The Difference Between Wi-Fi 7 and Wi-Fi 6

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The story was originally posted by Riley_S in The Difference Between Wi-Fi 7 and Wi-Fi 6

How is Wi-Fi 7 Different from WiFi 6? 

 

Changes and improvements to wireless technology are speeding up. It hasn't been that long since WiFi 6/6E was officially released. However, WiFi 7 is already popping up. Is WiFi 7 too early? Is WiFi 7 even necessary? And what can it do? Here, you can learn the differences between WiFi 7 and WiFi 6. 

 

What is Wi-Fi 7? 

 

WiFi 7, also known as 802.11be, is the next-generation WiFi standard, with the main goal of “Extremely High Throughput” (EHT). 

 

WiFi 7 is an ambitious project, focusing its innovations on the foundational PHY and MAC layers. For PHY (the physical layer), WiFi 7 introduces 320 MHz bandwidth, 4K-QAM, Multi-RU, and enhanced MU-MIMO. For better network performance, WiFi 7 uses Multi-Link Operation (MLO) to enable link aggregation at the MAC layer. Thanks to these innovative technologies, WiFi 7 further improves network throughput and reduces network latency over WiFi 6. 

 

How Has Wi-Fi Developed Over Time?

 

The first version of the 802.11 protocol was released in 1997 and provided up to 2 Mbps of speed. This was updated with 802.11ax to permit up to 9.6 Gbps, which has proven to be popular.  

 

Protocol 

WiFi 

Time 

Speed 

802.11 

1997 

Up to 2 Mbps 

802.11a/b/g 

WiFi 

1999-2003 

Up to 54 Mbps 

802.11n 

WiFi 4 

2009 

Up to 600 Mbps 

802.11ac 

WiFi 5 

2013 

Up to 6.9 Gbps 

802.11ax 

WiFi 6/6E 

2019-2021 

Up to 9.6 Gbps  

802.11be 

WiFi 7 

2024 

Up to 46 Gbps 

 

 

Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6: What’s The Difference? 

 

Technology 

WiFi 6 

WiFi 7 

Standard 

IEEE 802.11ax 

IEEE 802.11be 

Max theoretical data rate 

~9.6Gbps 

~46.1Gbps 

Frequency band 

2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, 6 GHz  

(WiFi 6E) 

2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, 6 GHz 

Channel bandwidth 

20 MHz, 40 MHz, 80 MHz 

80+80 MHz, 160 MHz 

Up to 320 MHz 

Highest modulation order 

1024 QAM 

OFDMA 

4096 QAM 

OFDMA 

Max number of spatial streams 

8×8 UL/DL 

MU-MIMO 

16×16 UL/DL 

MU-MIMO 

Security 

WPA3 

WPA3 

 

 

What's New with Wi-Fi 7?

 

WiFi 7 has been upgraded in almost every aspect, making the WLAN throughput almost 5× faster than WiFi 6. To create a more connected world, the protocol defines modifications to both the physical layer (PHY) and MAC layer. 

 

  • More Bandwidth up to 320 MHz 

The opening up of the 6 GHz band has led to a cleaner and wider spectrum for WiFi. WiFi 7 innovatively put forward the 320 Mhz bandwidth mode in the 6 GHz band. It has double the throughput compared with the 160 MHz of WiFi 6. It also supports non-contiguous bandwidth, such as 160+80 MHz and 160+160 MHz. 

 

 

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  • Higher-Order 4K-QAM 

WiFi 7 further enhances the modulation order from 1024-QAM to 4096-QAM. This means each modulation symbol can carry 12 bits of data. With the same coding, 4096-QAM can achieve a 20% rate increase compared with 1024-QAM in WiFi 6. 

 

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  • More Streams and Enhanced MU-MIMO 

WiFi 7 upgrades the number of spatial streams from 8 to 16. This leads to doubling the theoretical physical transmission rate. 

 

  • Multi-RU and Preamble Puncturing 

WiFi 7 introduces a more flexible resource unit (RU) allocation method. With WiFi 6, one user can only be assigned one RU, and cannot be assigned a different RU. WiFi 7 allows nodes to be assigned multiple RUs to improve resource utilization.  

 

Multi-RU is created by puncturing the operating channel. The puncturing technology can mask the channel that is occupied and use other available channels to improve channel utilization. This avoids transmitting on frequencies that are unauthorized by local regulations. 

  • Multi-Link Operation (MLO) 

MLO enables link aggregation at the MAC layer, making a link mapped to a channel and band. It can provide higher throughput, lower latency, and higher reliability, which are useful to a number of applications from VR/AR to industrial IoT. 

 

 

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  • Multi-AP Features 

Multi-AP refers to a collection of features that rely on direct AP coordination to achieve the desired network performance goals. Different flavors of multi-AP solutions are being considered. There are several types of technology such as coordinated OFDMA (C-OFDMA), coordinated spatial reuse (CSR), coordinated beamforming (CBF), and joint transmission (JXT) will be applied to the MAC or PHY layer. 

 

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2022 TP-Link Wi-Fi 7 Product Launch Event | Watch the Replay at https://www.tp-link.com/us/wifi7/event/.
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