Wi-Fi 7 officially here at long last

Higher speeds and smarter operation promised, an expensive proposition at first


TP-Link’s Archer BE900 is just one of a number of hi-end Wi-Fi 7 routers announced at CES 2024 a few short days ago. These will all come with early adopter price tags, obviously, but that’s always been the case with such products… to start. (Image: TP-Link)


Let’s face it, CES is all about new TVs and laptops these days: anything else does not seem to attract even remotely as much attention in terms of PR material or consumer interest. But, once in a while, something of interest to everyone comes along and that was the case with Wi-Fi 7 this year: after spending more than 24 months in a “beta state”, so to speak – a small number of compatible devices started appearing in 2023, but tech specs were not set in stone and there was also no certification program in place – the next mainstream consumer wireless standard is now finally here. The Wi-Fi Alliance officially launched Wi-Fi 7 at CES 2024, promising faster data transfer speeds and advanced features to more devices and marking another step forward for high-speed, low-latency connectivity.

The Wi-Fi 7 standard offers, in theory, data transfer speeds of up to 46 Gbps – nearly three times faster than those of the current Wi-Fi 6E standard. It should allow users to enjoy bandwidth-intensive applications like multiple 8K video streams, virtual reality and high resolution video conferencing without any perceptible lag. It used to be that IEEE, the Wi-Fi Alliance, Intel and MediaTek treated Wi-Fi 7 as the first true 10-Gigabit Ethernet replacement wireless standard back in 2022, and it does seem like it could reach very high speeds at short distances – but whether it would actually approach that 9.5 Gbps barrier and be as reliable as a good cable connection remains to be seen.

Wi-Fi 7 promises to offer faster data transfer rates, lower latency, smarter management and better security to millions of devices in 2024. Practically every type of networked application stands to benefit from this new wireless connectivity standard. (Image: Wi-Fi Alliance)


Whatever the case may be, the Wi-Fi Alliance reminded everyone some of the benefits Wi-Fi 7 will be bringing to the table once widely adopted. Multi-link operation, for instance, will allow devices to aggregate bandwidth from both the 5GHz and 6GHz bands simultaneously, enabling significantly higher data transfer speeds. 320MHz channels, available in select countries around the world, can also double today’s widest bandwidth to maximize throughput, while 4K QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) achieves 20% higher transmission rates over the current 1024 QAM. Other Wi-Fi 7 enhancements like deterministic latency, 512 compressed block acknowledgement and uplink access optimization, are expected to further improve the quality of service for latency-sensitive applications.

The Wi-Fi Alliance expects rapid adoption of Wi-Fi 7-certified devices, with over 200 million units projected to ship during the next 12 months. The new standard remains backwards compatible with Wi-Fi 6E/6/5 or even older hardware (ensuring existing devices can connect to the Internet through Wi-Fi 7 routers without issues). There were already a few consumer devices released in 2023 that offered unofficial Wi-Fi 7 support – such as the One Plus 11 5G, the Motorola Edge Plus or the Google Pixel 8 Pro smartphones – and most, if not all, of them are expected to receive software upgrades now that they can be officially certified. The most prominent brand-new Wi-Fi 7 smartphone is none other than the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. New laptops also stand to greatly benefit from Wi-Fi 7 connectivity, so it’s no wonder that Razer, MSI, Lenovo, Alienware, Dell and HP all announced compatible models at CES 2024.

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is the first flagship 2024 smartphone officially supporting Wi-Fi 7 connectivity. Others, as well as new tablet and laptop models, are certain to follow during the next few months. (Image: Samsung)


There certainly was no shortage of networking equipment manufacturers announcing Wi-Fi 7 routers and wireless access points at CES 2024, including popular brands such as TP-Link, Acer, Ubiquiti and even MSI. Several different such devices that were released in 2023 are expected to also receive firmware updates now that official certification is possible, so consumers will soon have a wide range of options to choose from. These will still be hi-end, expensive models, obviously, but more affordable ones are expected to appear during the summer or fall of this year.

It’s still worth noting, though, that all of these devices basically assume that people interested in purchasing them enjoy Internet access speeds of e.g. 5 Gbps or higher – otherwise a number of benefits Wi-Fi 7 brings to the table become next to meaningless. A niche kind of technology, then, but one finally available to demanding users of networked applications from now on. Never a bad thing, that.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Kostas Farkonas

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).

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