Wi-Fi 6E products only started arriving in the US last year, but the tech world is always looking toward what’s next. Wi-Fi 7 represents the next generation of the wireless network protocol, and today marks the first time someone has claimed to make the technology work.
Wi-Fi 7 isn’t available yet, since the Wi-Fi Alliance is still creating the standard. Also known as the IEEE 802.11be standard, Wi-Fi 7 is expected to provide a max throughput of “at least 30GBps,” according to the Wi-FI Alliance, which is quite a bump from Wi-Fi 6’s 9.6GBps claim and an even bigger jump from WiFi 5’s 3.5GBps. Keep in mind, however, that all three speeds are theoretical. Don’t expect to hit these numbers while surfing the web at home.
The next Wi-Fi standard aims to manage the growing networking needs of evolving technologies, like 4K and 8K streaming, virtual and augmented reality, and cloud gaming and computing, by reducing latency and jitter through improvements to the physical (PHY) layer and medium access control (MAC).
Wi-Fi 7 should also be backward compatible with products using the 2.4, 5, and 6 GHz spectrum bands, but there’s still a lot to learn about the upcoming technology. News of Wi-Fi 7 being demoed, however, means more people are starting to see the protocol in action.
Today, MediaTek said it is conducting the first live demos of Wi-Fi 7. Its customers and “industry collaborators” are checking out the pair of demonstrations through MediaTek’s Wi-Fi 7 Filogic connectivity portfolio, which includes Wi-Fi chips.
Alan Hsu, corporate VP and GM of the Intelligent Connectivity business at MediaTek, provided some insight into where the company sees its future Wi-Fi 7 chips going, pointing to “home, office, and industrial networks” and multiplayer AR/VR applications, cloud gaming, and 4K and 8K streaming.
Additionally, a MediaTek spokesperson told Ars Technica that the company “will have Wi-Fi 7 technology and chips as part of our full connectivity portfolio across our product portfolio (similar to how we do that now with Wi-Fi 6, which is leveraging across product lines like Chromebooks, smartphones, etc.).” MediaTek’s current Wi-Fi 6 and 6E-based chips are used in various applications, from consumer routers to laptops, TVs, cameras, business-level routers, and the greater Internet of Things.
The semiconductor company would also like to show off how well network traffic flows when there’s interference or congestion by leveraging Wi-Fi 7’s multi-link operation (MLO) capabilities, which use multiple frequency bands simultaneously.
“Wi-Fi 7’s advances in channel width, QAM [quadrature amplitude modulation], and new features, such as multi-link operation (MLO), will make Wi-Fi 7 very attractive for devices including flagship smartphones, PCs, consumer devices, and vertical industries, like retail and industrial; as service providers begin to deploy a wider spectrum of hotspots across these market segments,” Mario Morales, group vice president of semiconductors at IDC, said in a statement accompanying MediaTek’s announcement.
MediaTek pointed to Wi-Fi 7 using the same numbers of antennas as Wi-Fi 6 and 320 MHz channels, compared to up to 160 MHz with Wi-Fi 6.
Technology Wi-Fi 7 release date
Without the protocol even finalized yet, it’s hard to know when we’ll see routers and other products carrying the Wi-Fi 7 label. However, MediaTek, which has been helping to develop the standard, claimed that devices are expected to become available in 2023.
When asked by Ars Technica, the Wi-Fi Alliance didn’t provide a specific timeframe but said that the Wi-Fi Certified stamp is an “essential ingredient” and that the Wi-Fi Alliance “will communicate expectations on the timing of Wi-Fi Certified 7 as work progresses.”
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Update 1/19/2022, 2:14 pm ET: This article was updated with comment from the Wi-Fi Alliance.
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