Weighing Whether to Shift to Wi-Fi 7? Read This First (part 1)

By Daran Hermans

When any new technology is about to debut, it’s hard to decide when to stay pat or when to upgrade. Or even whether it’s worthwhile. These questions will be front and center for many organizations when Wi-Fi 7 reaches the market early next year.

Wi-Fi 7 is already generating keen interest. This new standard will offer faster connections and lower latency, as well as the ability to manage more connections than preceding generations.

Organizations starting from scratch have an easier choice. But what about current Wi-Fi customers? Should they stick with the current Wi-Fi 6 and 6E? If so, for how long? And if they want to move to Wi-Fi 7, do the advantages come with any costs?

Past is Usually Prologue

This isn’t the first significant Wi-Fi transition, and I expect the move to Wi-Fi 7 to follow previous historical patterns. Consider the following:

  • Wi-Fi 4: The release of Wi-Fi 4 in 2009 brought Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) technology, allowing for the transfer of more data with 2x speed improvements over previous Wi-Fi generations. The availability of Wi-Fi 4 was well-timed for smart phones as the mobile device market enjoyed a 25% YoY growth from about 2010 to 2014. It also helped spur greater Wi-Fi deployment in selected verticals, such as the hospitality sector, where mobile devices increased up to 175% during that same period. 
  • Wi-Fi 5: After Wi-Fi 5 became available in 2014, wireless networks leaped forward in speed with a 33% increase in the QAM rates and faster speeds due to packet aggregation, higher MCS rates and MU-MIMO. Coincidentally, the consumer entertainment market saw a massive growth in high-speed streaming media from online content and screen mirroring technology.
  • Wi-Fi 6: With Wi-Fi 6’s release in 2019, consumers reaped major benefits from the technology’s more efficient use of the RF spectrum with more concurrent media streams on high-density networks operating with fewer radios. Wi-Fi 6 has enjoyed the fastest adoption rate of any wireless technology in history. In large part, this was due to the introduction of orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDMA), a frequency resource management technology that transmits small frames of data (in resource units) so multiple devices can send and receive data in the same period. The follow-on standard, Wi-Fi 6E, operates in the 6 GHz band, bringing the efficiency standards forward into an uncrowded spectrum with up to 1200 MHz of new spectrum useful for indoor Wi-Fi networks.
  • (Fun fact: I regularly do presentations using multiple “wireless monitors” allowing meeting participants to view my PowerPoint slides as I talk. All running over 5 GHz spectrum using the efficient Wi-Fi 6 standard)

Daran Hermans is the Director of Product Management for Wi-Fi Solutions, Cambium Networks

This content appeared in the RCR Wireless Reader Forum

Published December 18, 2023