Due for introduction In 2024, WiFi 7 promises Incredibly high data speeds

12th December 2023
Due for introduction In 2024,  WiFi 7  promises Incredibly  high data speeds
WiFi 7 is expected to be deployed around mid 2024. Photo Credit: Wireles Broadband Association

By Anand Parthasarathy
December 12,2023: Even as most  consumers are still content  to use routers and home hotspots adhering to the standard known as WiFi 5,  they will be faced in the new year with  the option of upgrading to WiFi 7, jumping the entire generation of appliances and devices which adhere to WiFi 6
This happens when  technology changes too fast: Routers and  WiFi USB adapters   for WiFi 6 were pricier than WiFi-5 ( known  till recently as 802.11 ac)  and came to India quite a few years after the standard was promulgated --  which  saw the overwhelming majority of lay users  stick with their legacy hardware
But the value proposition promised by WiFi 7, which is expected to  be deployed world-wide around mid 2024,  is so compelling that  almost all enterprise  and industry users  --and quite a few  consumers -- may be  persuaded to upgrade.
This is because like the Godfather, WiFi 7  makes us an “offer you can’t refuse”:   data communication speeds that are about 5 times faster than WiFi 6 and 13 times faster than the best that WiFi-5 offers us today.  This opens up new use scenarios across consumer, business, education, government, medical, industrial, hospitality, public venues and transportation applications
Wireless networks at home, will support movie and  video streams in 8K quality – better than the best on TV today; video conferencing whether with family and friends or for professional webinars will enable extended reality (XR) applications, merging the real and virtual worlds; massive social gaming will be a cinch even on personal devices like laptops and hand phones
Latency – the time gap between sending and receiving a chunk of data – will see  a  hundred-fold improvement over WiFi 6, eliminating  those buffering problems when viewing streaming entertainment. 
Thanks to the  scalability of MIMO – Multiple  In, Multiple Out --  the technology that  uses multiple antennas both at the transmitter and the receiver in a wireless communication link, to speed up the data rate by a factor equal to the number of antennas used ( and incidentally is the invention of a US based Indian, Dr A.Paulraj), WiFi 7  doubles the number of spatial streams  from 8 to 16. This means  dozens of devices can use a home or office WiFi 7 router, without any one device  experiencing a degradation in quality of the  signal
WiFi 7 also doubles channel width over WiFi 6 to 320 MHz and this  enables many more simultaneous transmissions at  faster  speeds.
WiFi 7 Ecosystem is in place
Though the standard underlying  WiFi 7 is expected to be finalised only by May 2024,   the supporting ecosystem is already in place:
Mediatek, the semiconductor chip maker has been among the earliest  to  cater to WiFi 7 appliance makers by launching  two hardware solutions  Filogic 860 and Filogic 360, which  can be used to build  new generation access points or fuel devices that combine WiFi 7 with Bluetooth.
Qualcomm whose chips fuel  so many smart phones has launched a series of  WiFi 7 platforms – and  handset makers like OnePlus, Lenovo, Asus and Google (Pixel)  have been among the first to launch WiFi 7 compatible  phones in the market.
The new Android version, Android 13, supports  WiFi 7 devices, as does the latest Linux 6.2; while the Linux 6.5 kernel  has been worked by Intel to support a key feature of WiFi 7 – MLO or Multi Link Operation. This means for the first time, you can connect  simultaneously over all  three  frequencies that are available in a WiFi 7  router ( 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 6 GHz), instead of choosing one or the other. ‘OR’ has now become ‘AND’.
Incidentally, 6GHz is the new band that WiFi is designed to use and it is expected   that many countries will leave this band unlicensed and make it available for offering free public WiFi services.  If I can hazard a guess, this is not likely to happen in India, where the government sees telecom spectrum as a valuable commodity that it has always sold to the highest bidder. Going on past experience, no part of it will be unlicensed and free-to-use.
At the India Mobile Congress in New Delhi, during October, India-based telecom  equipment player IO by HFCL, launched  what is said to be the world’s first enterprise-grade Wi-Fi 7 access point. It will be ready to ship in first quarter of next year and the company  is already taking orders.
Home WiFi 7 router already available
A home WiFi router may be the device that most of us would need to upgrade to avail of WiFi 7 speeds when service providers offer them – and when I checked yesterday at e-commerce sites, I saw that at least one router maker – TP-Link has already launched a WiFi 7 device in India. It is the “TP-Link Archer BE900 Quad-Band BE24000 WiFi 7 Router”. 
If you were intending to go in for a new router anyway, you can future-proof your purchase to be WiFi-7-ready for whenever it is launched in India.
But be prepared to pay quite a bit more – almost 10 times the price of your old WiFi 5 router. The new TP-Link WiFi 7 router costs Rs 54,999 on both Amazon and Flipkart, and about Rs 2000 less on a site called Moglix that I have not tried. The 24,000 in the part number is the speed in MBPS that it is rated for – that is 24,000 MBPS or 24 GBPS.
So, the stage is set for the rollout this year, of unheard of speeds in WiFi connections. In fact, the new standard behind WiFi 7,  IEEE 802.11be,   is subtitled “Extreme High Throughput”,  lest there be any doubt about its main selling point.
Be prepared for zippier times ahead.
This article has appearedin Swarajya
Illustration for this article here