Multifamily Blogs

WiFi 7 vs WiFi 6 for MDUs: What to Know

In the rapidly evolving world of wireless networking, the transition from WiFi 6 to WiFi 7 marks a monumental shift, particularly for owners and operators of multi-dwelling units (MDUs) and other large-scale properties.

WiFi 7 emerges as a refinement and enhancement of its predecessors, WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E, rising to a whole new level of throughput (data transfer rate), reducing latency (delay in data transmission), and improving communication reliability — all critical to environments where multiple (if not hundreds) of users access APs (access points) simultaneously.

What exactly does WiFi 7 have to offer compared to WiFi 6? Keep reading to learn all about WiFi 6 vs WiFi 7 and the ins and outs of the new WiFi 7 release.

WiFi 7 vs WiFi 6: What’s New with WiFi 7?

WiFi 7 is the next evolutionary step up from WiFi 6E, much like WiFi 6 was from WiFi 5. It continues to utilize the 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz bands, like WiFi 6E, but brings the following enhancements:

Throughput (data transfer rate) of 46 Gbps

Throughput refers to the rate at which data is transmitted from one point to another within a given time frame — typically expressed as the amount of data that can be transferred over a network connection within a certain amount of time (such as Gigabits per second).

The most buzzworthy advancement that WiFi 7 offers is a throughput of 46 Gbps — which means it transfers data at a rate of 46 Gigabits per second — 4.8 times the maximum throughput offered by WiFi 6 or WiFi 6E. This is because WiFi 7 takes advantage of all available frequencies within the 6 GHz band — the portion of the radio frequency spectrum that is used for transmitting wireless communication signals.

Double the channel bandwidth

One of the biggest contributors to WiFi 7’s enhanced speeds is its greater channel width.  Channel width refers to the range of frequencies available for transmitting data — in other words, the width of the “lane” data drives in.

While WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E primarily support channel widths of up to 160 MHz, WiFi 7 effectively doubles the lane width to 320 MHz. This means more cars (data packets) can travel side by side, increasing overall capacity of the highway and faster traffic flow (increased bandwidth and higher data transfer rates).

Greater data density with 4K QAM

In addition to offering higher speed and wider bandwidth, WiFi 7 makes it possible to pack more data into each radio signal. This is known as data density, which is accomplished with QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation, a way of transmitting data by changing the strength of a carrier signal.).

While WiFi 6 had a QAM limit of 1024, WiFi 7 boasts an impressive 4096 (also known as “4K QAM”), which increases its maximum data transfer speeds as well as throughput. Each unit of transmitted data can accommodate 12 bits of data instead of 10 bits, resulting in theoretical transmission rates that are 20% higher.

Flexible channel allocation

One drawback of WiFi is that any disruption or disturbance in the wireless signal can impact the available channel width.

With “puncturing,” if a part of the channel is affected by interference, only that part can be blocked while the rest of the surrounding channels continue to be used to create the widest channel possible. This ensures important data flow and speed are not impacted.

Puncturing or punctured transmission, a new capability introduced with WiFi that distinguishes it from its predecessors, is designed to enhance WiFi’s resistance to interference.

What makes WiFi 7 so fast? The primary reasons behind WiFi 7’s lightning-fast speed are the throughput, doubled channel bandwidth, and greater data density with 4K QAM. Flexible channel allocation, on the other hand, while it doesn’t directly contribute to speed, helps enhance overall performance.

WiFi 6 vs WiFi 7: What’s the Same?

As impressive as WiFi 7’s advancements are, WiFi is a refinement of the foundation laid by WiFi 6/6E. Here’s what WiFi 7 has in common with its predecessor:

  • WiFi 6 and WiFi 7 operate across the same three bands, including the high-speed 6GHz band.
  • They both offer generous bandwidth, providing ample capacity for high-speed data transfer.

WiFi 7 vs WiFi 6: What Multi-Dwelling Properties Should Know

“The most talked about feature of WiFi 7 is the increase in throughput,” says Trevor Dowswell, Chief Technology Officer at MDU Internet Services (MDUIS). “However, in multifamily properties, getting 46 gigabits per second of WiFi bandwidth isn’t going to make a difference for residents — unless they’re trying to do something like live 4K video editing with Final Cut.”

What’s more important for properties is WiFi 7’s reduced latency (the time it takes for a packet of data to travel from one point to another in a network) and the improved reliability in the communication itself.

Trevor explains, “In an environment where you have a lot of people hitting access points all over the place, it’s important to have as clear and quick a communication as possible, as there’s so much happening.”

WiFi’s improvement in latency and reliability can be attributed to a brand new feature known as multilink operation (MLO), which allows devices to simultaneously use multiple frequency bands of the WiFi spectrum — not unlike opening up multiple lanes on a highway for traffic.

“With MLO, protocols help slice the air up into distinct and processable communication streams,” Trevor explains. “Devices can then select the best path for sending and receiving data.”

The result is significantly reduced delays in an internet connection and improved overall performance. In other words, there’s better quality and reliability. “It’s just an easy experience for users,” says Trevor.

Reliability is also enhanced by the use of punctured transmission — which, as described above, reduces interference by removing the part of a channel impacted by that interference so that the other parts can be utilized more efficiently.

So should properties make the upgrade to Wi-Fi 7?  “In the case of the hospitality industry and managed WiFi services for residential properties, what matters most is a great experience. Wifi 7 provides that far better than any other WiFi,” Trevor says. “If you’re due for an infrastructure refresh and it makes sense to do a jump, WiFi 7 is a great choice. I see it being a stable place if you need to sit for another five years before another refresh.”

Gearing up for WiFi 7

WiFi 7–compliant devices (such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, routers, and access points) are just emerging on the market so there’s no need for MDU properties to wait. Now is the time to ensure they’re ready by assessing their current infrastructure and planning for any needed upgrades. Upgrading will require investing in WiFi 7–compliant access points, and the switches and cabling to support them, which are now available on the market.

Many properties are currently outfitted with WiFi 5 or WiFi 6 access points (APs), which don’t support the 6 GHz band introduced with the WiFi 6E release. As more devices with 6 GHz capabilities become common, these businesses will likely find themselves under the gun to upgrade their access points. This is especially true for senior living, student housing, multi-dwelling unit properties, large public venues, schools, and other institutions where reliable WiFi is crucial.

According to Ruckus, a leading wireless networking manufacturer, “WiFi 7 access points (APs) are fully backward compatible with WiFi 6/6E and all previous WiFi generations and will deliver performance improvement to all clients due to the use of the latest generation hardware and better utilization of spectrum.”

When installing access points, properties without proper cabling infrastructure should plan accordingly to ensure seamless integration. In such a scenario, it’s important to consider that installing cables for each access point will entail extra labor and materials, over and above the WiFi 7 equipment.

Get Ready for The Future of WiFi Connectivity

One of the most important factors in ensuring you’re successful in implementing a reliable and efficient WiFi network is by choosing a reputable and experienced WiFi installation company.  There’s a reason MDUIS has been around for more than twenty years. Offering expertly designed, custom-engineered network solutions and fast, efficient installation as well as 24/7 network monitoring and support, our team is dedicated to implementing the latest WiFi solutions that exceed user expectations.

Explore our MDU internet services here or get in touch with our team to learn more.


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