On our way to WiFi 6E...

Etienne DETRIE (UK)
28 Jan 2021
Ahead of the CES 2020 opening, Wi-Fi Alliance announced the new name for its latest technology: Wi-Fi 6E (extended). A year later, WiFi 6E certifications are launched. Let's take a look at what this technology, described as a "game changer", will bring to the market!

WiFi 6E: the WiFi highway?

WiFi 6E uses WiFi on a new frequency band, the 6 GHz band. Those who are already familiar with WiFi will know that since the introduction of the WiFi 4 standard, WiFi can operate on 2 free frequency bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. However, the rise of streaming and connected objects in recent years has caused saturation in the frequencies, calling into question the theoretical speed of WiFi compared to the actual speed observed. If WiFi 6 and its theoretical speeds of +40% compared to WiFi 5 will bring a number of improvements, it is indeed the opening of the new frequency that could permanently change the way we browse.
This is why the arrival of WiFi 6E is a highly anticipated technological advancement: "it is the most monumental decision in its history concerning the Wi-Fi spectrum, in 20 years", specifies Kevin Robinson, marketing director of Wi-Fi Alliance.

As this innovation is based entirely on the opening of a new band of frequencies, let's go over the different radio frequencies. They are part of our daily lives and give way to information distribution and communication services: mobile telephones, radio, Internet of Things, WiFi, etc.
Things to remember :
  • The frequency of a wave is expressed in Hertz (Hz). It defines the number of oscillations per second (1 Hz = 1 oscillation per second). So the higher the frequency, the more oscillations per second, so the better the data transmission capacity. In other words, the higher the frequency, the better the bit rate.
  • The frequency has an impact on the wavelength (distance between each oscillation). The higher the frequency, the shorter the wavelength. In other words, the higher the frequency, the poorer the distance range and penetration into a building.

Concrete advances

WiFi 6E will allow compatible devices to take advantage of the new frequency band offered to WiFi 6 technology, that of 6 GHz, with a bandwidth of 1200 MHz. Thus the space available for WiFi will be multiplied by 3, a real revolution with the following advantages:
  1. Better latency for the benefit of real-time services such as virtual, augmented reality or e-sport.
  2. Wider channels to streamline the most bandwidth-intensive applications (4K, 8K, etc.).
  3. More space available to allow very (very very) high density of use (offices, stadiums, convention centers), avoiding all forms of congestion and interference.
This last point is the most incredible. Working with proportions: when the 2.4 GHz band was the only available option, we all lived in 60m2. With the 5 GHz band, we moved into a 450m2 loft but with the 6 GHz, we are moving into a gigantic 1200m2 house!



Enough to welcome a spectacular increase in all WiFi uses and equipment, probably even those that we have not yet invented.


How fast will WiFi 6E be adopted?

The WiFi-Alliance revealed its certification program on the 7th of January, which ensures the interoperability of devices operating in the 6 GHz spectrum. Following the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to open 1200 MHz of 6 GHz spectrum for WiFi in the US, other nations such as UK, Europe, Chile, South Korea and United Arab Emirates have made the decision to also open this strip. In the UK, operability should be formalised in the spring.

Several manufacturers have also taken advantage of CES 2021 to announce the first Wi-Fi 6E compatible routers . The question now is, when will the equipment be released to the market in Europe? With the life cycle of consumer devices still being quite short, we assume that by 2022 more than 50% of the terminals used will be WiFi 6 compatible. But, according to the research firm IDC, WiFi 6E will only affect 20% of these devices.