7 Things to Know About Wi-Fi 7

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The number 7 is often considered lucky and carries a distinct mystique. Perhaps because 7 is a prime number? There are 7 days in a week, and interestingly enough, the phases of the moon also span 7 days. Not to mention, Ancient Egypt held the belief in 7 paths to heaven, and there are the renowned Seven Wonders of the World. Beyond the mystique and allure of the number 7, the new generation of Wi-Fi, known as Wi-Fi 7 or 802.11be, promises to introduce remarkable new features.

Wi-Fi has become ingrained in our daily lives as the predominant and most ubiquitous wireless technology over the last 25 years. The widespread adoption and growth of Wi-Fi have been both a catalyst and a consequence of the rise of technologies such as smartphones and mobile applications. Wi-Fi has revolutionized how we communicate, offering instant access to information and enabling social interactions that transcend geographical boundaries. Wi-Fi has also influenced cultural production and consumption, enabling the rise of streaming services, digital art, and virtual experiences. Wi-Fi is not just a technology; it's a fundamental enabler of modern life, shaping how we live, work, learn, and interact. Wi-Fi is a way of life.

What is Wi-Fi 7?

Wi-Fi 7 is the seventh generation of Wi-Fi. It is based on the forthcoming IEEE standard 802.11be, known as Extremely High Throughput (EHT). 

Just as previous generations of Wi-Fi enabled groundbreaking technological advancements, Wi-Fi 7 and subsequent versions will pave the way for technologies that were once the stuff of imagination. Augmented reality (AR) for telesurgery and training, the Metaverse, 8K streaming, and cloud gaming are set to become routine elements of our daily lives, much like the smartphone in your pocket.

7 Things to Know About Wi-Fi 7

So, given it is the next generation, will Wi-Fi 7 bring luck to your business? We think so. Here are 7 things you should know about Wi-Fi 7:

1. Wi-Fi Alliance Announced Certification in January 2024

While the IEEE announced its initial draft of 802.11be in March 2021, the final ratification of the Wi-Fi standard will not be completed until late 2024. However, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced its certification program, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 7, in January 2024 as technical requirements around the standard are essentially complete.

Extreme’s David Coleman talks through this more in-depth in this blog post.

Wi-Fi 7 Certification

The next couple of things you should note is not all features are created equal and not all features will be for both consumer and enterprise-grade wireless deployments. Let's dive in.

2. Consumer-Grade Feature: 320 MHz channel

Wi-Fi 6E currently uses the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz frequencies and can use 160 MHz wide channels in 6 GHz. Wi-Fi 7 introduces the use of 320 MHz wide channels in the 6 GHz band, doubling the channel width available in previous Wi-Fi generations. So, 320 MHz channels sound great: you could modulate a lot of data and get some really high data rates and throughput. However, this capability does not scale well in the enterprise. This is strictly a consumer-grade feature that will help users to better stream in 4K and 8K as well as play video games without lag and download extremely large files in seconds.

320 MHz Channel

3. Consumer-Grade Feature: 4K QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation)

Another consumer-grade feature you're going to hear a lot about is 4K QAM. This is a more complex modulation technology that will empower signals to carry 12 bits instead of 10 (a 20% increase in performance.) But, once again, it's more of a consumer-grade feature that requires line of sight and close proximity to an access point. Although 4K QAM will work under the right conditions in the enterprise, the feature is mostly beneficial for supporting 4K and 8K video streaming in residential settings, enhancing the quality and reliability of high-definition media consumption. Additionally, gamers who require high-resolution graphics and rapid response times can benefit significantly from 4K QAM.

4K QAM

4. Enterprise-Grade Feature: Multi-Link Operation

An enterprise-grade feature of Wi-Fi 7 that IT teams should be excited about is Multi-Link Operation (MLO).

While Wi-Fi communications can occur across multiple wireless bands, a device/client can only use a single link to transmit data, switching to a different band if conditions change. This dynamic evolves with the introduction of Multi-Link Operation (MLO), enabling devices to utilize multiple links across different bands simultaneously. The result? Increased throughput, reduced latency, and increased reliability.

As David Coleman shares, “Imagine a Wi-Fi 7 client speaking to a Wi-Fi 7 AP where the Wi-Fi 7 client could be communicating at the same time using a 6 GHz channel and a 5 GHz channel. There are multiple use cases, from aggregation to redundancy and resiliency.” MLO will be great for supporting emerging technologies in the enterprise, like cloud computing, AR/VR, and video streaming. MLO holds promise for future applications that are either bandwidth-intensive or latency-sensitive.

5. MLO – Multiple Methods

There are multiple methods of MLO, including link aggregation and link redundancy. The MLO feature receiving a lot of hype is MLO link aggregation. Imagine aggregating a link between a 5 GHz and 6 GHz channel at the same time – it effectively doubles your bandwidth and throughput. While this feature sounds promising and will likely be a focal point of marketing efforts, it's important to manage expectations regarding its immediate applicability for client to AP communications. However, MLO aggregation does indeed hold considerable potential for enhancing mesh links between APs, offering a robust solution for wireless backhaul connectivity.

For client-to-AP communications, MLO link steering holds significant potential. Envision a Wi-Fi client utilizing one antenna to monitor a 5 GHz channel and another antenna to listen on a 6 GHz channel. The client then transmits on whichever channel becomes available first. This capability allows the client to seamlessly switch between 5 and 6 GHz, potentially achieving a substantial reduction in latency.

6. Extremely High-Throughput Capabilities

Wi-Fi 7 is often referred to as Extremely High-Throughput wireless,  with the name being derived from the 802.11be standard. So, what does that mean? You’re going to hear numbers like 46 Gbps, but take these numbers with a grain of salt. Traditionally, data rates and actual throughput numbers are very different. And, due to the medium contention alone, whatever the advertised data rate is, your throughput is going to be half of that. According to David Coleman, “These numbers are always based on perfect scenario-type settings with all the bells and whistles turned on. That being said, there will absolutely be higher throughput capabilities because of the features like MLO and 4K QAM.”

7. We’re in the Era of 6 GHz Connectivity

When the 6 GHz frequency band was opened up for Wi-Fi devices, it unlocked 1200 MHz of the spectrum, which is double the 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz bands combined. It created a new superhighway to support faster speeds and greater capacity.

Wi-Fi GHz Spectrums

Extreme’s in-house Wi-Fi Expert and CWNE #4 David Coleman talks a bit more in-depth on all of these new features and offerings in this video. 

 

Key Takeaways for the Future

Wi-Fi 7 and 6E and all future generations of Wi-Fi operating in the 6 GHz band are going to bring increased bandwidth, higher capacity, and faster speeds because each generation builds upon the last. And now that we're in the era of 6 GHz, the sky is the limit. 6 GHz is going to be the key to future-proofing your wireless network for the next 5 years. Whether it's 6E or 7, 6 GHz is the key.

We are just entering the era of 6 GHz connectivity, and as David Coleman notes, “We are still at the dawn of the 6 GHz era, heralded by Wi-Fi 6E, and we are poised to unlock unprecedented wireless user experiences. Wi-Fi 7, which is the next step of this evolution.”

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Lisa Yeaton
Senior Manager, Corporate Marketing

Lisa Yeaton is a Senior Manager, Corporate Marketing at Extreme Networks. In her role, Lisa oversees all of Extreme's corporate social media accounts and creates corporate communications content.

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