Wi-Fi 7 BE – what it means to you (network guide)

Wi-Fi 7 BE is the next home/office Wi-Fi iteration, following Wi-F 6E AXE, 6 AX, and 5 AC. It opens 6GHz bandwidth for Wi-Fi 6E and 7 compatible devices.

Regrettably, and most importantly, there are very few of these now, and the Australian speeds are nowhere near those advertised.

You may see statements that Wi-Fi 7 BE supports up to 46Gbps speeds – sorry, that is not for Australia.

The ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority), as it did for Wi-Fi 6E, slashed the amount of available 6GHz bandwidth from 1200 to 500Mhz so as not to conflict with other uses of the upper 6GHz band.

The USA (where Netgear is from) has a contiguous 6GHz band from 5925-7125MHz or 1200MHz (think of this as the number of lanes in a highway). Australia has 5925-6425MHz or 500MHz bandwidth. In short, 12 verses 5 lanes.

In the USA, a Netgear BE19000 router has 2.4GHz/1.4Gbps, 5GHz/5.8Gbps and 6GHz/11.5Gbps for a total of 18.7Gbps (for convenience, it is called BE19000). It 6GHz band has up to three x 320MHz ‘super’ channels, 1 x 160MHz (used for Wi-Fi 6E), plus 80MHz that can be used as 4 x 20Mhz, 2 x 40MHz or 1 x 80MHz.

In Australia, we have two issues.

  • The 500MHz bandwidth only supports 4.8Gbps, so it is not BE19000 but BE12000 (the 2.4 and 5GHz bands are unchanged).
  • It only allows for one 320Mhz ‘super’ channel plus 1 x 160MHz and 1 x 20MHz. There is not as much throughput for Wi-FI 76 devices.

Bottom line: The Australian bandwidth affects all brands of Wi-FI 6E and 7 routers and mesh. It only affects the maximum speeds that Wi-Fi 6E and 7 devices obtain using the 6GHz channel. We hope for two things. First, that the ACMA releases the remaining 700Mhz bandwidth (50/50 chance) or that Wi-Fi 8 BN that is rumoured to use mmWave (42.5-71GHz) for up to 100Gbps makes ACMA’s decision irrelevant.

If and when we get the full 1200Mhz, first-tier router makers – Netgear, TP-Link, and D-Link – will roll out Wi-Fi 7 updates to use the full spectrum.

Do you need Wi-Fi 7 BE?

Like all Wi-Fi, it is backwards compatible with 2.4, 5, and newer Wi-Fi 6E 6GHz devices. Your needs depend on speed, and remember that the real choke point is the typical NBN 50/20 or 100/20Mbps internet access.

Updating is not imperative if you have a Wi-Fi 6 or later router. Wi-Fi 5 and earlier was half-duplex (like a one-lane bridge) and it is highly unlikely you have had security patches and firmware updates for a very long time – slow and insecure – so yes, update now.

Let’s break down Wi-Fi 7 BE

Like Wi-Fi 6E, it has a 6GHz channel that can be used with compatible devices like newer smartphones and TVs. Wi-Fi 6E Tri-band (2.4/5/6GHz) has a limit here of 11,000Mbps (AXE11000). Wi-Fi 7 may take that to 19000Mbps.

How does it get more bandwidth out of the same 500MHz 6GHz band?

It uses:

  • 16×16 MU-MIMO (instead of Wi-F6E 8×8), effectively doubling streams to and from the router, meaning more devices get bandwidth.
  • 4096-QAM (instead of 1024-QAM), meaning each data packet can carry 4096 packets (4X) of information.
  • Multi-RUs (resource units) can be assigned to a user instead of one.
  • Preamble Punching means all channels are available to a device.
  • MLO (multi-link operation) allows aggregation of 2.4/5/6Ghz channels to load balance (instead of a single channel)
  • More full-duplex (both ways) bandwidth means it can handle more traffic.

Issues to be aware of with Wi-Fi 7 (and 6E)

  • You must have Wi-Fi 6E or 7 compatible devices to use the speed gains; otherwise, they share the same 2.4/5GHz networks of Wi-Fi 6.
  • The higher the frequency, the lower the transmission distance. Where 2.4GHz can get up to 100m line-of-sight and 5Ghz to 15m, the 6GHz band will go 6-10m before switching to 5Ghz etc.
  • The higher the frequency, the less it can travel through walls, windows, etc. Where 2.4Ghz can easily handle 3-5 internal walls, 5Ghz 2-3, 6Ghz is maybe 1-2.

Soon to be available (speeds are based on US full bandwidth)

Netgear RS700 router (US website). 12-stream, tri-band. It has 1400Mbps/2.4Ghz, 5800Mbps/5GHz and 11500Mbps/6Ghz or BE19000.

Netgear Orbi 970 (US Website) Mesh (RBE973SB) quad-band 12-stream in two or three packs. 1147Mbps/2.4GHz, 5765Mbps/5GHz, 8647Mbps/5GHz dedicated backhaul, 15300Mbps/6Ghz. BE27000 (less backhaul)

Available Now

TP-Link Archer BE800 (AU website) Router. 12-stream, tri-band. 1376Mbps/2.4GHz, 8640Mbps/4GHz and 11520Mbps/6Ghz. BE19000.

TP-Link Archer BE550 (AU website) Router. 574Mbps/2.4GHz, 2660Mbps/6GHz and 5760Mbps 6GHz. BE9300.

TP-Link Deco BE65 (AU Website) Mesh. 574Mbps/2.4GHz, 4320Mbps/5GHz and 5760Mbps/6GHz. BE11000.

TP-Link Deco BE85 (AU website) Mesh 12-stream, tri-band in two or three packs. 1376Mbps/2.4GHz, 8640Mbps/4GHz and 11520Mbps/6Ghz. Can use Ethernet backhaul between satellites. BE19000.

CyberShack’s view – Wi-Fi 7 BE – no rush for more speed

If you like the latest tech and upgrade from Wi-Fi 5 or earlier, seek out Wi-Fi 7 routers or mesh.

If you have Wi-Fi 6 and are happy, then no need to upgrade. Ditto for Wi-Fi 6E.

Wi-Fi 7 will be very interesting when we get it in TVs for 8K streaming and to gamers who want the lowest possible latency (although the NBN largely determines that). It offers advantages if you have many Wi-Fi devices (100+).

Remember that Australia only gets about 12Gbps – not 49Gbps. TP-Link and Netgear provided information. Reviews soon.

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