Wi-Fi simply obtained an unlimited improve. So what’s Wi-Fi 6E, anyway?

Wi-Fi simply obtained an unlimited improve. So what’s Wi-Fi 6E, anyway?


The Wi-Fi Alliance wants you to look for the Wi-Fi 6 logo.

Wi-Fi 6 is barely a toddler — now, Wi-Fi 6E is ready to present the speedy customary an unique and large swath of bandwidth.


Stephen Shankland/CNET

Pace is vital with Wi-Fi, and the class has definitely been transferring quick as of late. First got here Wi-Fi 6, a model new, quicker model of Wi-Fi that beginning hitting the market in 2019. Now, after a unanimous vote on Thursday, the Federal Communications Fee is opening up a whole new band of spectrum to accommodate next-gen units designed to faucet into it. 

The Wi-Fi Alliance, an business group that manages Wi-Fi nomenclature, branded this new spectrum and the units that may benefit from it beneath a brand new title: Wi-Fi 6E. The primary such units are anticipated to start hitting shops by the tip of this 12 months.

In different phrases, it has been a really busy couple of years for Wi-Fi — and the arrival of Wi-Fi 6E is likely to be essentially the most vital improvement but. Here is some context that can assist you wrap your head round it. 

Let’s discuss 6GHz

Final 12 months, I wrote a put up about Wi-Fi 6 that explains the brand new capabilities it brings to next-gen routers. In a nutshell, it is a quicker, extra environment friendly model of Wi-Fi that enables wi-fi entry factors like routers to raised handle networks crowded with plenty of customers and consumer units. My convoluted metaphor for all of that was a four-armed bartender able to effectively serving drinks to a number of patrons without delay.

Enter Wi-Fi 6E. It is not a brand new model of Wi-Fi like Wi-Fi 6, however quite, a time period that identifies Wi-Fi 6 units which can be geared up with the chips and radios wanted to function in that new mass of spectrum the FCC simply opened up.

That spectrum sits within the 6GHz band, a band that wasn’t beforehand allotted for unlicensed Wi-Fi use like the two.four and 5GHz bands already have been. So what’s so nice about 6GHz?

All about bandwidth

To illustrate that you have a gallon of milk sitting in your kitchen counter, and that the milk represents the whole spectrum of radio frequencies. You’re taking a needle, jab it into the aspect of the carton, after which pull it out. A really skinny stream of milk begins to jet out a number of ft. Then, you are taking one thing a bit thicker, like a nail, and poke one other gap into the aspect of the container. Extra milk shoots out this time as a result of the outlet is a bit wider — however it would not go as far.

You’ll be able to consider these two holes as the two.four and 5GHz bands. With a frequency vary of simply 70MHz, the two.4GHz band is the narrower of the 2. Just like the needle-poked gap taking pictures milk throughout your kitchen, it may possibly ship knowledge at an inexpensive distance, however with such a small opening, there is a restrict to how a lot it may possibly ship. With 500MHz of bandwidth, the 5GHz band represents a bigger-sized gap within the milk carton. It may ship extra knowledge without delay — however it may possibly’t ship it fairly as far.

That brings us to Wi-Fi 6E’s 6GHz band and its 1,200MHz of further bandwidth. It is such as you’ve punched a gap within the milk carton the scale of 1 / 4. Tons of milk comes gushing out, however it gushes downward and would not journey very far in any respect.

The takeaway is that the 6GHz band can be finest fitted to short-range connections, ideally between units which can be in the identical room as each other. In conditions like that, the 2 units ought to have the ability to move big quantities of knowledge backwards and forwards with the complete effectivity of Wi-Fi 6.

Excessive Networks’ Perry Correll, who sits on each the IEEE 11ax and Wi-Fi Alliance Wi-Fi 6 activity teams, means that the quick vary of the 6GHz band and its better variety of channels is definitely “an incredible benefit” in dense, difficult environments like transportation hubs, residence items, sports activities arenas and enterprise complexes.

“In the event you’re sitting in a packed stadium with 70,000 different individuals, the arrival of Wi-Fi 6E means you are not going to be competing for bandwidth in the identical approach you used to,” Correll says. “Will probably be considerably simpler to stream the occasion to mates, order concessions through app, and even to seek out out which lavatory has the shortest strains.”

Wi-Fi’s VIP part

“AR/VR and gaming is one other nice use case for the 6GHz band,” Correll says. “Many do not notice the high-end VR units that require essentially the most bandwidth are literally tethered with cables. With Wi-Fi 6E, you not solely get extra bandwidth however cleaner bandwidth — that means it is ready to wirelessly present the upper knowledge charges required together with true mobility.”  

Wi-Fi 6 is admittedly the important thing to that cleaner bandwidth, as a result of there will not be any earlier-gen Wi-Fi units which can be able to tapping into the 6GHz band. That implies that Wi-Fi 6E units will not have to fret about older devices slowing them down.

Let’s return to that analogy I sketched out earlier. If Wi-Fi 6 is a greater bartender that may serve plenty of drinks without delay, then Wi-Fi 6E is the bar itself — and it is an unique, members-only type of joint. The one patrons ordering cocktails are Wi-Fi 6E patrons which can be able to being there, and all of them help Wi-Fi 6. 

In different phrases, no person’s casting any bizarre, confused appears on the four-armed bartender as he fingers out drinks, as a result of they’ve all obtained 4 arms, too. It is not as crowded or as noisy as different bars, and everybody’s geared up to take full benefit of the bartender’s capabilities. It is the quickest, most effective nightlife on the town.

asus-zenwifi-ax-1

As we speak’s Wi-Fi 6 routers, just like the Asus ZenWifi AX mesh system seen right here, are a few of the most superior in the marketplace — however they will not have the ability to entry the 6GHz band in any respect. Routers that may ought to start arriving on the finish of 2020.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

However will I would like (one other) new router?

There’s the rub. Like that metaphorical bar’s exclusivity would possibly counsel, you will must be a member with a purpose to enter. Particularly, you will want Wi-Fi 6E units geared up with new chipsets constructed to ship alerts within the 6GHz band.

Translation? Sure, you will want a brand new router — and new consumer units like telephones and laptops — with a purpose to get pleasure from the advantages of Wi-Fi 6E.

“We’re anticipating the primary set of units to return to market within the second half of this 12 months,” stated Vijay Nagarajan, vice chairman of selling for Broadcom’s wi-fi communications and connectivity division. “You will see a complete slew of units, each on the infrastructure aspect and on the consumer aspect, and far more in a way more accelerated method in 2021.”


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That is most likely irritating for anybody who jumped in early and purchased a brand new Wi-Fi 6 router within the final 12 months, however do not be too arduous on your self. It is nonetheless very early for Wi-Fi 6E, and the rollout will take a while. Wi-Fi 6 solely not too long ago penetrated the mainstream with public deployments and help from high-profile units just like the iPhone SE and the Samsung Galaxy S10. Units like those who help Wi-Fi 6E may not change into broadly accessible till 2021.

In different phrases, that Wi-Fi 6 router that you simply purchased on Black Friday will proceed to be a top-of-the line entry level for an additional 12 months or so, and it’ll proceed to be an excellent router after that because of all the pieces that Wi-Fi 6 brings to the desk. In reality, ready to improve till Wi-Fi 6E is extra broadly applied and polished is likely to be the very best method.

As on your consumer units — these telephones and laptops — your older-gen Wi-Fi devices will nonetheless work with routers that help Wi-Fi 6E, as a result of Wi-Fi 6 is absolutely backwards appropriate with earlier variations of Wi-Fi. They simply will not have the ability to function in that unique 6GHz band.



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