Wi-Fi 6 contains various upgrades that boost wireless performance over Wi-Fi 5. Because Wi-Fi 6E is now fully functional, let’s have a look at its main improvements and how they compare to those of its predecessor.
While Wi-Fi 6 has become the de facto standard for home routers, a new wireless data standard is beginning to gain traction. In 2020, the WiFi 6E standard was released by the Wi-Fi Alliance. Wi-Fi 6E seems to be a little improvement over Wi-Fi 6 based on the name alone. Maybe you’re curious how they compare to one another. We compare and contrast the two, focusing on the key features that set them unique. Please read on.
If 802.11ac is the current wifi standard at your firm, you may be planning an upgrade in the near future. After all, that specification first appeared on the scene in 2013; a lot can happen in five years. For those who are unaware, the IEEE has lately modified the naming pattern that has become standard since the introduction of 802.11 in 1997. Without going too far back in time, we have 802.11g as Wi-Fi 3, 802.11n as Wi-Fi 4, and 802.11ac as Wi-Fi 5. If so, then Wi-Fi 6 would be the next-to-last version before Wi-Fi 7. Not exactly, though. Wi-Fi 6 was introduced in 2019, while Wi-Fi 6e, a technical upgrade to Wi-Fi 6, was released around the end of 2018. So, what’s the distinction, and which one should you use if you’re planning an upgrade?
Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e: What You Need to Know
Both are safer now.
Both specifications share many similarities, and there is little to no difference between them in terms of security. WPA3, which was launched in 2018, is used by both standards. Remember that the Wi-Fi 5 standard has relied on WPA2 since 2004. WPA3 is noticeably more secure against dictionary attacks, which is one of its defining advantages over its predecessor. Using WPA and WPA2, hackers can try thousands of passwords from a list until they find one that works for wireless networks protected with a pre-shared key (PSK). Using the fewest possible characters and failing to adhere to recommended complexity best practices left such networks vulnerable to intrusion.
Mac Studio is only Wi-Fi 6 and BT 5.0. Not Wi-Fi 6E or BT 5.2. Whose Wi-Fi modules are they using these days? Are they relabelling someone elses as their own, or do they actually have their own Wi-Fi IP for this? If the latter, why a step behind?
— 𝐷𝑟. 𝐼𝑎𝑛 𝐶𝑢𝑡𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑠 (@IanCutress) March 9, 2022
WPA3 avoids this by using a new method of authentication called Simultaneous Authentication of Equals in place of Pre-Shared Key (PSK) authentication (SAE). SAE prevents the passphrase from being transmitted during the exchange between Wi-Fi devices, unlike PSK, which allows each device three guesses per authentication cycle. Because of this, a dictionary attack will take much longer to complete. For those already utilizing WPA2 Enterprise, WPA increases the length of the encryption key from 128 bits to 192 for increased security. Of course, superior technology is pointless if you still insist on using passphrases like “password123” or “qwerty.”
Both specifications make use of a feature called opportunistic wireless encryption, which is a huge plus (OWE). It has always been difficult to provide wireless connections to consumers or guests who cannot be verified. Employing PSK to encrypt the connection necessitated communicating the passphrase to the other party, which is rarely straightforward. Open access, while helpful, left your wireless network vulnerable to “man in the middle” attacks. In this scenario, an attacker modifies the four-way handshake of an unencrypted connection to convince users to connect to a fake wireless router. Packet sniffing can also be performed on open WiFi sessions. The advantages of both systems are combined in OWE. It provides the simplicity of a public wireless network while encrypting session traffic with a secret key that the user is not privy to.
Both are superior to Wi-Fi 5 in terms of performance.
Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e provide substantial enhancements over Wi-Fi 5 in terms of speed, performance, and efficiency. Wi-Fi 5 only worked on the 5 GHz bands, therefore 2.4 GHz-only gadgets had to resort to Wi-Fi 4 in order to connect. Although 5 GHz has more data transfer capacity than 2.4 GHz, it only covers a limited area, therefore devices that are further apart must use the lower frequency. Your client devices can pick the best frequency range for them thanks to Wi-Fi 6 and 6e’s support for both 2.4 and 5 GHz. Further advantages of Wi-Fi 6 and 6e over Wi-Fi 5 include the ones listed below.
- Both can achieve throughputs of 9.6 GB, although Wi-Fi 5 can only reach 3.5 GB.
- Both are Target Wake Time (TWT) capable, meaning they can anticipate when they need to wake up to send and receive data and act accordingly. As a result, wireless devices’ battery lives are lengthened and their power consumption is reduced.
- Newer alternatives to Wi-Fi 5 permits up to 30 users to share a single channel, which is an enormous improvement over Wi-Fi 5’s single-user limit.
- Unlike Wi-Fi 5, which only allows four MU-MIMO beams at once, both of these standards support up to eight at once.
In the end, whether you upgrade to 802.11ac or another standard, you’ll see more devices connecting to your access points at higher speeds and with more bandwidth. Then why bother with Wi-Fi 6e?
The game-changing feature that is exclusive to Wi-Fi 6e
Wi-Fi 6e improves upon Wi-Fi 5c by adding compatibility for the 5 GHz bands in addition to the 2.4 GHz band. Only this wireless protocol can operate in the recently opened 6 GHz spectrum. Hence, Wi-Fi 6e equipment can function only inside its designated service area, avoiding interference from the other two crowded frequencies. This ensures that they can function independently of older, potentially disruptive devices that use incompatible legacy protocols. Since Wi-Fi is only used by wireless devices, it is immune to interference from things like microwaves. Wi-fi 6e can be compared to a toll or commuter lane on an interstate, which allows drivers to avoid heavy traffic during peak times. In this scenario, a Wi-Fi 6e wireless client is all that is required.
For modern wireless applications, a new 6GHz spectrum was developed. There are 59 extra 20 MHz channels and 29 extra 40 MHz channels available. Virtual reality applications and high-definition video conferencing sessions benefit greatly from the 4K and 8K streaming made possible by the system’s support for multi-gigabit, low-latency connections. Wi-Fi 6e access points include three radios to support all three frequencies, thus even though 6 GHz can’t travel as far as 2.4 GHz, devices further away can still connect via 2.4 GHz if necessary. WPA3 and OWE are supported by Wi-Fi 6, and they are required for all certified devices operating in the 6 GHz frequency range, so at least some level of security is provided.
This one qualifier
Wi-Fi 6e has a short-term disadvantage, but it’s minor. There are a number of Wi-Fi 6e access points on the market now, but because the standard was just recently introduced, not many devices are compatible with it. Nevertheless, this will soon change, and as Wi-Fi 6e infrastructure devices are compatible with Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 5, and even older devices, you can continue to maintain your present wireless fleet while also getting ready for the future.
Improving your wireless network’s safety and performance by upgrading to the Wi-Fi 6 standard is a good first step, but going all the way to Wi-Fi 6e, which adds 1,200 MHz of available spectrum, will give you the most bang for your buck. Wi-Fi 6e is the best option for anyone wishing to upgrade from Wi-Fi 5 due to its superior performance, increased security, and use of the exclusive 6 GHz frequency range.
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