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Home / Tips and Tricks / Wi-Fi 6E devices can operate in the 6GHz band. This is why it is so important

Wi-Fi 6E devices can operate in the 6GHz band. This is why it is so important

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

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

Stephen Shankland / CNET

2019 brought us a newer, faster version of wifi called 802.11ax, or wifi 6 . Now, after a unanimous vote on Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission opens an all-new spectrum band to accommodate next-gen Wi-Fi 6 devices that can use it. The Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group that manages the Wi-Fi nomenclature, has renamed this new spectrum and the devices that can use it: Wi-Fi 6E .

In other words, it has been a busy few years for Wi-Fi – and the arrival of Wi-Fi 6E is perhaps the most important development yet. Here's some context to help you wrap your head around it.

Let's talk about 6 GHz

Last year, I wrote a post on Wi-Fi 6 explaining the new features it offers next-generation routers. In short, it's a faster, more efficient version of Wi-Fi that allows wireless access points such as routers to better manage networks with many users and client devices. My complicated metaphor for all that was a four-armed bartender who was able to efficiently serve drinks to several customers at once.

Enter Wi-Fi 6E. It's not a new version of Wi-Fi like Wi-Fi 6, but rather a term that identifies Wi-Fi 6 devices equipped with the chips and radios needed to operate in that new spectrum of spectrum that the FCC has just opened

That spectrum is in the 6GHz band, a band previously unallocated for unlicensed Wi-Fi use as the 2.4 and 5GHz bands already were. So what's so great about 6 GHz?

All About Bandwidth

Let's say there is a liter of milk on your counter and the milk represents the entire spectrum of radio frequencies. You take a needle, insert it into the side of the box and pull it out. A very thin stream of milk starts to flow out a few meters. Then take something thicker, like a nail, and insert another hole in the side of the container. This time, more milk is ejecting because the hole is a bit wider – but it doesn't go that far.

You can think of those 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 needle-piercing holes that shoot milk through 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 a bandwidth of 500 MHz, the 5 GHz band represents a larger hole in the milk carton. It can send more data at once, but it cannot send it that far.

Which brings us to the 6GHz band of Wi-Fi 6E and the 1,200MHz extra bandwidth. It is as if you punched a hole in the milk carton the size of a quarter. Tons of milk flow out, but it flow down and don't travel far at all.

The takeaway is that the 6 GHz band is best suited for short-distance connections, ideally between devices located in the same room as each other. In such situations, the two devices should be able to pass huge amounts of data back and forth with the full efficiency of Wi-Fi 6.

Perry Correll of Extreme Networks, who is part of both the IEEE 11ax and Wi-Fi Alliance Wi-Fi 6 Task Groups, suggests that the short range of the 6GHz band and the larger number of channels is actually "a huge advantage" in dense, challenging environments such as transportation hubs, apartment units, sports arenas and business complexes.

"If you're in a packed stadium with 70,000 other people, the arrival of Wi-Fi 6E means you're not going to compete for bandwidth in the same way you used to," says Correll. "It's getting much easier to stream event to friends, order concessions through the app or even to find out which bathroom has the shortest lines. "

Wi-Fi & # 39; s VIP section

" AR / VR and gaming is a another great use case for the 6GHz band & # 39; says Correll. "Many don't realize that the high-end VR sets that require the most bandwidth are actually tied with cables. With Wi-Fi 6E, you get not only more bandwidth but also cleaner bandwidth – which means it is able to wirelessly provide the higher data rates needed along with true mobility. "

Wi-Fi 6 is really the key to that cleaner bandwidth, because there won't be older Wi-Fi devices that 6GHz band. That means Wi-Fi 6E devices don't have to worry about older gadgets slowing them down.

Let's go back to that analogy I outlined earlier. If Wi-Fi 6 is a better bartender who can serve a lot of drinks at once, then Wi-Fi 6E is the bar itself – and it's an exclusive member-only joint. The only customers ordering cocktails are Wi-Fi 6E guests who can be there, and they all support Wi-Fi 6.

In other words, nobody throws weird, confused looks at the four-armed bartender while handing out drinks because they also all have four arms. It's not as busy or as noisy as other bars, and everyone is equipped to take full advantage of the bartender's capabilities. It is the fastest and most efficient nightlife in the city.

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The current Wi-Fi 6 routers, such as the Asus ZenWifi AX mesh system shown here, are some of the most advanced on the market – but they don't have access to the 6GHz band at all. Routers that can do should arrive by the end of 2020.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

But do I need (another) new router?

There is the problem. As the exclusivity of that metaphorical bar suggests, you have to be a member to join. In particular, you will need Wi-Fi 6E devices equipped with new chipsets built to transmit signals in the 6GHz band.

Translation? Yes, you need a new router – and new client devices such as phones and laptops – to enjoy the benefits 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. " a whole host of devices, both infrastructure side and client side, and much more in a much faster way in 2021. "

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That's probably frustrating for anyone who got there early and bought a new Wi-Fi 6 router in the past year, but don't be too hard on yourself. It is still very early for Wi-Fi 6E and the implementation will take some time. Wi-Fi 6 only recently entered the mainstream with public implementations and support of high-profile devices such as the iPhone SE and the Samsung Galaxy S10 . Devices like those that support Wi-Fi 6E may not become widely available until 2021.

In other words, that Wi-Fi 6 router you bought on Black Friday will remain a top-notch access point for another year or so, and it will continue to be a very good router afterwards thanks to everything Wi-Fi 6 on table. In fact, perhaps the best approach is to wait until upgrading until Wi-Fi 6E is widely deployed and polished.

As for your client devices – those phones and laptops – your older Wi-Fi gadgets will still work with routers that support Wi-Fi 6E, since Wi-Fi 6 is fully backward compatible with previous versions of Wi-Fi. They just can't work in that exclusive 6GHz band.

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