You must have heard of Wi-Fi 7 -- the standard after Wi-Fi 6E. There has been a lot of buzz about it since the end of 2021.
And 2023 is when you can buy the first Wi-Fi 7 routers. So far, popular networking vendors -- TP-Link, Asus, and more -- have announced their imminent releases. (You can expect hardware reviews on this website within the first half of the year.)
On May 2, 2023, the $800 One Plus 11 5G became the first Wi-Fi 7 client in the US, similar to how the Samsung S21 Ultra was the first with Wi-Fi 6E two years ago.
Still, a true Wi-Fi 7 experience must wait awhile, until late 2023 or possibly even early 2024, when the computers of the wireless standard or add-on adapter arrive.
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.
Backward compatible, the new wireless standard doesn't render existing devices useless. So, it’s fine to get a new Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster immediately.
But you can also wait -- there’s no rush. Go ahead and get a Wi-Fi 6 or 6E router today. The new upcoming standard won't render either obsolete or even irrelevant -- far from it.
Another thing to remember is that the new Wi-Fi standard will not and is not meant to "replace Ethernet," as you might have read somewhere that Wi-Fi will never replace wired connections. And as a matter of fact, Wi-Fi 7 will reinforce the relevancy and importance of ultra-fast network ports, or the Multi-Gig wired standard, as you will note below.
Dong's note: I first published this post on November 19, 2021, and last updated it on May 9, 2023, with up-to-date information.
Table of Contents
What is Wi-Fi 7?
The name alone is telling. It's the 7th generation of Wi-Fi, the most common way to connect local devices locally and, hence, to the Internet.
Technically, Wi-Fi 7 is the friendly name of the 802.11be standard, like Wi-Fi 6 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. Your existing devices will be able to connect to a Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster (router or access point), and so will a Wi-Fi 7 client to a router of an older standard.
But to truly enjoy the benefit of Wi-Fi 7, you will need new hardware on both ends of a connection. In a mixed standard setup, you'll get the experience of the lesser party.
A new Wi-Fi router will generally be available first on the broadcasting end, though eventually, there will be access points. And on the receiving end, there will be phones, tablets, and laptops with a built-in Wi-Fi 7 adapter. Chances are, we'll be able to add the new wireless standard to many existing computers via an add-on adapter, similar to the case of Wi-Fi 6/6E.
Let's find out what will make Wi-Fi 7 different from existing standards.
Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6/6E: Four key items to turn it a game-changer
In many ways, Wi-Fi 7 combines Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E. It also uses all three bands, including 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz.
The 6GHz band is still where the latest standard can deliver top speeds, but Wi-Fi 7 will also have unprecedented improvements in the other two bands.
Remember that Wi-Fi 7 shares theoretical coverage similar to existing standards that use the same frequencies. But thanks to improvements in all aspects, it can have a longer effective range, depending on the environment and implementation.
There are four important (and exciting) new items in Wi-Fi 7. The first two affect the standard's throughput speeds.
Wi-Fi works via three frequency bands. Each has multiple channels to deliver traffic via streams. Open the drawer below if you're unfamiliar with these terms.
Wi-Fi in brief: Bands vs Channels vs Streams
Wi-Fi uses three frequency bands, including 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz.
Each band has multiple channels of different widths, including 20MHz, 40MHz, 80MHz, 160Mhz, and even wider. The wider a channel is, the more bandwidth it has.
Data moves wirelessly via streams, including dual-stream (2x2), three-stream (3x3), quad-stream (4x4), and even more.
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 into a larger one to accommodate oversized vehicles 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. Similarly, a bicycle can carry just one person at a relatively slow speed, even when you ride it 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.
Organically, this new channel width is only available on the 6GHz band, with up to three 320MHz channels. However, Wi-Fi 7 can combine portions of the 6GHz and 5GHz bands to create this new bandwidth -- more in the Multi-Link Operation section below.
I detailed Wi-Fi channels 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.
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 (16x16) Wi-Fi 7 6GHz band can deliver up to over 40Gbps of bandwidth, especially when considering the new QAM support below.
We'll likely only see dual-stream (2x2) and maybe quad-stream (4x4) specs on Wi-Fi 7 receivers and up to 8x8 on broadcasters. But there's a chance we'll find single-stream clients since that's already fast enough in most cases.
Existing Wi-Fi 6 and 6E have only seen 2x2 clients and up to 4x4 on the broadcasters.
Again, you need a compatible client to use the new 320MHz channel width. Existing clients will connect using 160MHz at best. And 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.
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 6E||Wi-Fi 7|
|Max Channel Bandwidth|
|Number of Available Channels||7x 160MHz or 14x 80MHz channels||3x 320MHz or 6x 160MHz channels|
|Max Number |
of Spatial Streams
(theoretical on paper / commercially implemented)
|8 / 4||16 / 8|
|1202Mbps (at 160MHz)|
600Mbps (at 80Hz)
≈ 1.45 Gbps (at 160MHz)
|Max Band Bandwidth|
(theoretical on paper)
|Commercial Max Band Bandwidth Per Band|
|Actual Available Max Real-word Negotiated Speeds(*)||2402Mbps|
(via a 2x2 160MHz client )
(via a 2x2 80MHzclient)
|≈ 11.5Gbps |
(via a 4x4 320MHz client)
(via a 2x2 320MHz client or a 4x4 160MHz client)
(via a single stream 320MHz client or a 2x2 160MHz client)
(via a single stream 160MHz client or a 2x2 80MHz client)
(*) The real-world sustained speeds depend on the client and environment and generally are much lower than negotiated speeds. Wi-Fi 6/6E has had only 2x2 clients. Wi-Fi 7 will also use 2x2 clients but might have 4x4 and even single-stream (1x1) clients.
3. Multi-Link Operation
Multi-Link Operation, or MLO, is the most exciting and promising feature of Wi-Fi 7.
In a nutshell, MLO is Wi-Fi band aggregation. Like Link Aggregation (or bonding) in wired networking, MLO allows combining two Wi-Fi bands, such as 5GHz and 6GHz, into a single Wi-Fi network (SSID) and connection. The bonded link delivers higher bandwidth and reliability.
MLO only works at its full potential with Wi-Fi 7 clients, and in this case, it can be a game-changer in a wireless mesh network. We can potentially count on having no signal drop or brief disconnection. And it's also when seamless handoff (or roaming) can become truly seamless.
On top of that, on each band, a connection can also intelligently pick the best channel, or channel width, in real-time. In other words, it can channel-hop, just like Bluetooth, though likely less frequently.
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.
This new capability will help increase the efficiency of Wi-Fi 7's range, allowing all its bands to deliver faster speed over longer distances than previous standards.
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.
It's important to note, however, that MLO will generally not support Wi-Fi 5 and older client since it requires a WPA3 encryption method. Additionally, for Wi-Fi 6 clients, this new feature remains similar to Smart Connect -- the client will connect to one band at a time within the common SSID.
4. Automated Frequency Coordination
Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) applies to the 6GHz band.
In an environment, existing applications can already use the spectrum. For example, fixed satellite services (FSS) or broadcast companies might have already had licenses to use certain parts of the band.
A new Wi-Fi (6E and 7) broadcaster must not impact those existing services -- a concept similar to the use of DFS channels in the 5GHz band.
That's when AFC 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, including existing Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 7 broadcasters.
The support for AFC means each Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster will have its free airspace to operate, meaning vendors can use more power and more flexible antenna designs.
In short, AFC compliance will help a Wi-Fi broadcaster improve range and connection speeds by preemptively creating a dynamically exclusive environment dependent on the current real-world situation, in which it can operate without the constraint of regulations, like the case of Wi-Fi 6E and older standards.
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.
Still, AFC works best when there is enough air space for the number of broadcasters in a particular location at any given time. This feature requires certification and is expected not to be immediately available with the first round of pre-certified Wi-Fi 7 routers which will likely get it via firmware updates.
On top of that, Wi-Fi 7 will also support Flexible Channel Utilization (FCU).
In the case of Wi-Fi 6/6E, when there's interference, an entire channel can be taken out of commission. 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.
FCU is the behind-the-scene technology that increases the efficiency of Wi-Fi, similar to the case of MU-MIMO and OFDMA.
Multi-Gig ports are the norm
Besides faster Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi 7 solidifies the use of the Multi-Gig wired standard, turning it into the minimum requirement for any broadcasters.
So far, all Wi-Fi 7 routers released this year have at least two 10Gbps Multi-Gig ports. In other words, Multi-Gig wired networking will be commonplace in Wi-Fi 7 routers and access points.
And that has to be the case since Wi-Fi 7's wireless speeds are too great for the good old Gigabit standard. It'd make no sense for a Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster to use Gigabit ports still.
And Multi-Gig is great -- it's the way of the future.
Network connection: Wi-Fi vs Wired
Wi-Fi: Partial bandwidth and always Half-Duplex. Data moves using a portion of a band (spectrum), known as 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 sitting on top of reliable and fast wired connections.
|Top Theoretical Speed per Stream||Operating |
|Security Protocol||Frequency Bands||Status|
|N/A||802.11g||2003||54Mbps||20 MHz||Open |
or Wireless N
|60 GHz||Limited Use|
Wi-Fi 7 combines the fragmentations in Wi-Fi 6 and 6E to form a uniform wireless approach in an effort to deliver faster speeds and truly reliable connectivity.
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.
Wi-Fi 7 will materialize 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 most existing Wi-Fi 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 (2x2), and there are still many Wi-Fi 5 clients. 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 will be an additional option. And then, at some point, there will be Wi-Fi 8.
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50 thoughts on “Wi-Fi 7 Explained (vs Wi-Fi 6/6E): How It Will Slowly Be a Real Game-Changer”
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.
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.
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.
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?
1. I don’t know, Kevin.
2. Wi-Fi 7 generally requires more power, especially for its AFC feature — more here.
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
I have no idea. I’d recommend that you ask FCC or consult a law office on the matter, Kris.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
That’d be a great upgrade, Luis. Go for it! Here’s the review of the ET12. I’d recommend getting a modem with a Multi-Gig port, too — more here. You’ll likely end up with 1.2Gbps or even faster Internet.
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?
The Motorola I mentioned is not Multi-Gig, so go with the ARRIS S33 or the Netgear CM2000. But you can get any modem that has a 2.5Gbps (or faster) port.
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.
You have to use a Milti-Gig device for the testing. More on testing here.
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?
Read the post I linked earlier, Luis.
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.
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.
##MLO allows combining two Wi-Fi bands, 5GHz and 6Ghz##
it wont include also the 2.4GHz band?
We don’t know yet, but probably not since the band can’t handle channel width higher than 40MHz.
how fast can a capable device UPLOAD on wifi 6E❔ if the conditions are good❔ factors involved ❔
Here’s the post on Wi-Fi 6E, Alvin. But this post also mentioned the theoretical speed of each standard. That’s the speed of both upload and download.
cannot wait for wi-fi 7 to be standardized. plus excited for wi-fi 8 and beyond
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.
Wi-Fi 7 is basically Wi-Fi 6E on steroids, Nathan. And 6e is very different from 802.11ad.
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.
That’s the right attitude, Roger. 🙂
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 🙂
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.
Curious about standardized mesh integration in WiFi 7. Because right now it’s quite a jungle.
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.
That’s a good call if your current router is working.
Great article. Does make me wonder if it’s better to skip wifi 6e all together 🤔
Wi-Fi 7 is basically an improved version of Wi-Fi 6e.
Great article, interesting read