Mis à jour le 25 October 2023.
While the WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E standards remain the norm for high-end devices, WiFi 7 has already started to appear on certain modems. Establishing itself as the future standard for wireless connections, WiFi 7 brings a host of major innovations. At the top of the list is a 46 GB/s data rate, the ability to handle an increased number of devices simultaneously, and a clear reduction in latency.
What is WiFi 7?
The story of WiFi or Wireless Fidelity began in 1997 under the technical designation of IEEE 802.11. It was only in August 1999 that the name WiFi appeared for the first time at the behest of the WECA (Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance), now known as the Wi-Fi Alliance. The word Wi-Fi was inspired by the term hi-fi (high fidelity) and its logo by a yin and yang symbol. The Wi-Fi Alliance’s goal was to create a more catchy trade name that encompassed all future 802.11 protocols.
Today, many versions of WiFi exist. They can be identified by the code 802.11, which is followed by the letters a, b, g, n, ac, etc., indicating the Wi-Fi generation and the compatibility standard. To simplify things, the Wi-Fi Alliance recently decided to give the standards more straightforward names. As a result, Wi-Fi 6 was launched in 2016, followed by WiFi 6e in 2021 and now WiFi 7. Here is a table compiling the characteristics of the most common WiFi standards:
|802.11 standard||WiFi standard||Theoretical max. data rate||Frequency||Max. range||Implemented|
|802.11a||WiFi 1||54 Mbit/s||5 GHz||35m||1999|
|802.11b||WiFi 2||11 Mbit/s||2,4 GHz||35m||1999|
|802.11g||WiFi 3||54 Mbit/s||2,4 GHz||38m||2003|
|802.11n||WiFi 4||600 Mbit/s||5 GHz and 2.4 GHz||70 to 35m||2009|
|802.11ac||WiFi 5||3500 Mbit/s||5 GHz and 2.5 GHz||35m||2013|
|802.11ax||WiFi 6||10 Gbit/s||5 GHz and 2.5 GHz||250m||2019|
|802.11ax||WiFi 6e||10.5 Gbit/s||2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, 6 GHz||NC||2021|
|802.11be||WiFi 7||46 Gbit/s||2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, 6 GHz||NC||2023|
WiFi 7: very high wireless speeds
As for each new standard, WiFi 7 provides much higher connection speeds than its predecessors. Data rates are multiplied by 4.8 compared to WiFi 6, giving WiFi 7 a theoretical transmission speed of 46 Gb/s. To achieve such a high throughput, WiFi 7 increases the number of streams managed and the width of the frequency bands. This makes WiFi 7 particularly useful for latency-free online gaming, 8K/4K HDR streaming and sharing large numbers of files over the local network.
WiFi 7: up to 16 spatial streams
WiFi 7 also guarantees a fast, stable connection when many devices are present on the network. To achieve this, it uses Mu-MIMO technology to divide the WiFi network into several spatial streams, which can then transmit data from a different device. While WiFi 6 was already compatible with the latter, it could only handle a maximum of 8 streams simultaneously. With WiFi 7, the number has been doubled to a total of 16 simultaneous streams. This creates a true wireless superhighway, eliminating latency and allowing up to 200 devices to be connected to the network.
WiFi 7: reduced latency
WiFi 7 brings significant improvements to OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access) technology, responsible for data multiplexing and coding. First introduced with WiFi 6, OFDMA succeeded in reducing latency by almost 25% compared with its predecessor, WiFi 5. With WiFi 7, this technology has evolved even more, reducing latency by a further 20%. This feat is made possible by Ressource Units (RU), which fragment data packets to speed up transmission. With WiFi 7, these RUs are optimized and adapted to ensure more efficient data distribution among all devices connected to the network.
WiFi 7 also introduces the Multi-Link Operations (MLO) technology, which allows compatible devices to use two frequency bands simultaneously. A device equipped with this technology can therefore connect to both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. This increases bandwidth, boosts throughput and minimizes latency. What’s more, this dual band allows the device to benefit from the high speeds offered by the 5 GHz frequency, while switching to 2.4 GHz when needed to maintain a stable connection over longer distances.
WiFi 7: expanded channels
WiFi 7 uses three frequency bands: 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and, like WiFi 6E, 6 GHz (extending from 5,945 to 6,425 MHz). The inclusion of 6 GHz frees up busy frequencies, particularly in urban areas. One of the major advances of WiFi 7 is the expansion of channel size to 320 MHz, doubling those of WiFi 5 and WiFi 6. It is precisely this increase in channel size that propels data rates to impressive heights. In the USA, this frequency covers 1200 MHz, offering three 320 MHz channels. This configuration limits congestion, facilitating the simultaneous transmission of more information and optimizing performance.
How to benefit from WiFi 7
Although WiFi 7 brings many major improvements, no internet service provider currently offers this evolution in its modems. The only way to enjoy it is to use a WiFi 7 router such as the Netgear Orbi RBE971. The latter provides a high speed WiFi 7 network covering more than 278m². For the largest homes, it also comes in a pack alongside a Netgear Orbi RBE970 satellite (Netgear Orbi RBE972 reference) for 613m² of coverage, or two satellites (Netgear Orbi RBE973 reference) for a total range of 929m².
Any WiFi-compatible device can connect to a WiFi 7 network. However, to take full advantage of this standard’s innovations, particularly in terms of throughput, it is imperative that both source and receiver are WiFi 7 certified. The first WiFi 7 smartphones are expected to appear shortly, thanks in particular to Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon chip and MediaTek’s Dimensity 9200 SoC module. As for PCs, expectations are high for Intel, which should launch a WiFi 7 chip by the end of the year, with a market launch scheduled for 2024. Last but not least, the first WiFi 7-enabled TVs should hit the market in 2024.