Tech Guides

Everything you need to know about Wi-Fi 7

By Kenny Yeo - 16 Jul 2023

Everything you need to know about Wi-Fi 7

Note: This feature was first published on 26 January 2023.

Here comes Wi-Fi 7

The first Wi-Fi 7 routers were unveiled at CES 2023 just weeks ago, giving us a glimpse into the future of networking. In this guide, we'll tell you how Wi-Fi 7 improves on Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E, how much faster it is, and what do you need to be able to maximise and its enjoy its full capabilities. 

What is Wi-Fi 7?

A graph showing the evolution of Wi-Fi. (Image source: Qualcomm)

Known technically as IEEE 802.11be, Wi-Fi 7 is the latest networking standard and it promises major improvements over both Wi-Fi 6 and even the newer Wi-Fi 6E. As is the case with all new networking standards, Wi-Fi 7 purports to reduce latency while increasing capacity, speed, and improving stability. Details are still being worked out at the moment but the maximum bandwidth of Wi-Fi 7 is said to be in the region of around 30Gbps to 40Gbps. So how does it do it?


How does Wi-Fi 7 deliver better performance?

Wi-Fi 7 has 4096-QAM which means denser signals that carry more data. (Image source: TP-Link)

Wi-Fi 7 delivers better performance in three main ways. So let’s touch on each of them briefly now.

Multi-Link Operation

Let’s cut to the chase, the most significant advancement in Wi-Fi 7 is a trick called Multi-Link Operation (MLO), which lets Wi-Fi 7-compatible routers and client devices communicate using more than one band. Previous Wi-Fi standards only allowed connections over a single band. This means a Wi-Fi 7 router can transmit data to a Wi-Fi 7 client using a combination of its 5GHz band and/or 6GHz band. You can see how much faster this enables Wi-Fi 7 to be.

Wider Channels

Each frequency band is comprised of many channels, and the wider the channel, the more data it can carry. And in Wi-Fi 7, the commonly used 5GHz band is no longer limited to just channels with widths of 20MHz. These channels can combine to form wider 40MHz or 80MHz channels. Wi-Fi 7 also supports the 6GHz band, and channels in this band can combine to be as wide as 320MHz.

Higher QAM

Briefly put, Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) is a method to transmit and receive data in radio waves. The higher and denser it is, the more data it can carry. Wi-Fi 7 will use a new 4096-QAM technique, which is four times that of Wi-Fi 6’s 1024-QAM.

However, as the QAM number goes up, the range drops. This means the real-world performance gains are often less. According to early tests, the jump to 4096-QAM will translate to roughly a 20% increase in peak performance.

So how fast is Wi-Fi 7?

Wi-Fi 7 will let routers and compatible client devices communicate over more than one frequency band. (Image source: TP-Link)

The theoretical maximum speed of Wi-Fi 7 assuming the use of a 320MHz wide channel, 4096-QAM, and MLO is a staggering 46Gbps. That’s slightly under than five times the theoretical maximum bandwidth of Wi-Fi 6. And to further put that number in perspective, it’s greater than the maximum bandwidth of Thunderbolt 4 (40Gbps). In other words, Wi-Fi 7 has the potential to be very fast.

In the real world, however, expect speeds to be lower. To start, few client devices will likely be able to send and receive so many streams of data at once. It would consume too much energy and cause them to run too hot. Also, interference like other wireless devices and structural elements like doors and walls will likely impede performance. Even so, expect Wi-Fi 7 routers and client devices to deliver considerably better performance than Wi-Fi 6 and even Wi-Fi 6E routers.

What do you need to take advantage of Wi-Fi 7?

Qualcomm has a whole suite of Wi-Fi 7 solutions in the works. (Image source: Qualcomm)

Obviously, you’ll need a Wi-Fi 7 router but you also need Wi-Fi 7 devices. At the time of writing, no client device supports Wi-Fi 7 yet. That said, Wi-Fi 7 chipsets are already in the works. Qualcomm’s Networking Pro 1620 platform will be able to take advantage of Wi-Fi 7’s wider 320MHz channels, 4096-QAM, and MLO to deliver a maximum data transfer rate of 33Gbps. Qualcomm also has the FastConnect 7800 platform, designed for mobile computing devices, that can deliver speeds of up to 5.8Gbps. 

Not to be outdone, Broadcom's BCM67263 chipset for consumer routers will support triple frequency bands and a maximum data transfer rate of 18.7Gbps. Furthermore, its 6GHz band will deliver over 10Gbps of throughput.

Will Wi-Fi 7 be backward compatible?

Yes, Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E devices will all be able to work with Wi-Fi 7 routers.

When will Wi-Fi 7 be available?

That’s hard to say. Although CES 2023 already saw the announcement of a handful of Wi-Fi 7 routers, the standard itself has yet to be finalised. The IEEE expects to finalise the standard only sometime in 2024. That said, these router companies all said that their routers will be available later this year. 


What are some of the Wi-Fi 7 routers can I look forward to?

The first Wi-Fi 7 routers were unveiled at CES 2023 just weeks ago. Here are two of the most impressive that we saw.

ASUS ROG Rapture GT-BE98

One of the Wi-Fi 7 routers that caught our attention at CES 2023 is the ROG Rapture GT-BE98. This is a quad-band Wi-Fi 7 router capable of an incredible 25,000Mbps data transfer rate. Its single 6GHz band is capable of delivering up to 11,525Mbps of data while its two 5GHz bands can deliver up to 5,762Mbps each. It also broadcasts a 2.4GHz signal that can send up to 1,376Mbps of data. And to fully maximise its performance, the ROG Rapture GT-BE98 also features 10Gbps WAN and LAN ports.

TP Deco BE95

Wi-Fi 7 is coming to mesh networking systems too and one of the most impressive ones to be announced at CES 2023 is TP-Link’s Deco BE95. This is a quad-band router with two 6GHz bands, a single 5GHz band, and a single 2.4GHz band. The two 6GHz bands are capable of transmitting up to 11,520Mbps of data each while the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands can do up to 8,640MBps and 1,148Mbps respectively. Add them all up and you have a mesh networking system whose total data bandwidth is a whopping 32,828Mbps. Wired connectivity is equally good too because it has two 10Gbps WAN and LAN ports and two more 2.5Gbps WAN and LAN ports.

Should I upgrade now?

No, you shouldn't. For starters, the standard has yet to be officially ratified. And as I mentioned earlier, there's no Wi-Fi 7 client device announced yet and you need those to be able to fully enjoy the maximum capabilities of Wi-Fi 7. But perhaps more crucially, as promising as Wi-Fi 7 sounds, we don't know how it will actually perform in the real-world. All of this is to say, I'd recommend holding off until we have the chance to test them thoroughly in a real-world environment with client devices that support the standard.

Right, then what's the best router to buy now?

The ASUS RT-AX89X

It's big and looks awkward but the ASUS RT-AX89X was the winner of the best Wi-Fi 6 router category in our 2022 Tech Awards and arguably the best router you can get right now. This dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router delivers speeds of up to 4.8Gbps over its 5GHz band and has a ton of ports including two 10Gbps ports and eight Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports. And if you have other ASUS routers lying around, you can use them and ASUS' AiMesh technology to create a mesh network.

The ASUS ZenWiFi AX (XT8)

And if you are looking for a mesh networking system, consider the ASUS ZenWiFi AX (XT8) which was the winner of the best Wi-Fi 6 mesh networking system in our 2021 Tech Awards. This is a high-end mesh networking system with dual 5GHz bands and a single 2.4GHZ band. It can use one of its 5GHz band to create a backhaul channel for better network performance. Together, it has a total bandwidth of 6.6Gbps.

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