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Wi-Fi 6 is the fastest standard to date. Wi-Fi 6E makes it even better

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

Wi-Fi 6 is hardly a child – now Wi-Fi 6E is set to give the fast standard an exclusive and massive bandwidth.

Stephen Shankland / CNET

Speed ​​is the key with Wi-Fi, and the category has gone really fast so late. First came Wi-Fi 6, a whole new, faster version of Wi-Fi which began to knock out the market in 2019. Now, after a unanimous vote In April, the Federal Communications Commission will open a completely new spectrum band to accommodate next-generation devices designed to take advantage of it. Devices as they are already on the way at the end of this year.

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Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group that handles the Wi-Fi nomenclature, noticed this new spectrum and the devices that can benefit from it under a new name: Wi-Fi 6E. An industry-funded report claims that the move will generate together with faster speeds and new space for growing internet traffic more than $ 180 billion in U.S. revenue over the next five years.

The rest of the world may be preparing to follow suit. First and foremost is the United Kingdom, where regulators at Ofcom set up the country’s own plan to expand Wi-Fi to the 6 GHz band.

In other words, it’s been a hectic couple of years for Wi-Fi – and the arrival of Wi-Fi 6E may be the most important development so far. Here’s a context that will help you wrap your head around it.

Let’s talk 6 GHz

Last year I wrote a post about Wi-Fi 6 it explains the new features it provides to next generation routers. In a nutshell, it’s a faster and more efficient version of Wi-Fi that enables wireless access points that routers to better manage networks crowded with many users and client devices. My involved metaphor for all of this was to imagine your router as a bartender, and the devices in your network as the people trying to order drinks. A Wi-Fi 6 router is like a four-armed bartender who can efficiently serve drinks to several customers at the same time.

Enter Wi-Fi 6E. It is not a new version of Wi-Fi like Wi-Fi 6, but rather a term that identifies Wi-Fi 6 devices equipped with chips and radios needed to operate in the new mass of spectrum that the FCC just opened up. If a Wi-Fi 6 router is a better bartender, a Wi-Fi 6E router is a better bartender with a brand new bar, one with an exclusive customer list and plenty of room to work.

The new spectrum is in the 6 GHz band, a band not previously assigned for unlicensed Wi-Fi use as the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands already were. So what’s so great about 6 GHz?

All about bandwidth

Time for another metaphor!

Let’s say you have a liter of milk sitting on your kitchen counter that represents the full spectrum of radio frequencies. You take a needle, pull it into the side of the box and pull it out. A very thin stream of milk begins to radiate several feet. Then take something a little thicker, like a nail, and insert another hole in the side of the container. More milk shoots out this time because the hole is wider – but it does not go that far.

You can think of the 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 pinhole that pushes milk over your kitchen, it can send data at a reasonable distance, but with such a small opening, there is a limit to how much it can send. With 500 MHz bandwidth, the 5 GHz band represents a larger hole in the milk carton. It can send more data at once – but it can not send it as far.

That brings us to the Wi-Fi 6E’s 6 GHz band and its 1,200 MHz extra bandwidth. It’s like you’re punching a hole in the milk carton at a quarter. Lots of milk flows out, but it flows down and does not travel far at all.

The takeaway is that the 6 GHz band will be best suited for close connections, preferably between devices that are in the same room as each other. In such situations, the two devices should be able to send huge amounts of data back and forth with the full efficiency of Wi-Fi 6. We look forward to testing connections like them (and their range limitations) by the end of this year, when Wi-Fi 6E-compatible routers begin to arrive.

Extreme Networks’ Perry Correll, who sits on both the IEEE 11ax and Wi-Fi Alliance Wi-Fi 6 taskgroups, suggests that the short range of the 6 GHz band and its larger number of channels is actually “a huge advantage” in dense, challenging environments such as transport hubs, apartment units, sports arenas and business complexes.

“If you’re sitting in a crowded stadium with 70,000 other people, the arrival of Wi-Fi 6E means you’re not competing for bandwidth the way you used to,” says Correll. “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.”

Wi-Fi VIP section

“AR / VR and games are another good use case for the 6 GHz band,” says Correll. “Many do not realize advanced VR sets which require the most bandwidth are actually tied with cables. With Wi-Fi 6E, you not only get more bandwidth but cleaner bandwidth – which means it can wirelessly provide the higher data speeds required along with real mobility. “

Wi-Fi 6 is really the key to the cleaner bandwidth, as there are no previous generation Wi-Fi devices that can take advantage of the 6 GHz band. This means that Wi-Fi 6E networks do not have any older generation devices that act as weak links in the chain.

Let’s go back to the analogy I sketched earlier. Like I said, if Wi-Fi 6 makes your router a better bartender who can efficiently serve many customers at once, then Wi-Fi 6E is the bar itself – and it’s an exclusive, common type of joint. The only patrons who order cocktails are Wi-Fi 6E patrons who can be there, and all support Wi-Fi 6.

In other words, no one casts a strange, confused look at the four-armed bartender when he hands out drinks, because they also have all four arms. It’s not as crowded or as noisy as other bars, and everyone is equipped to take full advantage of the bartender’s abilities. It is the fastest and most efficient nightlife in the city.


The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 is the first router we’ve seen supporting Wi-Fi 6E, and it’s scheduled to hit stores in December.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

So I need (another) new router?

It’s rubbing. As the exclusivity of the metaphorical bar may suggest, you must be a member to enter. Specifically, you need Wi-Fi 6E devices equipped with new chipsets built to send signals in the 6 GHz band.

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 set of devices to hit the market in the second half of this year,” said Vijay Nagarajan, vice president of marketing for Broadcom’s wireless communications and connectivity division. “You’ll see a whole lot of devices, both on the infrastructure side and on the client side, and much more in a much faster way in 2021.”

We have already seen a new router – Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 game router – which supports Wi-Fi 6E. It will hit stores in December.

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It’s probably frustrating for anyone who jumped in early and bought a new Wi-Fi 6 router over the past year, but don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s still very early for Wi-Fi 6E, and the launch takes some time. Wi-Fi 6 recently penetrated the mainstream with public distributions and support from high-profile devices such as iPhone SE and that Samsung Galaxy S10. Devices like those that support Wi-Fi 6E are just starting to appear on the radar. For example, new gaming phones will come later this year from Asus and Lenovo will use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 Plus processor, which supports Wi-Fi 6E. They will be among the first Wi-Fi 6E devices on the market, but most will not arrive until 2021.

In other words, the Wi-Fi 6 router you bought on Black Friday will continue to be a top access point for another year or so, and it will continue to be a very good router after that, thanks to all the Wi-Fi Fi 6 gives to the table. In fact, the best way to wait is to upgrade until Wi-Fi 6E is more implemented and polished. At that time, we will get a better idea of ​​the type of users who benefit most from the upgrade, and they will also find it easier to find a good deal.

More good news: Your older Wi-Fi gadgets still work with routers that support Wi-Fi 6E, as Wi-Fi 6 is fully backward compatible with earlier versions of Wi-Fi. They just can not work in the exclusive 6 GHz band.

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