Wi-Fi has steadily become more important to organizations since its introduction in the late 90s. The debut of Wi-Fi 6, then Wi-Fi 6E, and the development of Wi-Fi 7 – all within two years of one another – is bound to confound folks who aren’t well-versed in wireless technology. The question we often are asked lately is should you move to Wi-Fi 6E or wait for Wi-Fi 7?
But before we answer that, let’s take a step back and look at how we got here.
A Brief Recap…
No event in the Wi-Fi sector was more thrilling in 2021 than the introduction of the first new spectrum in more than 20 years. Think about this: In 1997, 802.11 was released and used the 2.4 GHz band. Two years later, 802.11a was released and featured the 5 GHz band.
Even though there were several revisions that came after 802.11a, few were as well-known as the PHY rate amendments (802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax). In a short period of time, the Wi-Fi community welcomed the arrival of two significant new technologies: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) introduced OFDMA1, and shortly after that, the 6 GHz band became accessible.
Depending on where you live, the full impact of the 6 GHz band will differ. However, it doesn’t matter how much spectrum was released in your area – this is still a HUGE deal. As Wi-Fi has increased in popularity and evolved from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have” service, Wi-Fi specialists have battled to accommodate this growing demand within a spectrum allotment that was established before most people had internet in their homes – let alone wireless internet. It wasn’t until 2021 that we saw the first hardware released capable of supporting all three bands (2.4, 5, and 6 GHz) was released.
Even though the additional spectrum is a tremendous accomplishment, Wi-Fi users started looking ahead right away. The initial query was, “What about Wi-Fi 6E?” that’s now being followed by, “Should I move to Wi-Fi 7?”
Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 7?
Examining the many distinctions between the two protocols can help you find the best answer. The three most significant changes are the change in theoretical maximum speed, increased channel width, and Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM).
The speed differential comes first. Although Wi-Fi 6 has a fast maximum speed of 9.6 Gbps, Wi-Fi 7 is anticipated to have a maximum speed of 46 Gbps. That’s 46 Gbps per client. Now that’s fast.
The expansion of channel widths comes next. With the addition of new spectrum in the 6 GHz band, the maximum channel bandwidth in the 5 GHz band will increase to 320 MHz wide from its previous maximum of 160 MHz wide. This is a significant gain because the entire 2.4 GHz spectrum has a bandwidth of only 83 MHz.
Finally is the increase in QAM. This is the process of encoding data on a radio signal. 1024-QAM is used in Wi-Fi 6, while 4096-QAM is anticipated for Wi-Fi 7. Why can’t Wi-Fi be 4K if TVs can? 46 Gbps can be attained with this increased QAM rate along with a 320 MHz wide channel.
Regarding similarities, both Wi-Fi 6e and Wi-Fi 7 use the 6 GHz band, operate at exceptionally high speeds, and have extremely broad channels. In addition, both currently have only a handful of client devices to make use of all of these new innovations.
Check out this site, which offers a table of potential data rates, to get an idea.
I’m aware that I’m bombarding you with numbers, but there’s a good reason. Wi-Fi speed is frequently the deciding factor for the newest technology – but it has a price. The cost goes beyond the money invested. In addition, certain conditions must be met in order to obtain the enticing 46 Gbps. Many factors must align for those incredibly rapid speeds to be reached. In reality, that’s not always possible.
Even though moving data at 46 Gbps sounds glamorous, 95 percent of Wi-Fi apps do not benefit from this speed because they depend on connections to services in the cloud. Time for a little dose of reality – for average use cases a well-designed Wi-Fi 6 network with quality hardware is sufficient.
So, What’s The Decision?
We are often asked which way we recommend a customer to go on emerging technologies. The decision to adopt cutting-edge technology often hinges on a single question: “What is your organization’s goal?”
If you enjoy staying on the “cutting edge” of technology and have no financial restrictions, then by all means, update to Wi-Fi 6E now and adopt Wi-Fi 7 a year or two from now.
If, on the other hand, you are among the large majority of people who try to optimize their IT budget, ask yourself, “Where are you in the budget cycle?”
If 2023 is the year to upgrade your Wi-Fi network and your company values being a technological leader, Wi-Fi 6E is the solution. If you prefer a little more stability, go with Wi-Fi 6 technology. If your turn for budget allocation isn’t for another year or two, then wait for Wi-Fi 7.
Wi-Fi 6E is intriguing, however there are a few glitches that need to be remedied. The industry anticipates that those growing pains will be felt with Wi-Fi 6E, so that when Wi-Fi 7 hits the market in late 2023 or early 2024, it will be primed and ready to go.
Mirazon can help you navigate these changes and recent developments, as well as assist in determining what’s right for you and your business. Afterall, we all want the best, newest technology – but not if it causes more problems than it solves.