i.e. Wi-fi to Wi-fi hotspot instead of Mobile Data –> Wi-fi hotspot).

    Reply
    • That’s been the case with most Wi-Fi adapters for years, Bennett, and, on the latest phone, might not have anything to do with Wi-Fi 7. Using two bands connecting to two destinations simultaneously is like having two independent network adapters — there’s no situation where you can use them to increase the speed, unless you can use them with Link Aggregation (bonding).

      Using two network adapters connecting to two separate destinations is nothing new, that’s just how things normally works. Using them to connect to the same source, generally means only one will be in affect at a time, unless you can bond them into a single link. The bonding of Wi-Fi bands is what Wi-Fi 7 likely will offers via MLO.

      Don’t get carried away by the marketing nonsense. 🀫

      Reply
  4. Great article! Thanks! I’ve got a 24 port 10 GbE switch (Unifi USW-EnterpriseXG-24). However, it doesn’t support PoE+, so I’m looking to add another switch that supports PoE+. I’m currently using Wi-Fi 5, and looking to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 or 6E. One candidate is the Unifi USW-Enterprise-24-PoE, which supports Poe+ and has 12 x 1GbE ports and 12 x 2.5 GbE ports. There’s really not much choice for switches with 10 GbE ports that also support PoE+.

    What I’m wondering about is: will 2.5 GbE be sufficient to use for Ethernet backhaul with Wi-Fi 7? Or, I guess I can also just worry about it in the distant future when Wi-Fi 7 becomes more ubiquitous…. I suppose I can always add a PoE+ injector to use with my existing non-Poe+ 10 GbE ports…. Or get access points that are just plugged in to use with non-Poe+ 10 GbE ports…

    Reply
  5. Great article. I am left with a question though.

    Wifi 7 being ‘backwards compatible’ , does that mean that a wifi 7 SSID can connect to a current wifi 5 device (say a doorbell) and operate as normal (ie not faster but connected as if it was a wifi 5 radio)

    I like to keep my SSID’s separate so I am wondering if a CURRENT wifi 5 device I own would connect to a wifi 7 SSID if I use the same name.

    Reply
    • Yes, on 5GHz band, which is the only band of Wi-Fi 5 — make sure you don’t use WPA3 for the SSID since many Wi-Fi 5 clients only support WPA2 and lower. You can see specific examples of how SSIDs work in a Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster in these reviews.

      Reply
  6. I don’t understand how can AFC be added after they release. As of now, FCC requires GPS for standard power. GPS doesn’t work indoor and also the devices released doesn’t contain GPS chip.

    Reply
  7. Given that IEEE 802.11be is still in draft status- what are the risks of buying a Wifi 7 router now and having it be unable to meet final Wifi 7 certification even with firmware updates. I am annoyed that if that risk exists vendors such as Asus, Netgear and TP-Link are not making it clear in their marketing literature. If there is no risk- or that simply firmware updates will be required in the future- then perhaps vendors are fine in not highlighting Wifi 7’s draft status- though they still could mention it in their marketing literature.

    Reply
    • That was the case with previous Wi-Fi revisions, too, Lowell. You can always wait. There’s no rush in getting Wi-Fi 7, as mentioned.

      Reply
  8. I have looked at WiFi 7 bradcom SOC architecture, the main soc supports only 1 multi gig port, and other ports need their own soc.
    two questions:
    1. Do we expect simplified WiFi 7 designs with reduced chipsets which reduces cost?
    2. what’s the reason for fan/huge heatsinks? can we also expect to get rid of these?

    Reply
  9. Greetings, Are 2023 manufactured Products TVs, REQUIRED by FCC or any communication Laws stating they must have wifi 5ghz 802.11ac ?? Please provide kinks or details
    Thanks

    Reply
  10. I love this. What I dont love is that I just purchased a gte-ax16000 that is essentially totally obsolete now. And I wasted 600+ dollars.

    Reply
    • No, it’s not. You’ll have some great fun with it before you can actually make use of Wi-Fi 7, and then it’ll be great for many years more.

      Reply
  11. I wonder what the impact will be on the human body with WiFi 7?

    I have seen conflicting reports out there but reputable sources say, don’t have a router too close to your head in bedroom (or where spend majority of your time).

    Reply
    • That’s an interesting question, David, and I get it quite often. But in a way, it’s the wrong question. I can’t pretend I know more than those “reputable sources,” but you can find my quick answer on the matter, and others, in this post.

      Reply
      • There is an absolute abundance of pseudo scientific garbage on effects of wifi on the body.

        One example is a research article on sciencedirect (which I’m not going to share the link to the “fake news”), basically it says WiFi 4 causes a whole range of “damage”, backed by numerous studies, one of which claims wifi damages teste function – on the basis of approx 5 lab mice tested . . . . .

        Its reassuring to hear your experience and opinion based on reality.

        Still though, I might wait a couple months for 320MHz out in the field before making a purchase πŸ™‚

        Reply
        • Indeed, David. As I mentioned in the post, you’ll find *anything* online. If you’re willing to give away your attention, something will be made up to take over your time. The key is don’t look to validate what you already believe or want to believe. It’s hard, but keeping an open mind is the key.

          Reply
          • I belive in the UK there will be only one 320Mhz channel available and I am sure most routers when launched will default to this on 6 Ghz, conflicting with other neighbours, shame there isn’t anything in the new standard to combat this.

          • You’ll get a few 160MHz channels, Neil, better than 80MHz which is the mainstay of Wi-Fi 6. πŸ™‚

        • I got my wife pregnant after installing a router in our bedroom.

          But for peace of mind, keep it 10ft away if you’re too paranoid.

          Reply
  12. If 6 GHz is so terrible in terms of range for Wi-Fi 6E, I am not sure how it can be magically better for Wi-Fi 7. Physics is physics.

    Reply
    • Good point, Kenny. I think Wi-Fi 7 will lump all the bands together and automatically deliver the best performance possible for the distance, environment, and a particular client’s standard. That’s the idea anyway.

      Reply
    • For here in the United States Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) is regulated by the FCC:
      β€œFor exposure to RF energy from wireless devices, the allowable FCC SAR limit is 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg), as averaged over one gram of tissue.”
      From:
      https://www.fcc.gov/sites/default/files/wireless_devices_and_health_concerns.pdf
      There’s a Physics formula on Energy (E) and Frequency (v) that I had to look up just now: E=hv. h is Plank’s Constant so energy is directly proportional to frequency (per article for 6 GHz and below, 1.6 W/kg). Since 6 GHz range is above this we would need to find out FCCs limit on those to get a sense of how weak/or strong it is. Assuming 1.6 W/kg and 6 GHz is roughly 20% higher than 5 GHz, 1 is 20% of 5, then we could roughly estimate the range of 6 GHz would be 80% that of 5 GHz….

      Reply
  13. Dong, what a good read. At least something to look forward to. I learn so much reading your articles and the comments and questions of others.

    Mahalo Taz

    Reply
  14. Hello Dong, I have read many of your articles and have transitioned from neophyte to dangerous level knowledge.

    Currently I have 1Gbps service from Xfinity. Using their gateway in bridge mode ( proud that I was recently able to activate it via their app and switch it to bridge mode via their website).
    The router is an Orbi RBR50 with one satelite connected wireless. Only change ever made was SSID, PW and auto firmware updates. Very stable, never drops out. Bought it several years back when they first came out.

    5000 +/- sf home, system covers the whole place including Ring doorbell and floodlight cameras. All TV’s are livestream and zero latency. Not a gamer. Not a heavy user.

    When testing speed with my Samsung S10, download is normally in the 350 Mbps, every now and then it is in the mid 500’s. Upload is normally in high 30’s to low 40’s Mbps.

    Based on my reading of your content, and limited understanding, I am considering the Asus ET12 with wired backhaul. One router with one satellite. Running one Cat 7 wire from office to location where satellite will be. To be done per your post on this subject.

    Aside from Asus marvelous app, parental control and safety improvement; would you consider this a wise upgrade? What improvement speed wise can I expect?

    BTW, congratulations on the way you explain things, allowing a beginner like me to understand and remain engaged. Kudos!

    Best,
    Luis

    Reply
      • Thank you for the fast reply Dong.
        Regarding the modem (I had already read the article previously), the link in the article for the Motorola in Amazon also shows a 2.5Gbps option (your article mentions it is not milti Gig, perhaps a timing thing), get the 2.5 Gbps Motorola or the Arris shown in the article?
        Best,
        Luis

        Reply
          • Correct Dong, the other Motorola that appears on the link to Amazon is the MB8611 which is the 2.5 Gbps. The one on your article is in fact the MB8600 and it is 1Gbps.

            Went by Xfinity and they tell me that my rental fee for the gateway is $25/mth; after further questioning they told me that using my own modem switches the β€œfree” unlimited usage plan to a 1Tb plan, and to upgrade to unlimited it would be $30/mth. A little deceiving!

            Buying the Arris.

            Best,
            Luis

          • Ended up going with the Motorola MB8611.
            Xfinity app did not work for some reason, 2 hours later, and three calls; the third rep was able to activate the modem in short order.
            Apparently they allow beginners to man the phones!
            No noticeable speed increase over the Xfinity gateway in bridge mode.
            Now all that is left is to run the cable for the backhaul of the ET12 and replace the Orbi.

          • OK. Been doing all testing with an app on my S10.
            Will load app on wife’s S22.
            Will that work?
            Any particular app you recomend?

          • Right Dong,
            All answers on the article you linked. Thanks!
            However, a little to complicated for me.
            My Surface PC has an USB C, but it is not a thunderbolt.
            I will have to trust that the MB8611 has all the speed needed for when I upgrade the RBR50 to the ET12.

            Thank you very much, most helpful. I am certain I would have NOT attempted these upgrades if it was not for your posts.

            Best,
            Luis

  15. Great read.
    I must just add that besides for mobile devices, tablets & pcs there is a lack of clients for wifi 6. Its impossible to find wifi 6 iot devices.

    Reply
    • Yes, M. I think we’re moving a bit too fast on the broadcasting side, and the receiving end has been playing catchup.

      Reply
    • 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz + 6 GHz tri-band MLO is definitely coming; Broadcom’s just-launched 2nd Gen Wi-Fi AP platforms include 2.4 GHz, too, in the MLO mix.

      E.g,. the new Broadcom BCM47722 (used in access points / Wi-Fi routers) allows tri-band MLO.

      The first-generation, draft (aka alpha-beta) Wi-Fi 7 hardware is, well, draft hardware. Unfortunately, that’s all current Wi-Fi 7 hardware can aspire to be.

      However, the *client* side is still not there yet, as far as I see, for tri-band MLO.

      Reply
  16. how fast can a capable device UPLOAD on wifi 6E❔ if the conditions are good❔ factors involved ❔

    Reply
  17. It seems like Wi-Fi 6E is going the way of WiGig where there was a lot of hype around it but few products and adoption. Apple has yet to go beyond 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 and didn’t add Wi-Fi 6E to any 2021 devices. I hope Wi-Fi 7 will be more widely adopted.

    Reply
    • I kind of have the sensation that some brands are not pushing 6E because 6E is so near (in time) to 7 that it might not be worth it.

      Also 6E is the only standard that will slow down WiFi 7’s performance on the 6 GHz band.

      Reply
    • Apple is behind in everything, Nathan. It barely supports Wi-Fi 6 now. And when it supports 6E, Tim Cook is gonna act like Apple invented it. πŸ™‚

      You might be right about 6E, but don’t use Apple as the barometer for anything other than Apple itself.

      Reply
      • My new Mac Mini has wifi-6E, and I don’t recall hearing trumpets blaring when I opened the box. Personally, I could care less about 6GHz., but then I don’t have any devices currently that can profit from 320MHz. bandwidth. A couple can connect at 160MHz. channel width, but nothing that I have goes fast enough to really take advantage of the extra bandwidth. Not a Luddite, but I don’t go after ultra-high bandwidth here. Don’t even get 5G cellular in our sleepy little burg, and that’s fine, too.

        Reply
        • you don’t have any devices that can do 320MHz because there are none currently. When they are, I will want one (not necessarily need). Pretty much every car can travel at greater than the speed limit, but people still want to be able to do more, just in case πŸ™‚

          Reply
  18. Thanks Dong. I will continue to use my 2 x RT-AX88Us in mesh mode and skip overpriced Wifi 6e generation. My RT-AX88Us will surely last a couple of more years.

    Reply
  19. Thanks for the article. Great as usual.

    I think it would make sense to skip 6E altogether and upgrade to Wi Fi 7 in 2-3 years.

    I have a smartphone which supports WiFi 6E and have a friend who has a 6E router.The range of the 6 Ghz band is impracticable small and there is very little difference in speeds between 6 Ghz and 5 Ghz bands at least as measured on my Asus Zenfone 8 phone.

    WiFi 6 otoh is a legit very significant upgrade from Wi Fi 5 and investing in a good WiFi 6 router(AX 90) and switching my clients to WiFi 6 almost magically eliminated all interference problems on all bands even super crowded 2.4 Ghz.

    Reply

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