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Badman on Wi-Fi 7: Separating Fact From Fiction

As the wireless world celebrates the arrival of Wi-Fi 7, Lee Badman opines that “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” In this article we recap our most recent webinar, in which Lee, who is a Wireless Network Architect, CWNE #200, IT writer, and all around renaissance man, sets expectations for the successor of Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E.

Here’s what we cover:

  1. What Does Wi-Fi 7 Promise?
  2. What Do Wi-Fi 7’s Improvements Mean In Practice?
  3. What Doesn’t Change With Wi-Fi 7?
  4. Bottom Line
  5. WATCH: Lee Badman on Wi-Fi 7
  6. Where to Find Lee Badman

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What Does Wi-Fi 7 Promise?

As with previous Wi-Fi standards, the IEEE is making a lot of promises about Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be/EHT) and what it will be able to do. You’ll recognize many of the classics: better throughput, reduced latency, enhanced efficiency, better power consumption, etc.

Nevertheless, while Wi-Fi 7’s ability to fulfill these promises is an open question, it certainly improves upon its predecessors in a number of key ways. In Lee’s webinar, he kicked things off by looking at some potentially impactful upgrades arriving with the new standard, including:

  • 320MHz Channel Bandwidths
  • Multi-Link Operation (MLO)
  • Modulation Evolution to 4K QAM
  • Flexible Channel Utilization
  • And A Lot More to Get Excited About

320MHz Channel Bandwidths

Wi-Fi 7 promises massive throughput gains thanks to wider channels and increased capacity courtesy of the 6GHz spectrum. On paper this should lead to a remarkable 4x surge over the capabilities of Wi-Fi 6E, with peak rates reaching an astounding 40 Gbps.

Of course, what’s written on paper isn’t gospel. While the specs outlined above are technically true, they require perfect conditions to be functionally true. Indeed, Wi-Fi 6E promised 10 Gbps, but few if anyone actually achieved these rates. Wi-Fi 7 will likely be much the same.

Multi-Link Operation (MLO)

Wi-Fi 7 also introduces several multi-link options designed to significantly increase throughput and minimize latency. The most powerful multi-link option is High-Band Simultaneous (HBS) Multi-Link, which uses two Wi-Fi radios operating simultaneously in the two highest bands (5 and 6 GHz). This creates an aggregated data pipe that delivers optimal performance, even in the face of congestion. This promises to revolutionize the way we experience connectivity in crowded environments.

Modulation Evolution to 4K QAM

In addition, Wi-Fi 7 standardizes an advanced modulation scheme called 4K QAM. This cutting-edge technology elevates peak rates, boosting throughput and capacity when compared to Wi-Fi systems using the earlier 1K QAM modulation.

Flexible Channel Utilization

Another groundbreaking advancement introduced by Wi-Fi 7 is Flexible Channel Utilization. Based on preamble puncturing, which is a method to efficiently use larger bandwidth channels in the presence of interfering AP's in narrow bandwidths (20/40 MHz), Flexible Channel Utilization allows connections to seamlessly navigate channels impacted by interference. This results in the remarkable ability to utilize wider channels in the presence of interference, ensuring a robust and reliable connection in any environment.

And A Lot More to Get Excited About

Those are the headliners, but the improvements don’t stop there. As Lee notes, Wi-Fi 7 promises to bring off-the-charts speed, a 16x16 connectivity matrix, super low latency, and more.

What Do Wi-Fi 7’s Improvements Mean In Practice?

At first glance, Wi-Fi 7 looks like a remarkable improvement on Wi-Fi 6/6E. It comes with a plethora of new features and capabilities, like those discussed above, that promise significant transformations across the wireless industry.

Nevertheless, while there will absolutely be performance gains, Lee cautions that a large gap will persist between what is theoretically possible and what is practically achievable. As with Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, and Wi-Fi 6E, the IEEE has provided a standard that comes with significant potential but which will likely be far less exciting than initially advertised. In other words, WLAN, IT, and other wireless professionals will need to look at the complexities of the prevailing Wi-Fi landscape to separate fact from expectation and determine how Wi-Fi 7 is most likely to impact their networks, solutions, and products.

For example, while the new Wi-Fi standard boasts exciting innovations, optimal conditions are imperative for many of them to work as promised. And, in real environments, it’s nearly impossible to achieve such ideal scenarios. Complicating matters even further is the fact that many of Wi-Fi 7’s innovations are unlikely to be added to consumer-grade devices any time soon. So, while 16x16 connectivity sounds great in theory, Lee believes it will be a while until you can actually enjoy its benefits on your mobile devices or VR headsets.

However, according to Lee, by far the biggest hurdle for Wi-Fi 7 to clear is existing “baggage.” The IEEE’s new standard isn’t arriving at the shores of an unpopulated island — it’s got to contend with the locals. Legacy devices, routers, and other infrastructural elements present a practical challenge that make it near impossible for Wi-Fi 7 to deliver on its top-line promises. As long as outdated drivers, adapters, and devices predominate real-world environments, the capabilities of Wi-Fi 7 will continue to evade us.

What Doesn’t Change With Wi-Fi 7?

While the impact of Wi-Fi 7 is something that will only be revealed with time, there are a number of factors that will persist. Lee highlighted the following:

  • Uncertainty
  • Device Compatibility Challenges
  • Backwards Compatibility
  • Uplink Speeds and Infrastructure Needs
  • Importance of Quality Design
  • Skills for Support and Troubleshooting
  • Quality Wiring Requirements
  • RF Concerns
  • Code Issues


Unlike wired standards with more predictable outcomes, new Wi-Fi standards always come with an element of unpredictability. Wi-Fi 7 is no different. Its impact and adoption rate are yet to be fully understood, making it a "wait and see" scenario for many.

Device Compatibility Challenges

The introduction of a new standard does nothing to address the compatibility challenges that already plague the wireless industry. Indeed, if anything, Wi-Fi 7 only complicates the already diverse landscape of client devices and drivers further. Wi-Fi professionals will need to continue grappling with the difficulties associated with supporting a plethora of devices, each with its own quirks and compatibility issues.

Backwards Compatibility

Wi-Fi 7 operates in tri-band and supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, ensuring that backwards compatibility will remain an option. This is a mixed bag. Yes, it increases the flexibility of the standard, but Wi-Fi professionals often opt to disable compatibility anyway. This is because older standards tend to have substantially slower connection rates.

Uplink Speeds and Infrastructure Needs

There are also questions regarding Wi-Fi 7’s uplink speeds and Power over Ethernet (PoE) requirements for access points. Despite promises of high data rates (Quoalcomm is promising a whopping 40GHz, for instance), uncertainties persist surrounding practical implementation and infrastructure support.

Importance of Quality Design

The advent of Wi-Fi 7, expansion to the 6GHz spectrum, and growing use of artificial intelligence are all great for the Wi-Fi industry, but they don’t let wireless professionals off the hook when it comes to designing their networks. Proper network design will remain paramount to optimal performance and reliability.

Skills for Support and Troubleshooting

Likewise, Wi-Fi professionals must continue honing their skills for effective support and troubleshooting, as complexities in wireless networks persist.

Quality Wiring Requirements

The significance of quality wiring beneath the wireless network infrastructure becomes more pronounced with Wi-Fi 7's potential for faster speeds, as errors in cabling can bottleneck network performance.

RF Concerns

Despite advancements, Wi-Fi networks remain susceptible to RF interference and monitoring challenges. As 6G continues to grow in popularity, the risk of interference in dense environments will persist, necessitating careful network planning and management. This is especially true in areas where multiple dense environments bump up against one another, such as in office parks.

Code Issues

WLAN is only as good as the vendor code that runs it, this includes the underlying code that powers APs, controllers, and cloud infrastructure. While many wireless professionals are throwing AI into the mix, it’s not a panacea. Indeed, if poorly coded, AI merely becomes one more code frustration adding to the complexities of managing network infrastructure.

Bottom Line

As always, marketing will have a field day promoting Wi-Fi 7, but WLAN pros are on the hook to sort it all out and make it work. On paper, the standard’s potential is incredible. Nevertheless, questions remain about how it will translate in the real world.

These exceptions are nothing new to WLAN pros. It was the same story with Wi-Fi 6/6E, Wi-Fi 5, etc. To quote Lee Badman, “there’s nothing new under the wireless sun.”

WATCH: Lee Badman on Wi-Fi 7

Want to learn more about Wi-Fi 7? Check out Lee’s full remarks on the 7SIGNAL YouTube Channel:

Where to Find Lee Badman

Lee Badmann is a Wi-Fi industry maven and Certified Wireless Network Expert. He has 27+ years of networking experience, served for 10+ years in the United States Air Force as an electronic warfare “Journeyman,” and is a widely published freelance writer covering WLAN, Wi-Fi, IT, and related topics.

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7SIGNAL® is the leader in enterprise Wi-Fi optimization, providing insight into wireless networks and control over Wi-Fi performance so businesses and organizations can thrive. Our cloud-based platform continually tests and measures Wi-Fi performance at the edges of the network, enabling fast solutions to digital experience issues and stronger connections for mission-critical users, devices, and applications. Learn more at www.7signal.com.