Wi-Fi 6E: The upgrade you need or just another buzzword?

Believe it or not it’s been over a year since I told you about Wi-Fi 6. Chances are you’re not using it. Chances are you haven’t even seen Wi-Fi 6 hardware yet. There was a smattering at the recent CES show but it’s still too expensive for regular folks.

Wi-Fi 6 promises Wi-Fi speeds that are as fast as your home internet, faster than the fastest speed you can get from cellular today. But even before we all have a chance to understand it, here comes Wi-Fi 6E.

Really? What’s all this about then?

Wi-Fi 6 is the real deal. Although I told you not long ago that Wi-Fi could be threatened by 5G, I ended up concluding that Wi-Fi is here to stay for a while. I do predict that eventually Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E will become very common. Wi-Fi 5 (formerly known as 802.11ac) is the standard today and it’s available even in the router your cable company gives you. Eventually, Wi-Fi 6 will come to your home.

The problem with Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 is great but it’s a little like driving a Ferrari on the Los Angeles freeways. Sure you can go fast but there’s so much congestion that you never really get to “open ‘er up.” Right now all Wi-Fi communication takes place on two bands. The most common is the 2.4GHz band which is shared with microwave ovens, cordless phones, and a lot of other devices. The 5GHz band was opened up to offer better, faster communication but even your neighbor’s cheap router uses it now. The Wi-Fi freeways are starting to clog up.

Wi-Fi 6E uses the same bands as other forms of Wi-Fi but opens up a third band at 6GHz. This gives a nice, new, open road for early adopters to travel. There’s plenty of room for expansion and those older and slower forms of Wi-Fi won’t be allowed on. 6GHz is only for Wi-Fi 6 (and whatever comes next.)

The good and the bad

Yes, that 6GHz band is wide open and you should be able to go full speed with your Wi-Fi 6E equipment. Of course right now, as I write this, there is no Wi-Fi 6E equipment. Expect it to start trickling out in about a year, and reach wide distribution sometime in ’23 or so. That’s my guess.

Just like older technologies, the first routers will be huge. As frequencies go up, you’ll need more broadcast power to use them effectively at long ranges. This is just simple physics. It takes more energy to send 6,000,000 waves per second than it does to send 2,400,000 waves per second. You can design low-power chips and more sensitive antennas. That’s going to happen eventually, but at first, Wi-Fi 6E is going to be a big power suck especially for smaller devices.

But when it’s all perfected, it could be the perfect form of Wi-Fi, with real-world speeds far faster than both wired Ethernet and 5G. It could keep Wi-Fi alive for another decade and that’s going to be good for everyone.

Of course when Wi-Fi 6E equipment really does hit the market we’ll have it at Solid Signal, but it’s going to be a few years. In the meantime, we have you covered with the best equipment available today.

 

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.