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Wi-Fi 7 Explained (vs. Wi-Fi 6/6E): The Latest Wireless Standard Is Finally Here

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January 8, 2024, marked when Wi-Fi 7 became official. It was the day the Wi-Fi Alliance introduced the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 7 program.

But since the second part of 2021, this latest wireless standard has become a major topic in getting your devices connected. Among a sea of marketing superlatives and online clickbait content, Wi-Fi 7 can be confusing.

That's where this post comes into play. It explains 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.

It will take a while for existing devices to be certified, new firmware and software drivers to catch up, and, most importantly, for the cost to go down. But with some effort and a good amount of cash, you can genuinely taste 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 revised multiple times to reflect the evolving state of Wi-Fi 7. I last updated it on January 8, 2024, when the Wi-Fi Alliance officially certified the standard.

Top Wi-Fi 7 hardware comes in all shapes and sizes
Wi-Fi 7 hardware comes in all shapes and sizes

Wi-Fi 7: What it is and how you can enjoy it

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 it. That's similar to Wi-Fi 6, which is for 802.11ax; Wi-Fi 5 means 802.11ac, etc.

The new naming convention, started in 2018 with the introduction of Wi-Fi 6, is helpful. It's much easier to remember that 7 comes after and is "more" than 6.

Backward compatible to an extent

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 to all existing clients 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 need 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 using 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—remember 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 long after Wi-Fi 7.

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.

Generally, networking vendors tend to enter a new Wi-Fi standard with expensive flagship products. That was indeed the case of Wi-Fi 7 in 2023. In 2024, users with lower budgets and modest bandwidth needs started to see entry-level and affordable options available.

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.

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 2023. They became available in November of the same year as add-on adapters and built-in components within new Intel-based motherboards. The two chips enabled users to upgrade their existing Intel-based computers to Wi-Fi 7.

In 2024, other similar options, such as those from TP-Link, that work with any computer running Windows 11 (or later) became available and made the Wi-Fi 7 experience a reality.

Here's the Intel BE200's status page when connected to the Asus RT-BE96U
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. By early 2024, most Wi-Fi broadcasters (routers or access points) and clients have full support for Wi-Fi 7, while others might need new firmware or software drivers to catch up.

So, here's the deal: You can get a Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster and build your own or upgrade your existing computer into a Wi-Fi 7 client. The only reason to wait is for the price to come down.

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

While on the wireless front, things can be complicated due to potential compatibility issues. 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 in one direction at a time using a portion of a band (spectrum) called a channel. 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 6/6E, 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: Five essential 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 North American market (primarily the US and Canada) but the cabinet below will give you an idea of how this band is adopted around the world.

How the 6GHz band is regulated around the world

The 6GHz band has a total width of 1200MHz, ranging from 5.925GHz to 7.125GHz, and is divided into 59 channels of 20MHz each. These channels are grouped to create "sub-bands," which also vary from one region to another.

In the U.S., the FCC has designated four sub-bands across the entire spectrum, including U-NII-5, U-UNII-6, UNII-7, and UNII-8, for Wi-Fi use, though portions of the band may be reserved for other applications. The E.U. Commission, on the other hand, allows only the U-NII-5 equivalent part of the frequency, or 480MHz in width, for Wi-Fi.

countries enabling wifi in 6ghz
The status of the 6GHz for Wi-Fi around the world

The use of the 6GHz frequency is complicated. Generally, Wi-Fi 6E needs a 160MHz channel to deliver the best performance, and Wi-Fi 7 requires double that, 320MHz. Due to spectrum availability and other reasons, real-world hardware tends to use narrower channels in most cases.

The table below shows its current adoption worldwide. The "Considering" potion is generally slated to be finalized by the end of January 2025.

United StatesAdopted5925-7125 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
ArgentinaAdopted5925-7125 MHz
5925-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
BahrainAdopted5925-6425 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
BrazilAdopted5925-7125 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
CanadaAdopted5925-7125 MHz
ChileAdopted5925-6425 MHz
ColombiaAdopted5925-7125 MHz
Costa RicaAdopted5925-7125 MHz
Dominican RepublicAdopted5925-7125 MHz
EgyptConsidering5925-6425 MHz
El SalvadorAdopted5925-7125 MHz
European UnionAdopted5945-6425 MHz
Faroe IslandsAdopted
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
GuatemalaAdopted5925-7125 MHz
HondurasAdopted5925-7125 MHz
Hong KongAdopted
5925-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
Isle of ManAdopted
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
5925-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
JordanAdopted5925-6425 MHz
KenyaAdopted5925-6425 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
MalaysiaAdopted5925-6425 MHz
MauritiusAdopted5925-6425 MHz
MexicoAdopted5925-6425 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
MoroccoAdopted5925-6425 MHz
NamibiaAdopted5925-6425 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
New ZealandAdopted5925-6425 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
OmanConsidering5925-6425 MHz
PeruAdopted5925-7125 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
5925-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
Russian FederationAdopted5925-6425 MHz
Saudi ArabiaAdopted5925-7125 MHz
SingaporeAdopted5925-6425 MHz
South AfricaAdopted5925-6425 MHz
South KoreaAdopted5925-7125 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
ThailandAdopted5925-6425 MHz
TogoAdopted5925-6425 MHz
TunisiaConsidering5925-6425 MHz
TurkeyAdopted5925-6425 MHz
United Arab EmiratesAdopted5925-6425 MHz
United KingdomAdopted
5945-6425 MHz
6425-7125 MHz
Countries with 6GHz band for Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 as of late 2023.

By default, Wi-Fi 7 shares theoretical coverage similar to existing standards that use the same frequencies, with the 2.4GHz having the most extended 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 the five new features below.

A quick refresher: Wi-Fi works via three frequency bands. Each has multiple channels to deliver traffic via streams. The cabinet below contains some brief 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. The width of each band is measured in MHz—the wider the band, the more MHz it has.

The 6GHz band is the widest of the three and has 1200MHz in total width, ranging from 5.925GHz to 7.125GHz. Depending on the local regulations, only a portion or portions of this entire spectrum is available for Wi-Fi applications.

In real-world usage, each band is divided into multiple portions, called channels, of different widths. Depending on the Wi-Fi standards and hardware, a channel can be 20MHz, 40MHz, 80MHz, 160MHz, or 320MHz wide. The wider a channel is, the more bandwidth it has. Depending on the channel width, the number of channels in each Wi-Fi band varies, but there can be only so many.

The 6GHz band has enough space for three 320MHz channels or seven 160MHz channels.

Data moves in one channel of a particular band at a time, using streams, often dual-stream (2x2), three-stream (3x3), or quad-stream (4x4). The more streams, the more data can travel at a time.

Here's a crude analogy:

If a Wi-Fi band is a freeway, channels are lanes, and streams are vehicles (bicycles vs. cars vs. buses). 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 thing to note about Wi-Fi 7 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 4x4 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.

Wi-Fi 7 also supports double the partial streams, up to 16. As a result, technically, a 16-stream (16x16) 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 (2x2) and quad-stream (4x4) broadcasters and dual-stream clients. In the future, the standard might have 8x8 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, manipulates 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 be much faster and more efficient 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.

You might have read somewhere that Wi-Fi 7 is "up to 4.8 times faster than Wi-Fi 6," and hardware 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 excellent for advertising.

Like always, these numbers don't mean much, and things are not that simple. In reality, 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 also limited by the client's specs.

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)
Channel Bandwidth
(widely implemented)
Number of Available Channels7x 160MHz, or 14x 80MHz channels3x 320MHz, or
7x 160MHz channels, or
14x 80MHz channels
Highest Modulation 1024-QAM4096-QAM
Max Number
of Spatial Streams
(theoretical on paper / commercially implemented)
8 / 416 / 8 (estimate)
Max Bandwidth
Per Stream
1.2Gbps (at 160MHz)
600Mbps (at 80MHz)
2.9Gbps (at 320MHz)
1.45Gbps (at 160MHz)
Max Band Bandwidth
(theoretical on paper)
Commercial Max Band Bandwidth Per Band
(commercially implemented)
23Gbps (8x8), or
11.5Gbps (4x4)
Available Max Real-word Negotiated Speeds(*)2.4Gbps (via a 2x2 160MHz client)
1.2Gbps (via a 2x2 80MHz client)
11.5Gbps (via a 4x4 320MHz client)
5.8Gbps (via a 2x2 320MHz client or a 4x4 160MHz client)
2.9Gbps (via a single stream 320MHz client or a 2x2 160MHz client)
1.45Gbps (via a single stream 160MHz client or a 2x2 80MHz client)
Available Clients
(Intel AX210)
(Intel BE200 / Qualcomm NCM865)
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—capping at about two-thirds at best. Wi-Fi 6/6E has had only 2x2 clients. Wi-Fi 7 will also use 2x2 clients primarily, but it might have 4x4 and even single-stream (1x1) clients.

Like Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, Wi-Fi 7 has been available only in 2x2 specs on the client side. That, plus the sweet-spot 160MHz channel width, means, 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) counterparts.

However, the new standard does have more bandwidth on the broadcasting side. So, it can handle more 2x2 clients simultaneously with high-speed real-world rates. And that's always a good thing.

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—they use a single link to transmit data.

It's worth noting that MLO is a feature and not the base of the standard, meaning it can be supported by a particular device or not. It's not expected to be universally available until late 2024.

In a nutshell, MLO is Wi-Fi band aggregation. Like Link Aggregation (or bonding) in wired networking, it allows combining two or more Wi-Fi bands into a single Wi-Fi link—one SSID and connection.

There are two MLO operation modes:

  • STR-MLMR MLO (Simultaneous Transmit and Receive Multi-Link Multi-Radio): It's multi-link aggregation using all three bands (2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz) to deliver higher throughput, lower latency, and better reliability.
  • E-MLSR MLO (Enhanced Multi-Link Single Radio): It's multi-link using dynamic band switching between 5GHz and 6GHz to deliver load balancing and lower latency.

No matter which mode is used, the gist is that the bonded link delivers "better" connection quality and "more" bandwidth.

It's important to note, though, that at the end of the day, MLO increases the bandwidth, allowing different applications on a client to use the two bands simultaneously. The point here is that no application on the client can have a connection speed faster than the fastest band involved. A speedtest application, for example, still uses one of the bands at a time. This connection speed is still limited by the hardware specs on both ends of the link, whichever is lower.

So, the MLO feature affords a supported client the best probability of connecting successfully at the highest possible speed using the fastest band at any given time, which changes depending on the distance between the client and the broadcaster.

MLO can be a game-changer in a wireless mesh network by fortifying the Wi-Fi link between broadcasters—the backhaul—both in terms of speed and reliability. Most systems I've tested had the sustained wireless backhauling link over 5Gbps at 40 feet away. In systems with wired backhauling, MLO can make seamless handoff (or roaming) genuinely seamless.

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

In fact, you can think of MLO as the enhanced version of Smart Connect. Specifically, MLO requires Smart Connect for the broadcaster's primary SSID. As a result, if the hardware doesn't allow for additional virtual SSIDs, segmenting a network via different SSIDs (such as one for each band) is no longer an option. In other words, with MLO, you have to choose between the following in terms of SSIDs:

  • Having a primary SSID (via Smart Connect), which is MLO-enabled, and an optional 2nd virtual MLO-enabled SSID. Or
  • Turning off Smart Connect to manage the band individually and losing the MLO option.

Additionally, keep the following in mind about this feature:

  • By nature, link bonding will be more complicated than single-band connectivity—there are just too many variables.
  • MLO only works with supported Wi-Fi 7 clients. Some Wi-Fi 7 clients might not support it. Considering the different performance grades and hardware variants, the result of MLO will vary case by case.
  • Wi-Fi 6E and older clients will still use a single band at a time when connecting to a MLO SSID.
  • An MLO SSID requires the WPA2 or higher encryption method and generally won't work with first-gen Wi-Fi 5 or older clients.
  • The reach of the bonded wireless link is as far as the range 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 fifth and optional feature, Automated Frequency Coordination, mentioned below.

4. Flexible Channel Utilization (FCU) and Multi-RU

Flexible Channel Utilization (FCU) (a.k.a. Preamble Puncturing) and Multi-RU are two other items that help increase Wi-Fi 7's efficiency.

With FCU, Wi-Fi 7 handles interference more gracefully by slicing off the portion of a channel with interference, 20MHz at a time, and keeping the clean part usable.

In contrast, in Wi-Fi 6/6E, when there's interference, an entire channel can be taken out of commission. FCU is the behind-the-scenes technology that increases Wi-Fi's efficiency, 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 given to a single device and can combine RUs for increased transmission efficiency.

5. Automated Frequency Coordination

Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) is an optional feature and deals with the 6GHz band, so it's not Wi-Fi 7-exclusive—the band was first used with Wi-Fi 6E. It's not required for a Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster's general function. In fact, it wasn't even mentioned in the initial certification by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Due to local regulations, the 6GHz band's availability differs around the world. For this reason, some Wi-Fi 7 broadcasters will not adopt it and will remain Dual-band.

Still, Wi-Fi 7 makes AFC more relevant than ever. That's because the 6GHz band has the highest bandwidth (fastest) yet the shortest range compared to the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands when using the maximum allowed broadcasting power. Originally, AFC was intended only for outdoor applications, but when implemented, it's significant for all applications.

Here's how AFC would work when/if available:

The feature enables a 6GHz broadcaster to check with a registered database in real-time to confirm that its operation will not negatively impact other existing 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.

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.

However, it's estimated that AFC can increase the broadcasting power to 36 dBm (from the current 30 dBm limit) or 4 watts (from 1 wat). The goal of AFC is to make the range of the 6GHz band comparable to that of 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, which is available only on the 5GHz band. Its improvement is that its 6GHz band now has a more extended reach than in Wi-Fi 6E. In other words, AFC allows the 6GHz band to have at least the same range as the 5GHz. And that's significant.

This feature requires certification, and its availability is expected to vary from one region to another. 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 cheatsheet

AvailabilityChannel Width
(in MHz)
and Theoretical Speed (in Mbps)
per Stream
(rounded numbers)
Max Number Streams
Used in Clients
(Max Speed Theoretical(•)/Real-word)
SecurityBands (frequency)Status
(in 2024)
802.11b199920MHz/11MbpsSingle-stream or 1x1
802.11g200320 MHz/54Mbps1x1
(Wi-Fi 4)
Quad-stream or 4x4
(Wi-Fi 5)
(Phasing out)
60 GHzLimited use,
(Wi-Fi 6)
Dual-stream or 2x2
(Wi-Fi 6E)
(Wi-Fi 7)
2023 20MHz/225Mbps
(Wi-Fi HaLow)
(85Mbps to 150Mbps)OWE
Wi-Fi standards' real-world theoretical speeds
(•) The absolute best theoretical speed of a real-world connection in an ideal connection before interference, signal degradation, and hardware incompatibility are taken into account. Among the mainstream standards, depending on the number of streams and channel width in use, this theoretical ceiling speed is lower, often by half. In any case, you need to discount this ceiling number by another 30% or 50% to get the real-world sustained rates.
(••) The 5GHz band is split into two portions as sub-bands.
(•••) The 5GHz or 6GHz band is split into two portions as sub-bands.
Netgear NIghthawk RS700 Wi-Fi 7 Router Back
Netgear's first Wi-Fi 7 router, the Nighthawk RS700S, has two 10Gbps Multi-Gig ports.

The takeaway

Wi-Fi 7 is the fastest-adopted standard among all Wi-Fi revisions. The new standard combines the fragmentations in Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E to be the first that supports all three bands (2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz) and forms a uniform wireless approach that delivers faster speeds and more reliable connectivity.

Collectively, Wi-Fi 7 promises improvements in all aspects of Wi-Fi, including throughputs, connection quality, and range. Finally, we have a Wi-Fi connection that can sustain true multi-Gigabit speeds, fast enough to deliver multi-Gigabit 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 hardware cost of Wi-Fi 7 is by far the highest compared with the previous standards.

Much that Wi-Fi 7 has materialized quickly, the use of mix-standard hardware will continue to be commonplace—it will be years before existing Wi-Fi 5 and older clients are no longer in use—and in this case, legacy clients generally see little or no improvement. Some won't even be supported.

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 and budget, even if that's Wi-Fi 6 or 6E, which is already much faster than many homes' needs and will also support new Wi-Fi 7 clients.

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93 thoughts on “Wi-Fi 7 Explained (vs. Wi-Fi 6/6E): The Latest Wireless Standard Is Finally Here”

  1. Following evolution from 2.4GHz to 5GHz to 6GHz. 2.4 was known for distance and penetrating wall and 5GHz improved speeds reduced range Where does and 6GHz sit?

    A single AX88U Pro covers 1600 sq ft condo and hits 950 Mbps off 1 Gig ISP. Is wi fi 6 better than wi fi 7 in this application?

  2. Dong, great article. From what I understand then, is there a case to be made for buying a whole home Wifi 6 system and upgrading in a few years time when Wifi 7 client devices become more commonplace in the household? Or else buying a cheaper Wifi 6 router as a temporary arrangement till the end of the year?

    We’ve just wired our home with Cat 6A ethernet wiring for wired backhaul and direct wired access for our office and lounge. At the moment, we are trying to decide between three options over an Asus AI Mesh with wired backhaul:

    1. Two Asus RT-AX52 routers with wired backhaul and use for many years to come. (In the UK, the total cost is around £110)
    2. Two Asus RT-AX82U routers with wired backhaul and use for many years to come. (In the UK, the total cost is around £300-400)
    3. Buy a single Asus RT-AX52 router and just use pre-existing Powerline Access points for things like phones in areas it doesn’t cover wirelessly (since we have new Cat 6A Gigabit wired connections for our computers, Smart TV etc). And then consider buying a pair of the upcoming Wifi 7 ASUS ZenWiFi BT10 (possibly coming out at the end of 2024?) with wired backhaul to replace the single Wifi 6 router. (Which would cost £55 today for the RT-AX52 as a “temporary” router and an unknown cost for the BT10 when it comes out).

    I ask because I see your point that technically a lot of the benefits of Wifi 7 will not necessarily be realised with older clients (Wifi 6 or Wifi 5) in a home network with wired backhaul. Though granted, the seamless roaming on phones (ours are still Wifi 6) might be an advantage. Our older iMacs will be wired (they are Wifi 5) and a MacBook laptop (wireless) is Wifi 6.

    Just trying to gauge which Option out of the 3 options is best?!

    Many thanks in advance and for the summary of Wifi 7!

  3. Regarding AFC… Actually, that has been available in the US and Canada for awhile… I believe Canada approved it in December of 2022, and the FCC was early 2023 if I remember correctly. AFC only applies for what is referred to as Standard Power (SP) devices, which typically would be an outdoor AP. They must have the ability to contact an AFC database provider, at least once a day, to determine what frequencies/channels they can use, and the maximum PSD levels for that frequency/channel.

    Indoor devices do not have an AFC constraint.

    The Wi-Fi Alliance has an AFC Test Harness which is used (and directed by the FCC) to certify the AFC functionality.

  4. What happens if you check the WiFi 7 card’s properties; does it give you available speeds and does it include 2.4Gbps+?

    Alternatively, what if you use terminal to start the hotspot and/or use terminal to connect to the hotspot using a desired transmit speed of 2.4Gbps+.

  5. 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?

      • 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).

        • 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.

          • 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!!

          • 👍

            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.

          • Um, I think Mr Barry asked in the case of two WiFi 7 broadcasters, WiFi 7 backhaul, if there is an improvement even while waiting for MLO/AFC. I would have to say yes there is, because QAM (Quad Amplature Modulation) is increased from 1024 to 4098. The theoretical maximum increases about 20% from my reading which means from 9.6 Gbps to 11.52 Gbps. There should be some real world improvement from this…

          • Hi Jesse,
            Thanks!!! I was all confused and messed up while trying to ask the questions. Dong and you definitely helped me to clear my mind and help me on what I asked. Big Thanks!!

        • If it helps any the set up instructions for Deco BE series (I read the one for BE85 or BE95), shows this:

          You set up 1. 2.4 GHz SSID, 2. 5 GHz SSID, 3. 6 GHz SSID, *6 GHz-2 SSID* 4 MLO SSID.
          *BE95 only*
          The question to Mr Dong who has gotten a hold of these units is: Step 4 set up of MLO SSID, is it there, or not yet?

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

  7. @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).

    • 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. 🤫

  8. 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…

  9. 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.

    • 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    • 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.

  12. 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?

  13. 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

  14. 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.

    • 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.

  15. 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).

    • 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.

      • 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 🙂

        • 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.

          • 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. 🙂

        • 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.

    • Actually, any product that has intentional and unintentional radiation must also be certified for RF Exposure limits. In theory, those limits are there for that vary reason, and will have different limits based on the intended use of the product… For example, a cell phone would have lower limits as it would be used near or against the body. An AP, by definition, would not be near or against the body, thus would have higher limits.

  16. 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.

    • 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.

    • For here in the United States Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) is regulated by the FCC:
      “For 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.”
      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….

  17. 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

  18. 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!


      • 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?

          • 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 “free” unlimited usage plan to a 1Tb plan, and to upgrade to unlimited it would be $30/mth. A little deceiving!

            Buying the Arris.


          • 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.


  19. 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.

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

    • 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.

  20. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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. 🙂

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

      • 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.

        • 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 🙂

  21. 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.

  22. 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.


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