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What Is WiFi 6E, And How It Works

WiFi 6E: what is it, and what are the main innovations it introduces? For the first time in 13 years, wireless connectivity gains the new 6 GHz band. It complements the use of the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies.

The WiFi 6 standard (IEEE 802.11 ax) offers better capacity, efficiency, coverage and improved performance compared to previous versions, so more and more “AX” devices are on the market today. 

On paper, WiFi 6 allows you to reach speeds of up to 9.6 Gbps, provided that you have compatible routers and client devices, which are still in short supply. WiFi 6 is optional. In fact, some high-end WiFi 5 routers can offer better performance in real-world use conditions.

WiFi 6E: What It Is And How It Works

The first WiFi 6 devices have just arrived on the market, and there is already talk of WiFi 6E.

Until WiFi 6, wireless devices could only use the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands. The introduction of the 5 GHz bands now dates back to 2009 when the IEEE 802.11n standard was approved. 

For the first time in about 13 years, WiFi 6E introduces a new bar for frequencies on 6 GHz. Compared to the 6 GHz frequency spectrum usable in the United States and other countries (1200 MHz), a smaller, more comprehensive 480 MHz range has been approved in Europe. In another article, we saw the European channels for WiFi 6E.

WiFi 6 must use 160 or at least 80 MHz channels to perform high data transfer. On 5 GHz, a maximum of two 160 MHz channels can be exploited with the obligation for WiFi device manufacturers to use the DFS ( Dynamic Frequency Selection ) mechanism: it is necessary to make sure that no interference is generated with the activity of third-party radars parts (think weather radars).

On the 5 GHz bands, it is impossible to have a 160 MHz channel without using DFS: there are not enough contiguous “non-DFS” subchannels to form a 160 MHz wide channel. Since many older WiFi clients still only use 40MHz or 20MHz channels, you have to juggle compatibility and performance with today’s wireless networks.

As seen in the diagram shared by Broadcom, WiFi 6E – thanks to the introduction of 6 GHz frequencies – allows the use of many more channels (as many as 59 distributed over the 1.2 GHz spectrum), including seven 160 MHz channels and fourteen from 80 MHz. In Europe, however, a maximum of one channel at 320 MHz can be activated, while in other countries outside the borders of the Union, even three can be used. 

Examining the diagram in the figure (source: WiFi Alliance; “WiFi 6E and 6 GHz Update” ), it should be noted that the UNII-5 band is the one that can only be used in European Union countries. With WiFi 6E, however, devices no longer need to use 20, 40 and 80 MHz channels; also, there are no more brief disconnects caused by the DFS management familiar to those living near an airport or weather radar station.

The Disadvantages Of WiFi 6E

First of all, it should be noted that to use the new 6 GHz band. However, it would be best to have new routers and clients: even the latest WiFi 6 routers are not automatically WiFi 6E compatible unless the manufacturer introduces radio modules with integrated support for 6 GHz frequencies. The new functionality could later be activated with a simple firmware update: we are unaware of manufacturers using this approach.

In the future, more and more tri-band (2.4 + 5 + 6 GHz) or quad-band (2.4 GHz + two bands on 5 GHz + 6 GHz) router models compatible with WiFi 6E will be on the market. While on the one hand, data transfer speeds can grow further, on the other hand, the use of 6 GHz with WiFi 6E tends to reduce WiFi network coverage: higher frequencies are more sensitive to the presence of obstacles along the way.

As is well known, 5 GHz wireless networks have less coverage than those on 2.4 GHz while guaranteeing higher performance. The coverage range of a 6 GHz WiFi network drops further, assuming that the signal strength in dBm is that defined by law. Power for WiFi 6E communications cannot exceed 23dBm EIRP indoors (including vehicle hotspots) and 14dBm 

EIRP outdoors.

Therefore, more than 6 GHz may be required even for the backhauling system in WiFi mesh networks or to put the wireless network nodes in direct communication (where possible, it is always better to prepare a backhaul via Ethernet). WiFi 6E will not sweep away previous WiFi standards, let alone surpass the legacy 2.4GHz band usage. WiFi 6E devices, especially routers and mesh systems, are initially prohibitively expensive and will only begin to cost over time. DESCEND.

Looking forward, however, as more and more devices use 6GHz, the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands will be much less congested than they are today. It is suitable to familiarize yourself with WiFi 6E and be aware of its benefits and disadvantages. It is also unnecessary to look at this technology today because there is so much marketing around it. Shortly, it will eventually be possible to choose it carefully by weighing up one’s needs in terms of connectivity.

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