Wi-Fi 6E, a Major Upgrade in Wi-Fi Technology
Technology is inevitable in our everyday lives. This is because life without technology is pointless in today’s dynamic world. From making huge tasks simpler to making life easier, technology is playing a very important role in our world. One such technology is the Wi-Fi tech. The IEEE 802.11 standard for wireless local area networking (WLAN), commercially known as Wi-Fi, has become a necessity in our day-to-day life. Over a billion Wi-Fi access points connect close to hundred billion of IoT devices, smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, smart TVs, video cameras, monitors, printers, and other consumer devices to the internet to enable millions of applications to reach everyone, everywhere.
Indeed, Wi-Fi is one of the necessities in today’s world, and like every other technology, it is imperative that Wi-Fi technology deserved an upgrade. Well, it’s a piece of good news that the same is going to happen, very soon. Wi-Fi technology is going to have a whole new definition in the coming days. The Federal Communications Commission is expected to release a plot of spectrum in the 6GHz band for unlicensed use. This is the biggest spectrum addition since the FCC cleared the way for Wi-Fi in 1989.
Starting from 1997, when it was initially made available to consumers across the world, the first Wi-Fi standard was introduced as Wi-Fi 802.11. Which evolved to 802.11b (1999), 802.11a (1999), 802.11g (2003), 802.11n (2008), 802.11ac (2014), 802.11ad (2019) and 802.11ax (2019). The 802.11ax standard is also known as Wi-Fi 6 technology. The Wi-Fi 6 tech became live in the year 2019, and the Wi-Fi Alliance (the industry-wide group that oversees Wi-Fi) started Wi-Fi 6 certification program. But just when consumers were starting to get familiar with Wi-Fi 6, the Alliance announced a new Wi-Fi standard, the Wi-Fi 6E, at CES 2020. Now, recently the Wi-Fi Alliance has started certifying the first wave of products with support for Wi-Fi 6E. Going by the terminology, Wi-Fi 6E might appear to be an incremental update to Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) before Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be) is ready for deployment, but the new standard, in fact, represents a major change. Wi-Fi 6E is about opening up of 6GHz band for Wi-Fi, something Broadcom addresses as “the most disruptive boon for Wi-Fi users in the last twenty years”.
What are the changes?
Unlike the previous generations of Wi-Fi standards, Wi-Fi 6 is inclined more towards improving Wi-Fi stability in congested environments. While there are improvements in peak download or upload speeds, the primary purpose is to provide a reliable internet connection to a larger number of connected devices. The number of connected devices in modern homes has exponentially increased and IDC projects this number to increase to over 1.3 Billion in the next couple of years. This presents a challenge that Wi-Fi 6 tackled using techniques like 1024QAM and OFDMA. Without going into technical detail, the idea is to have more simultaneous connections, to use the available bands in a more efficient manner, and to reduce power consumption. However, over-congestion in the 2GHz to 5GHz spectrum has resulted in a spectrum shortage for Wi-Fi 6 to realize its full potential. And this is a problem Wi-Fi 6E addresses. Another factor is Wi-Fi 6E essentially brings Wi-Fi 6 to 6GHz band. Which means the devices that are capable of supporting Wi-Fi 6 in the 6GHz band will be labelled as Wi-Fi 6E devices. We could see Wi-Fi 6E being marketed as triple-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz, 5GHz, 6GHz). In terms of security, it utilizes certification from cutting-edge WPA3 security that continually evolves to address market needs. The technology has been updated to accommodate support for an even more robust password generation, mitigate additional attacks, and further protect and maintain privacy on Wi-Fi networks.
Potential of Wi-Fi 6E
The technology is expected to improve the wireless experience dramatically. Wi-Fi 6E unlocks the full Wi-Fi 6 feature set to create the next generation of wireless communications and networking. Up to 1.2 GHz of new Wi-Fi spectrum will be allocated in the 6 GHz band, which can support up to seven 160 MHz channels. This increase in spectrum bandwidth empowers the newest generation of Wi-Fi 6E devices to achieve faster speed, lower latency and higher capacity. It will further bring significant improvements in throughput and remarkably improve Wi-Fi latency for close-range communications. This will make it fit for a number of demanding applications and use cases like multi-gigabit Wi-Fi venue capacity, low-latency Wi-Fi calling, better 4K and 8K streaming in mobile devices and TVs, high-speed tethering, next-gen experiences with AR/VR applications, smoother real-time gaming, low-latency car connectivity and whole-home gigabit coverage. Wi-Fi 6E will also disrupt the industrial IoT, father it is also required for data offload from 5G Networks
As FCC has voted to free 6GHz band in the USA, paving way for Wi-Fi 6E in the country, Europe and Asia still haven’t freed up the band for unlicensed usage. Once the standard gets regulatory approval, time to market won’t be much as upgrading from Wi-Fi 6 to Wi-Fi 6E doesn’t involve major changes for Wi-Fi vendors. At CES 2020, Broadcom even presented an SoC that would enable Wi-Fi 6E on next-gen routers. In India, Wi-Fi 6E deployment could take many more months, but it is definite that when the technology hits the floor, it will disrupt the connectivity realm of India.