Dec 11 2023

This Upgraded Wi-Fi Access Point Progresses to 7

Although Wi-Fi 7 hasn’t been certified yet, agencies should start planning for the network upgrade now.

Which came first, the new client device with the latest Wi-Fi standard or the upgraded wireless network to support it?

In the case of Wi-Fi networks, the two are advancing hand in hand. Consumer product manufacturers are building new smartphones, tablets and more with the capability to run on the newest Wi-Fi networks. These devices include the latest wireless radios and are speedier than what is generally in place today — and production is moving faster than the network upgrades.

Federal agencies that began upgrading from Wi-Fi 6 to Wi-Fi 6E after the latter standard was approved two years ago are finding that more and more new devices are capable of working with the faster network.

But there’s another Wi-Fi advance on the horizon, as certification for Wi-Fi 7, the newest standard, is expected to happen sometime in 2024. Even as they’re finishing up 6E upgrades, agencies may want to think about preparing for Wi-Fi 7.

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Wi-Fi 7 Outpaces Wi-Fi 6E Wireless Networks 4 to 1

Wi-Fi 7 expands on the capabilities of 6E with a maximum data rate four times greater, plus the ability to cut download times for large files nearly in half. It’s helpful for two scenarios: networks that need the capacity to support a large number of devices, and organizations that need to transfer a lot of data wirelessly.  Wi-Fi 7 will be helpful in augmented reality and virtual reality applications.

In technical terms, here’s the difference: Wireless access points for Wi-Fi 6 and earlier standards contain two radios, one at 2.3 gigahertz that has three usable channels and another at 5GHz  with 25 useable channels. Wi-Fi 6E incorporates a third radio using 6 GHz and 59 usable channels, increasing throughput exponentially.

Wi-Fi 7 also uses the 6GHz radio but provides far more bandwidth — 46 gigabits per second compared to Wi-fi 6E’s 9.6. A small backyard swimming pool has just expanded to Olympic size. Videos play without buffering; photos get onto social media sites faster than the blink of an eye.

Sven Rasmussen
The sooner the upgrade begins, the more prepared an agency will be to handle the Wi-Fi 7 devices instantly when they arrive.”

Sven Rasmussen Federal Network Practice Lead, CDW•G

Wi-Fi 7 Products Are On Their Way, So Be Prepared

Currently, the most popular consumer devices — smartphones, tablets and notebooks — are manufactured with the latest wireless technology, which means that they are often Wi-Fi 6E compatible. And products not generally thought of as wireless devices also have Wi-Fi; your programmable coffee maker or CPAP machine may need a push to upgrade its firmware, for example.

In a business setting — whether in a home office where each family member is using a device or in an office with hundreds of workers connecting at once — these devices will compete for bandwidth, and that’s where Wi-Fi 7 shows its usefulness.



Some consumer-oriented Wi-Fi 7 items are already appearing on the market, mostly routers and access points. It’s expected that big networking manufacturers such as Cisco, Aruba and Juniper Networks will come out with Wi-Fi 7 access points in 2024, once the standard is ratified.

Today’s Wi-Fi 6E devices are backward-compatible with Wi-Fi 6 and will also continue to work on Wi-Fi 7 networks. But they won’t be able to take advantage of the extra speed and bandwidth that Wi-Fi 7 will provide, which is why planning for another upgrade should be on an agency’s to-do list. Adopting the new standard means a fundamental restructuring of the network.

Consider Asking for Third-Party Assistance with Wi-Fi Upgrades

The scope of any upgrade to Wi-Fi 7 will be based on the number of users and devices on the network and how it’s used. Business-critical applications such as online videoconferencing applications will take more bandwidth than simple functions such as email, for instance. Upgrades will include multigigabit Ethernet switches that allow connections to the wireless access point.

Integrators such as CDW•G can help with a survey of a wireless network environment as part of the planning process. They can conduct site surveys to determine how many access points agencies need for specific locations, and where the best spots for those access points may be.

LEARN MORE: What do Wi-Fi changes mean for your agency?

After that, they’ll be able to help figure out just how many new switches will be needed. The planning process can take between six and 12 months in many cases. These outside partners can also assist in the switch over to the new network, and often stick around for first-day support to make sure everything’s working OK.

Even though Wi-Fi 7 has not been certified yet, it’s smart to start thinking about the upgrade now — mostly for financial reasons. It’s less expensive over time to do incremental upgrades rather than waiting until the last minute and spending all the money at once. And the sooner the upgrade begins, the more prepared an agency will be to handle Wi-Fi 7 devices when they arrive.

This article is part of FedTech’s CapITal blog series.

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