Wi-Fi 6 and particularly 6E products are still finding their feet in the consumer market, but wait! Here comes Wi-Fi 7. Intel and Broadcom recently held a demonstration (opens in new tab) of Wi-Fi 7 (also known as 802.11be) showing functional interoperability between an Intel laptop and a Broadcom access point. Speeds of 5Gbps were shown. Despite not being officially certified, it shows that development of Wi-Fi 7 is at an advanced stage.
Wi-Fi 7 is being developed as the next generation of wireless networking. It’s faster as you’d expect, delivering speed increases of five times that of Wi-Fi 6 or 2.5 times that of Wi-Fi 6E, and probably more than that as the ecosystem matures.
The demonstration was short and simple, consisting of little more than Wi-Fi 6, 6E and 7 laptops connected to an access point with three software speed dials. It’s hard to get too excited about that, but assuming the data was accurate, Wi-Fi 7 is looking good. As bandwidth demands increase, with ever more connected devices and faster internet connections, Wi-Fi technology has to keep up.
But Wi-Fi 7 isn’t just about raw speed. It's designed to better handle multiple simultaneous connections thanks to its use of the 6GHz band with a wider 320MHz channel width. There’s also MLO, or Multi-Link Operation, which dynamically assigns different channels and frequencies to deliver better performance with lower latency and less interference.
Intel and Broadcom spoke about how Wi-Fi 7 is well placed to deliver untethered AR and VR services thanks to its lower latency and ability to deliver multiple high-resolution video streams simultaneously across the network. Lower latency is something that gamers can take advantage of too: any gamer that’s been frustrated by poor performing crowded or congested networks should be happy with what Wi-Fi 7 has to offer.
Wi-Fi 7 is expected to be certified in 2023, though products with a draft specification are sure to land by mid-2023, if not sooner. Intel and Broadcom stated that fully certified Wi-Fi 7 products are likely to appear on shelves in the second half of 2023. As expected, Wi-Fi 7 products will remain back compatible with current Wi-Fi standards.
But will Wi-Fi 7 become relevant in 2023 or even 2024? Wi-Fi 6E routers are still few in number despite 6E NICs being available for some time. I guess it’s a case of the chicken and the egg. With that in mind, high end motherboards, laptops and smartphones will likely be the first Wi-Fi 7 equipped devices, with routers and access points to follow afterwards.
Though it was just a demo, the fact that Intel and Broadcom products are working together this far out from an official launch bodes well for the future of wireless networking. I for one will be happy to cut the cord.
While we all wait for Wi-Fi 7, take a look at our best gaming router Wi-Fi router picks.