More people are using Wi-Fi for streaming video, playing online games, and making video chats than ever before, which places a heavy burden on the infrastructure supporting these activities. How does Wi-Fi 6E fit in with the current Wi-Fi 6 standard, which provides numerous improvements over previous versions, including faster and more dependable access?
Wi-Fi 6E refers to equipment that uses the newly available 6-gigahertz (GHz) band of unlicensed radio airwaves. Our Wi-Fi has previously only supported the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. The Wi-Fi 6 standard includes several upgrades meant to boost your network’s performance across both bands, as well as decrease latency. These enhancements are now available in the 6-GHz band thanks to Wi-Fi 6E. Let’s take a closer look at that, shall we?
Explanation of Wi-Fi 6E
With Wi-Fi 6E, the advantages of Wi-Fi 6 in terms of throughput, efficiency, range, and performance can be enjoyed in the 6-GHz spectrum as well. Wi-Fi 6E devices, according to Wi-Fi Alliance senior VP of marketing Kevin Robinson, “provide higher network performance and support more Wi-Fi users at once, even in very busy and congested environments” due to the addition of up to seven additional super-wide 160-MHz channels.
The 2.4 GHz band has 11 channels, and each of those channels is 20 megahertz (MHz) in width; the 5 GHz band has 45 channels, but those channels can be combined to make wider ones (40 MHz or 80 MHz) to carry more data at once; and the 6 GHz band supports 60 channels, the widest of which can be up to 160 MHz.
Think of it as the difference between a single-track road (2.4 GHz) and a three-lane motorway (5 GHz) and a six-lane expressway (6 GHz) in terms of capacity. This comparison also holds true in terms of coverage, as higher frequencies have a harder time penetrating solid walls and floors.
Guidelines for Rebranding
While the IEEE sets Wi-Fi standards, the Wi-Fi Alliance certifies them; the Wi-Fi Alliance presently has 866 member companies, including Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony, and many more; this has led to a lot of confusion in the past.
The Wi-Fi Alliance decided (rightly) that it would be simpler for the public to understand if the standard known as IEEE 802.11ax were renamed Wi-Fi 6. This decision effectively makes the IEEE 802.11ac standard Wi-Fi 5, the IEEE 802.11 standard Wi-Fi 4, and so on.
Oracle Park is updating their Wi-Fi to 6E speeds which I totally didn’t understand until this visual of upgrading from Bengie Molina to The Freeze pic.twitter.com/9hgsZp93lR
— Carmen Kiew (@carmenkiew) March 23, 2023
One example is the introduction of MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output) technology in Wi-Fi 4 that allows for multiple simultaneous transmissions to and from a device, and the improvement of this technology with the introduction of MU-MIMO (MU stands for multi-user) in the second wave of Wi-Fi 5 products, which allows multiple devices to connect simultaneously to send and receive data.
Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E share the same set of enhancements and technologies; the difference lies in the availability of the 6-GHz band. “with the density of Wi-Fi devices and neighboring networks increasing dramatically, Wi-Fi 6E provides pristine spectrum to maintain a great user experience,” says Robinson.
How Important Is Wi-Fi 6E?
Buying a Wi-Fi 6 router brings all the benefits we’ve discussed and a few we haven’t, such as improved security through WPA3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 3) and decreased battery drain, courtesy of TWT. There are many other ways to make your Wi-Fi faster, but buying a Wi-Fi 6 router is an important one (Target Wake Time).
We’ve already mentioned the shorter range, but the other big problem with Wi-Fi 6E is that it requires new hardware, and it’s expensive right now. Only routers and devices with Wi-Fi 6E support can operate on this newly opened 6-GHz band; existing Wi-Fi 6 routers and any older devices cannot and will never be able to.
There are currently a few Wi-Fi 6E routers on the market, such as the $400 Netgear Nighthawk RAXE300 (7/10, WIRED Recommends), as well as mesh systems, such as the TP-Link Deco XE75 (two-pack is $300), Motorola Q14 (two-pack is $430), and Google’s Nest Wifi Pro (7/10, WIRED Recommends) (two-pack is $300).
In our tests, we found that Wi-Fi 6E can provide some of the fastest speeds we’ve seen at very low latency, but its range is noticeably less than that of the 5-GHz band. 6 GHz works beautifully with a clear line of sight to the router or node, but once there’s a wall or ceiling in the way, you’ll probably fall back to 5 GHz.
Keep in mind that you’ll need Wi-Fi 6E devices in order to take advantage of these speeds. While most modern high-end Android phones, laptops, and TVs support Wi-Fi 6E, this technology is far from ubiquitous. The iPhone 14 series, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X, for example, don’t support Wi-Fi 6 at all.
Most consumers don’t need anything faster than Wi-Fi 6, but since all of these standards are backward compatible, a Wi-Fi 6E system is a good investment if you’re in the market for a new router.
If you want WPA3 security and compatibility with other home devices, adds Robinson, and look for the “Wi-Fi Certified” logo on the box.
WiFi 6E’s Benefits
In addition to the aforementioned bandwidth and security benefits, the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Wi-Fi 6E task group claims that the use of the 6 GHz bands inside Wi-Fi 6E will make it easier for users to connect to the internet in congested areas such as stadiums, office buildings, and apartment complexes.
You and your housemates or immediate neighbors won’t have to share your Internet connection.
Problems with Wi-Fi 6E
Wi-Fi 6E does have some drawbacks, the most significant of which is probably the fact that it will necessitate users to have an upgraded and possibly more expensive router. Additionally, users will need devices that are capable of accessing its 6 GHz band, of which not many devices are currently capable.
The spectrum’s lower wavelengths compared to older Wi-Fi standards also mean that its range won’t be as long, and it may have trouble passing through physical obstacles, so you may need to utilize Wi-Fi extenders or repeaters within your home or business.
Steps to Get Wi-Fi 6E
There are now Wi-Fi 6E routers on the market from companies like Netgear, Asus, Cisco, and TP-Link, and they are compatible with all Wi-Fi 6 devices. These devices include the Samsung Galaxy S10 and later Galaxy models, the iPhone 11, 12, and SE, and several laptops.
To ensure compatibility with older devices that may not be able to make use of the additional high-speed 6 GHz band, all Wi-Fi 6E routers are also backward compatible with earlier Wi-Fi standards.
However, the widespread adoption of Wi-Fi 6E will take some time, so your present router won’t be obsolete overnight.
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