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Wi-Fi 7 Is the Best Yet, and Here’s Why

Wi-Fi 7 is your ticket to speed if you have multi-gig internet.

What is Wi-Fi 7?

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 7 is the consumer-friendly name for IEEE 802.11be, the latest technical specification for wireless connectivity. It’s also referred to as Extremely High Throughput, but you’ll generally see it advertised as Wi-Fi 7.

The Wi-Fi Alliance formally introduced Wi-Fi 7 in January 2024, seemingly a bit late, after TP-Link, NETGEAR, and other manufacturers rolled out Wi-Fi 7 products starting in Q1 2023.

Overall, Wi-Fi 7 is a major improvement over Wi-Fi 6. For starters, it has noticeably better speeds on Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E devices due to how it handles interference. You also get a few extra 5 GHz channels, wider bonded channels, more device capacity, less latency, and higher modulation to deliver more speeds to devices that support it. We go into the nitty-gritty details later on.

Finally, Wi-Fi 7 is backward compatible, but you need a Wi-Fi 7 client device (smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.) to take advantage of all its improvements and speeds.

Is Wi-Fi 7 available?

Technically, Wi-Fi 7 products became available in Q1 2023, but the Wi-Fi Alliance didn’t formally introduce the new standard until Q1 2024. Here are a few examples of the Wi-Fi 7 products you can get right now.

For a complete list, check out the Wi-Fi Alliance tool for finding the latest Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 7 products.

What are the best internet plans to use with Wi-Fi 7?

While you can use any internet plan with a Wi-Fi 7 router, you’ll get the most out of it if you have a 3,000Mbps (3Gbps) plan or faster.

PlanSpeedPriceOrder online
AT&T Internet 5 Gig5,000Mbps$225.00/mo.*View Plans for AT&T
EarthLink Fiber 5 Gig5,000Mbps$189.95/mo.View Plans for EarthLink
Frontier Fiber 5 Gig5,000Mbps$129.99/mo.View Plans for Frontier
Google Fiber 5 Gig5,000Mbps$125.00/mo.§View Plans for Google Fiber
Google Fiber 8 Gig8,000Mbps$150.00/mo.§View Plans for Google Fiber
Optimum 5 Gig Fiber Internet5,000Mbps$80.00/mo.||View Plans for Optimum
Optimum 8 Gig Fiber Internet8,000Mbps$265.00/mo.#View Plans for Optimum
Quantum Fiber 3 Gig Price for Life3,000Mbps$100.00/mo.**
Quantum Fiber 8 Gig Price for Life8,000Mbps$165.00/mo.**
WOW! Internet Fiber 3 Gig3,000Mbps$100.00/mo.††View Plans for WOW!
WOW! Internet Fiber 5 Gig5,000Mbps$185.00/mo.‡‡View Plans for WOW!
Ziply Fiber Internet 5 Gig5,000Mbps$90.00/mo.§§View Plans for Ziply Fiber
Ziply Fiber Internet 5 Gig10,000Mbps$300.00/mo.§§View Plans for Ziply Fiber

What makes Wi-Fi 7 better?

Glad you asked! That’s why we’re here, of course. In a nutshell, Wi-Fi 7 is a huge improvement over Wi-Fi 6, adding wider bonded channels, better interference management, and more. Here’s the list:

Keep in mind that some of these explanations get a little technical. We simplified them as best as possible, but feel free to skip them if your eyes start rolling in your head. We won’t be offended. Promise.

Okay, maybe a little.

6 GHz Wi-Fi band

Technically, this isn’t new, but we’re throwing it in here anyway in case you missed Wi-Fi 6E—which builds upon Wi-Fi 6 by adding this third connection.

The 6 GHz spectrum is a whole new wireless frontier with more than double the space of the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz connections. It’s also free of pesky radar that can thwart your wireless speeds in the 5 GHz space.

For kicks, here’s the total amount of spectrum provided on the 6 GHz band compared to the other two.

SpectrumStartingEndingTotal spectrum
2.4 GHz2,400 MHz2,483.5 MHz83.5 MHz
5 GHz5,150 MHz5,850 MHz580 MHz
6 GHz5,925 MHz7,125 MHz1,200 MHz

We discuss the 6 GHz band more in our Wi-Fi 6 vs. Wi-Fi 6E article, but needless to say, if speed is what you need, then 6 GHz is the connection to use … for now, anyway.

10Gbps wired connections

All but one of the Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E routers we’ve tested to date use Gigabit Ethernet or 2.5Gbps Ethernet for internet (WAN). The Linksys Hydra Pro 6E is the only router we’ve tested with a 5Gbps Ethernet connection used for the internet.

So, while 10Gbps Ethernet isn’t exclusive to Wi-Fi 7, you’ll see this superfast port on Wi-Fi 7 routers for internet and wired connections. Given the speeds you can squeeze out of Wi-Fi 7, we honestly can’t imagine routers using anything slower for your internet tether.

Higher modulation

Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM, pronounced “quam”) changes the properties of a radio frequency carrier wave to deliver digital information in an analog form, whether it’s over a copper wire or through the air.

As we know, data is nothing but ones and zeroes. These bits are grouped into symbols and separated into two streams to speed up data transfers. So, you can have two streams with 4-bit symbols containing four bits or two streams with 10-bit symbols containing 10 bits.

Modems and routers modulate (modify) the amplitude (power) of two carrier waves to match the symbols they receive from the two digital input streams. They also change each carrier wave’s phase (position in degrees) to distinguish one symbol from the other since they’re transmitted through the same channel.

Pro tip:  To better understand how Wi-Fi has evolved over the last decade, be sure to read our previous articles about Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, and Wi-Fi 6E.

The symbol size and the number of different states determine the amount of data transmitted per hertz (cycle). The size and states also depend on the limits set by the Wi-Fi specification. For example, Wi-Fi 5 introduced 256-QAM, which translates to 256 possible states of 8-bit symbols. 1024-QAM arrived with Wi-Fi 6 and translates to 1,024 different states of 10-bit symbols.

Wi-Fi 7 now adds 4096-QAM to push even more data through the air. In this case, there are 4,096 possible states of 12-bit symbols, but you’ll see the benefits of this extra speed only if you’re using a Wi-Fi 7 smartphone, laptop, desktop add-in card, and so on. Wi-Fi 6E devices and older remain locked at 1024-QAM and lower.

We show how the different modulation types affect your speed in our performance section further down the page.

Extra channels on the 5 GHz band

With Wi-Fi 6, 28 single usable channels are available on the 5 GHz band. Channel bonding combines up to eight channels to make wider ones. For example, routers can create six 80 MHz bonded channels using four single channels each and two 160 MHz bonded channels containing eight channels each.

However, radar systems use 18 out of the 28 available channels on the 5 GHz band, making it difficult to use bonded channels without suffering slow speeds due to interference. Some 80 MHz and 160 MHz bonded channels may be unusable where you live, limiting your options for squeezing the most speed from your router.

Wi-Fi 7 increases your 5 GHz channel count to 31 by adding channels 169, 173, and 177. These enable one extra 80 MHz bonded channel and one additional 160 MHz bonded channel—both radar-free.

80 MHz160 MHz
Bonded channel:171163
Grouped single channels:165 + 169 + 173 + 177149 + 153 + 157 + 161 + 165 + 169 + 173 + 177

Note that channel 165 is already available on some Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E routers, but our test devices either can’t connect to it or use it as a single, slow-as-snails 20 MHz channel.

Increased channel bonding

You may read that Wi-Fi 7 has wider channels. In one sense, that is correct, but only when talking about channels created through channel bonding. Each individual channel is still 20 MHz wide, but Wi-Fi 7 routers can bond multiple channels together to make one large channel for transmitting more data (thus allowing for faster speeds).

For example, channel 42 is an 80 MHz-wide bonded channel combining channels 36–48, but you’ll never see channel 42 listed on your router’s list, just the smaller ones.

The big deal with Wi-Fi 7 is routers can now group 16 channels into one 320 MHz-wide one, giving you the fastest Wi-Fi speeds to date. By comparison, Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, and Wi-Fi 6E combine only eight channels into a single 160 MHz-wide one, so Wi-Fi 7 is a significant uptick in how many channels a router can bond into one superwide one.

However, the new 320 MHz width only applies to the 6 GHz band, so you need a Wi-Fi 6E device or newer to see the speed benefits of the new channel bonding width. Here are a few more examples of channel bonding.

BandChannel*Channel Width# of bonded channelsChannels
5 GHz15580 MHz4149–161
5 GHz50160 MHz836–64
6 GHz31320 MHz161–61

So, while individual channels are not wider with Wi-Fi 7, channel bonding has doubled on the 6 GHz band.

Reduced interference

To see how Wi-Fi 7 reduces interference, you must first understand how wide Wi-Fi channels work.

When your router selects channel 36 and sets it to 80 MHz, you’re actually using four bonded channels:

36 + 40 + 44 + 48

This multi-channel use is why the suggestion to change channels to improve your speed is obsolete now—especially if you selected channel 36 and your neighbor selected channel 40. You’re both using the same channel group.

In this scenario, the routers may downshift to 40 MHz (two bonded channels) or maybe even 20 MHz (a single channel) due to puncturing interference, decreasing your throughput (speed).

Wi-Fi 7 solves this downshifting issue by removing the punctured portion of a single channel rather than dropping the offending channel altogether. In other words, instead of the router downshifting from 80 MHz to 40 MHz due to interference, the bonded channel group may be 60 MHz-wide instead with a slightly reduced throughput—which is far better than the slow speeds associated with 40 MHz and 20 MHz-wide channels.

That said, if you have issues using a 160 MHz-wide channel on the 5 GHz band due to radar interference, this should help improve your speeds.

Multi-Link Operation

Unfortunately, the NETGEAR router we had on hand didn’t support Multi-Link Operation (MLO) at the time of its review. NETGEAR said that MLO will be added later in a firmware update, so we’ll come back with a few benchmarks once we test this feature on another Wi-Fi 7 router.

Before Wi-Fi 7, a client device (phone, tablet, laptop, etc.) could connect to only one Wi-Fi band at a time. With Wi-Fi 7, a client device can connect to all three bands on a Wi-Fi 7 router simultaneously.

However, not all Wi-Fi 7 routers and client devices will support three simultaneous connections due to power consumption. For example, the more Wi-Fi radios and streams a mobile device uses, the faster its battery drains. So, you’ll most likely see support for two simultaneous connections, like 6 GHz + 5 GHz, although we assume desktops will support up to three.

MLO mainly works in two ways. With Simultaneous Transmit and Receive Operation (STR Mode), one link is used for upload and one for download. All links work separately and simultaneously.

2.4 GHz5 GHz6 GHz
DownloadUploadDownload

Nonsimultaneous Transmit and Receive Operation (NSTR mode) is different. All links transfer in one direction simultaneously: Up or down.

2.4 GHz5 GHz6 GHz
DownloadDownloadDownload

TP-Link provides a great explanation of how MLO works and points out that other MLO modes can be applied to different scenarios, like mesh networking.

More spatial streams

Wi-Fi 7 increases the spatial stream count from eight per radio in Wi-Fi 6 to 16 per radio. Think of these streams as wireless data lines transmitted between routers and client devices.

Most modern devices support two transmitting and two receiving streams (2×2:2) to reduce power consumption, so a single Wi-Fi radio with 16 streams can handle eight devices simultaneously at full speed or 16 devices at half speed.

Most of the routers we’ve tested to date broadcast up to four streams per radio—including the NETGEAR Nighthawk RS700S we were testing while writing this article—but you could see up to eight per radio with Wi-Fi 7, depending on the router model.

That said, Wi-Fi 7’s 46Gbps maximum theoretical speed is based on using all 16 streams simultaneously on the 6 GHz band and a 320 MHz channel. In the real world, you’ll never hit that maximum.

Other Wi-Fi 7 callouts

A few other notable upgrades are working behind the scenes to provide you with the best Wi-Fi experience to date. We give a brief description of each.

Reduced overhead

Overhead contains networking data used to describe and transmit your usable data, among other things. Wi-Fi 7’s “512 compressed block-ack” feature compresses more of that networking data to reduce the overall overhead and transmit more of your usable data.

Improved latency

Wi-Fi 6 introduced Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDMA) to home/office networking. It reduces congestion and latency by dividing a channel into resource units and assigning them to each device, but some bandwidth is wasted when using wide channels.
Wi-Fi 7 reclaims the unused space and allocates additional resource units to each device.

Meanwhile, “Restricted Service Periods” creates a brief quiet time on a channel to transmit latency-sensitive data, like mouse clicks in gaming.

More power saving

Target Wake Time (TWT) in Wi-Fi 6 helps reduce power consumption by scheduling a time when a device wakes up to send and receive data from the router. Wi-Fi 7’s Restricted Target Wake Time (R-TWT) reserves bandwidth to use during the wake time transmission and boots any devices not scheduled to transmit during that time.

Emergency Preparedness support

Wi-Fi 7 enables 5G services to offload to W-Fi, so the lines of communication remain open for authorized National Security & Emergency Preparedness (NSEP) users.

Final Call: Awesome for some, overkill for others

The big question you’re probably asking yourself is: Do I need a Wi-Fi 7 router right now? Only if you plan to upgrade to a Wi-Fi 7 device in the near future. Even then, there aren’t many Wi-Fi 7 devices readily available to buy, even though Wi-Fi 7 routers have been around since Q1 2023.

So, it’s hard for us to say no to getting a Wi-Fi 7 router right now because we’re still dazzled by the speeds. There’s no question that Wi-Fi 7 is a game changer with its superfast throughput, multi-link connectivity, and reduced interference.

But on the flip side, Wi-Fi 7 routers are expensive—mesh systems even more so. However, a quick glance on Amazon shows that TP-Link has one for under $300, and it looks to be ideal if you don’t have an internet plan of over 3,000Mbps. Still, if speed is what you need, expect to make a costly investment.

We’ve said a lot in this overview—so to put it simply, Wi-Fi 7 may be overkill if you don’t already have a multi-gig internet plan. Wi-Fi 6E may be a better option until Wi-Fi 7 becomes the new norm, and we’re looking at Wi-Fi 8 with starry eyes.

Wi-Fi 7 vs. Wi-Fi 6/6E: The benchmarks

While testing NETGEAR’s Nighthawk RS700S, we decided to compare Wi-Fi 7 speeds to the older standards. Why not, right? It’s always fun for us to see how the latest Wi-Fi standard improves upon previous ones. We don’t compare Wi-Fi 5 because it’s old as dirt, and you shouldn’t be using it in 2024 anyway.

If you’re not into the nitty-gritty down-the-rabbit-hole details, turn back now as we get deep into the numbers to show how Wi-Fi 7 is the best specification yet.

The devices we used in testing

Here are the three devices we used to compare the three Wi-Fi specifications. The OnePlus 11 5G is insanely fast, with a maximum connection rate of 5,764Mbps, but the best link rate we could squeeze out of it was 5,187Mbps. The lower number means the router still uses 4096-QAM modulation but at a less efficient coding rate.

Below, we break down each device’s capabilities by Wi-Fi band:

6 GHz

OnePlus 11 5GGoogle Pixel 6iPhone 12 Pro Max
Wi-Fi typeWi-Fi 7Wi-Fi 6EWi-Fi 6
Stream config.2 x 22 x 22 x 2
Max rate – BE5,764Mbps*
Max rate – AXE2,400Mbps

5 GHz

OnePlus 11 5GGoogle Pixel 6iPhone 12 Pro Max
Wi-Fi typeWi-Fi 7Wi-Fi 6EWi-Fi 6
Stream config.2 x 22 x 22 x 2
Max rate – BE2,882Mbps*
Max rate – AX2,400Mbps2,400Mbps1,200Mbps§
Max rate – AC866Mbps866Mbps866Mbps

2.4 GHz

OnePlus 11 5GGoogle Pixel 6iPhone 12 Pro Max
Wi-Fi typeWi-Fi 7Wi-Fi 6EWi-Fi 6
Stream config.2 x 22 x 22 x 2
Max rate – BE344Mbps*
Max rate – AX229Mbps229Mbps195Mbps
Max rate – N144Mbps144Mbps144Mbps

Our benchmarks

Keep in mind that the following numbers are based on single-device tests, so the speeds you get may be different. In other words, the more devices you add to a channel, the slower your speeds may become.

6 GHz tests: 320 MHz vs. 160 MHz (Wi-Fi 7 vs. Wi-Fi 6E)

Wi-Fi 7*Wi-Fi 6E
2 feet3,6841,995
10 feet3,5931,963
20 feet3,2811,897
30 feet2,8831,719
40 feet (porch)2,1261,454
120 feet (across street)920617
20 feet (hallway)2,1341,436

In this test, we wanted to show how grouping 16 channels to make one superwide bonded channel (320 MHz) delivers more throughput than combining just eight channels (160 MHz).

We hoped to squeeze more speed out of the OnePlus 11 5G since its max data rate is 5,764Mbps, but the best we could muster in our environment was a 5,187Mbps rate. After overhead, we landed a solid 3,684Mbps in real-world speed at close range. That’s crazy fast for a single device.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the OnePlus 11 5G to connect to any 160 MHz bonded channel on the 6 GHz band, so we don’t have an apples-to-apples comparison to see how Wi-Fi 7’s faster modulation delivers more data per second than Wi-Fi 6 using a 160 MHz bonded channel. Technically, the max link rate of the OnePlus 11 5G should be around 2,594Mbps, resulting in a real-world speed of 2,153Mbps at close range.

We’ll have to come back when we test another Wi-Fi 7 router to see if it’s a phone or router issue.

6 GHz tests: 80 MHz vs. 80 MHz (Wi-Fi 7 vs. Wi-Fi 6E)

Wi-Fi 7*Wi-Fi 6E
2 feet1,0501,015
10 feet1,0321,009
20 feet1,0231,001
30 feet1,008971
40 feet (porch)808774
120 feet (across street)350317
20 feet (hallway)801779

Since the OnePlus 11 5G refused to connect to the 6 GHz band using a 160 MHz channel width, we switched to 80 MHz instead. In this case, the router combines four channels into one.

Here we see how Wi-Fi 7’s higher modulation compares to Wi-Fi 6: 4096-QAM versus 1024-QAM. We get a bit more throughput with Wi-Fi 7, but nothing requiring us to change our underpants.

Still, we must note our test results with the Pixel 6, especially at 120 feet. We usually see around 250Mbps in that spot, so we were a little surprised. Does this speed boost stem from how the router handles channel puncturing? Or how it reduces overhead? We’ll see what happens when we test again with another Wi-Fi 7 router later.

5 GHz tests: 160 MHz vs. 80 MHz (Wi-Fi 7 vs. Wi-Fi 6)

Wi-Fi 7*Wi-Fi 6E
2 feet2,076859
10 feet1,921820
20 feet1,876776
30 feet1,698742
40 feet (porch)1,530684
120 feet (across street)623256
20 feet (hallway)1,547686

This was an unfair battle from the start, but we wanted to show how doubling the channel width and increasing the modulation rate can really make a difference. We typically get around 1,700Mbps on average using a 160 MHz channel width and a Wi-Fi 6 device, so the increase in speed from Wi-Fi 7 and the new 4096-QAM modulation was a pleasant surprise.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is built to handle 1,200Mbps max, so you’ll never see higher speeds than that. Add in the overhead associated with Wi-Fi and some of the iOS bloat going on behind the scenes, and 860Mbps is the typical average speed we get at close range. Still, we were surprised we didn’t see a slight increase in speed, as seen with the Pixel 6.

5 GHz tests: 80 MHz vs. 80 MHz (Wi-Fi 7 vs. Wi-Fi 6)

Wi-Fi 7*Wi-Fi 6EWi-Fi 6
2 feet1,0241,021860
10 feet953955820
20 feet932931784
30 feet872873750
40 feet (porch)688686668
120 feet (across street)328324224
20 feet (hallway)695693632

We sobbed alligator tears for the iPhone, so we narrowed the channel width to 80 MHz for a better apples-to-apples comparison (well, kind of). The iPhone isn’t the best device to test Wi-Fi speeds, but so many people use it that we felt obliged to include it in our tests. Its speeds match those we’ve seen in other router tests but fall behind the OnePlus and Pixel in this benchmark.

We expected to see higher numbers with the OnePlus 11 5G than the Pixel 6, but that didn’t happen. Both tested about the same despite their different starting link rates, which was a little surprising given the speed gaps between the two in our 2.4 GHz tests (shown in the next section). Overall, the results may be a case of fresh Android installs versus a not-so-fresh Apple iOS install.

2.4 GHz tests: 20/40 coexistence enabled (Wi-Fi 7 vs. Wi-Fi 6)

Wi-Fi 7*Wi-Fi 6EWi-Fi 6
2 feet259168133
10 feet237152122
20 feet220143114
30 feet206138108
40 feet (porch)154127101
120 feet (across street)605449
20 feet (hallway)150131103

In this test, we used the default router settings to see how our devices tested on the 2.4 GHz band. The router kept us locked to a single 20 MHz channel, so we didn’t see any of the speed benefits of channel bonding.

Again, we were pleasantly surprised with Wi-Fi 7. The OnePlus 11 5G really shined in this test, while our two Wi-Fi 6 phones didn’t see any real benefits. Note that the iPhone we used has a strange max limit, so it falls behind the Google 6 in throughput.

2.4 GHz tests: 20/40 coexistence disabled (Wi-Fi 7 vs. Wi-Fi 6)

Wi-Fi 7*Wi-Fi 6EWi-Fi 6
2 feet476168133
10 feet435152122
20 feet416143114
30 feet375138108
40 feet (porch)356127101
120 feet (across street)1065449
20 feet (hallway)347131103

Once we disabled 20/40 coexistence, channel bonding kicked in to create a wireless 40 MHz one. The caveat to using 40 MHz is that the 2.4 GHz band is more crowded than Disney World on a hot day, so even if the router selects channel 5 as the primary, it may select the heavily used channel 1 as the secondary. That means you may not get the speeds you were hoping for.

The fastest link rate we saw with the OnePlus 11 5G was 619Mbps, but the rate jumped around so much that we were lucky to get 476Mbps in real-world speeds at close range. Still, that’s a far cry from the slower speeds seen with the iPhone 12 Pro Max and Pixel 6, which don’t even support 40 MHz channel widths.

Disclaimer

Author -

Kevin Parrish has more than a decade of experience working as a writer, editor, and product tester. He began writing about computer hardware and soon branched out to other devices and services such as networking equipment, phones and tablets, game consoles, and other internet-connected devices. His work has appeared in Tom’s Hardware, Tom's Guide, Maximum PC, Digital Trends, Android Authority, How-To Geek, Lifewire, and others. At HighSpeedInternet.com, he focuses on network equipment testing and review.