When it comes to Wi-Fi, speed is key, and the category has certainly grown rapidly lately. First came, Brand new, that came on the market in 2019. Now, after In April, the Federal Communications Commission opened an entirely new frequency band for next-generation devices designed to use it. Devices like this are by the end of this year.
The Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group that manages Wi-Fi nomenclature, has rebranded this new spectrum and the devices that can use it under a new name:. An industry-funded report claims the move will not only provide faster speeds and new space for growing internet traffic, but it will also generate more in the next five years.
The rest of the world could prepare to follow suit. First up is the UK, where Ofcom’s regulators set out the country’s own plan to extend Wi-Fi to the 6 GHz band.
In other words, it’s been a busy couple of years for Wi-Fi – and the arrival of Wi-Fi 6E could be its most significant development yet. Here is a context to help you wrap your head around it.
Let’s talk about 6 GHz
I wrote last yearThis explains the new features that next-generation routers are getting. In short, it’s a faster, more efficient version of Wi-Fi that allows wireless access points such as routers to better manage networks with many users and client devices. My convoluted metaphor for all of this has been to think of your router as the bartender and the devices on your network as the people trying to order drinks. A Wi-Fi 6 router is like a four-armed bartender who is able to efficiently serve drinks to multiple customers at the same time.
Enter Wi-Fi 6E. It is not a new version of Wi-Fi like Wi-Fi 6, but a term that denotes Wi-Fi 6 devices equipped with the chips and radios necessary to operate in this new mass of Frequencies are required that the FCC has just opened. If a Wi-Fi 6 router is a better bartender, then a Wi-Fi 6E router is a better bartender with a brand new bar, one with an exclusive client list, and plenty of space to work.
This new spectrum is in the 6 GHz band, a band that was not previously intended for unlicensed Wi-Fi use, as was the case with the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. So what’s so great about 6 GHz?
Everything about bandwidth
Time for another metaphor!
Let’s say you have a gallon of milk on your kitchen counter that is the full spectrum of radio frequencies. You take a needle, stick it in the side of the box, and then pull it out. A very thin stream of milk begins to spurt out several feet. Then you take something thicker, like a nail, and poke another hole in the side of the container. This time more milk shoots out because the hole is wider – but it doesn’t go that far.
You can think of these two holes as the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. With a frequency range of only 70 MHz, the 2.4 GHz band is the narrower of the two. Like the needle-and-hole milk in your kitchen, it can send data at a reasonable distance, but with such a small opening, there is a limit to the amount it can send. With a bandwidth of 500 MHz, the 5 GHz band represents a bigger hole in the milk carton. It can transfer more data at the same time – but not quite as far.
That brings us to the 6 GHz band of Wi-Fi 6E and its additional 1,200 MHz bandwidth. It’s like punching a quarter-size hole in the milk carton. Tons of milk gush out, but it gushes down and doesn’t move very far at all.
The 6 GHz band is best for short-range connections, ideally between devices that are in the same room. In such situations, the two devices should be able to transfer large amounts of data back and forth with the full efficiency of Wi-Fi 6. We look forward to testing connections like this (and their range limits) at the end of this year, Wi-Fi 6E compatible routers hit the market.
Extreme Networks’ Perry Correll, who sits on both the IEEE 11ax and Wi-Fi Alliance Wi-Fi 6 working groups, suggests that the short range of the 6 GHz band and its larger number of channels are indeed ” a huge benefit “in dense form. challenging environments such as transport hubs, residential units, sports arenas and business complexes.
“When you’re in a crowded stadium with 70,000 other people, the arrival of Wi-Fi 6E means you won’t be competing for bandwidth like you used to be,” Correll says. “It will be much easier to stream the event to friends, order concessions via the app or even find out which bathroom has the shortest lines.”
VIP area by Wi-Fi
“AR / VR and gaming are another great use case for the 6 GHz band,” Correll says. “Many don’t notice thatthose that use the most bandwidth are actually connected by cables. With Wi-Fi 6E, you not only get more bandwidth, but also cleaner bandwidth. This means you can wirelessly provide the higher data rates and real mobility you need. ”
Wi-Fi 6 really is the key to that cleaner bandwidth as there aren’t any previous generation Wi-Fi devices that can use the 6 GHz band. This means that in Wi-Fi 6E networks, no older generation devices act as the weak link in the chain.
Let’s go back to the analogy I sketched earlier. As I said earlier, if Wi-Fi 6 makes your router a better bartender that can effectively serve many customers at the same time, then Wi-Fi 6E is the bar itself – and it’s a member-only connection. The only customers who order cocktails are Wi-Fi 6E customers who are able to be there, and they all support Wi-Fi 6.
In other words, no one gives the four-armed bartender a strange, confused look as he hands out drinks because they all have four arms too. It’s not as crowded or noisy as other bars, and each is equipped to take full advantage of the bartender’s skills. It’s the fastest and most efficient nightlife in town.
So do I need (another) new router?
There is the problem. As the exclusivity of this metaphorical bar suggests, you must be a member to participate. In particular, you need Wi-Fi 6E devices withbuilt to send signals in the 6 GHz band. Regular Wi-Fi 6 devices don’t have these chipsets.
Translation? Yes, you need a new router – and new client devices like phones and laptops – to take advantage of Wi-Fi 6E.
“We expect the first devices to hit the market in the second half of the year,” said Vijay Nagarajan, vice president of marketing for Broadcom’s wireless communications and connectivity division. “You will see a whole range of devices, both on the infrastructure side and on the client side, and much faster in 2021.”
We already saw a new router – the one– that provides support for Wi-Fi 6E. This will hit stores in December.
That’s probably frustrating for anyone who jumped in early last year and bought a new WiFi 6 router, but don’t be too hard on yourself. For WiFi 6E, it’s very early and it’s rolling out take some time. Wi-Fi 6 only recently made its way into the mainstream with public deployments and support from high profile devices like thisand the . Devices like the ones that support Wi-Fi 6E are only just beginning to appear on the radar. For example, new gaming phones coming from Asus and Lenovo later this year supports Wi-Fi 6E. They’ll be among the first Wi-Fi 6E devices to hit the market, but most won’t arrive until 2021.
In other words, that Wi-Fi 6 router that you bought on Black Friday will be a top-notch access point for about a year more, and thanks to that, it will continue to be a very good router for everything that Wi-Fi 6 does brings to the table. In fact, the best approach might be to wait for an upgrade until Wi-Fi 6E is more fully implemented and revamped. At this point, we will have a better understanding of the type of users who will benefit the most from the upgrade, and it will also be easier for them to find good deal.
More good news: your older generation Wi-Fi devices will still work with routers that support Wi-Fi 6E as Wi-Fi 6 is fully backward compatible with previous versions of Wi-Fi. You just won’t be able to work in this exclusive 6 GHz band.