What is Wi-Fi 7, introduced in France by Free?

Innovation will be integrated into Free’s new internet box, the Freebox Ultra, presented on Tuesday.


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Xavier Niel, CEO of Iliad, the parent company of Free, in 2019. Free is the only French operator to offer Wi-Fi 7 in its new box announced on January 30, 2024. (VINCENT ISORE / MAXPPP)

A new generation intelligent Wi-Fi offering, notably, better throughput. This is how one could characterize “Wi-Fi 7”. The Wi-Fi Alliance, a consortium that brings together industry players to work on Wi-Fi, officially certified it on January 8. In France, the Freebox Ultra, presented on Tuesday, January 30 by Xavier Niel, is the only internet box to offer this innovation. Throughput, usage, equipment… Franceinfo details the innovations of Wi-Fi 7 with Julien Lausson, journalist at Numerama, specialist in new technologies.

A five times faster throughput

“Wi-Fi 7 is a new generation of the famous wireless communication standard”, indicates Julien Lausson. Up to now, Wi-Fi 6 and its extension Wi-Fi 6E were the most recent versions. “Wi-Fi 7 is about five times faster than Wi-Fi 6, emphasizes the journalist, this will result in higher throughputs, as well as lower latency.”

In detail, Wi-Fi relies on radio waves and is devoted to three frequency bands, 2.45 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz. Since these radio waves are a limited resource, the Wi-Fi network can sometimes be congested when too many people connect at the same time. With Wi-Fi 7, the traffic is streamlined. According to Julien Lausson, one can also make this analogy: “Wi-Fi 7 is like a road, with an intelligently distributed car capacity on three lanes. It’s an optimized management of the data traffic flowing on three frequency bands.”

Uses in home automation, but especially professional

Wi-Fi 7 will be interesting for “very data-intensive uses”, analyzes Julien Lausson. For example, for ultra-high definition video or for home automation, i.e. the connected home. But “for the general public, it’s not going to be a revolution compared to what Wi-Fi already allows today”, says the journalist.

The advancements enabled by Wi-Fi 7, in terms of throughput and latency “will be more interesting for professionals”, continues Julien Lausson. The Wi-Fi Alliance envisions industrial applications, in 3D, in connected medicine, “for remote surgical interventions performed with the help of a robot, for example, cites the journalist. “It’s still difficult to imagine all that Wi-Fi 7 will enable, because for the moment, it’s not concrete. Knowing that, in addition, the devices themselves need to be compatible.”

Still few compatible devices

“The only box that is currently compatible with Wi-Fi 7 is the Freebox Ultra that Free presented on Tuesday, January 30. On the smartphone side, the only phone that is compatible is at Samsung, with the very recent Galaxy S24 Ultra”, indicates Julien Lausson. According to him, “it will take several months before there is a very extensive ecosystem” because installing Wi-Fi 7 chips in devices and waiting for people to renew their devices will take time.

The Wi-Fi Alliance estimates that 230 million devices will be compatible with Wi-Fi 7 in 2024 and that there will be more than two billion compatible devices in 2028. In France, other operators should not join Free soon because Orange, Bouygues, and SFR recently renewed their boxes. For them, “Wi-Fi 7 could arrive around 2025-2026”, according to Julien Lausson. Meanwhile, Wi-Fi 7 is “backward compatible”, meaning it works with devices from previous generations.

An advancement that is not revolutionary

For the specialist in new technologies, Wi-Fi 7 “is a good thing, in the long run, for people who will have compatible equipment to take advantage of it, not only the box but also the receiving equipment: computer, smartphone, etc. This can open up new uses, but people still need to embrace it.”

Especially, according to the journalist, “this shows that box manufacturers, like operators, are increasingly struggling to find breakthrough innovations. Since what is announced there is simply a new generation of wireless connection that has many merits, but is not revolutionary, it doesn’t really change the game or the usage. We are talking about higher throughputs and lower latency, better management of the connection on a daily basis. But that’s about it”, concludes Julien Lausson.

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