Last Thursday, Federal Communications Commission voted opening up an entirely new spectrum of bandwidth for next-gen devices. The Wi-Fi Alliance is calling this new spectrum and the devices that can make use of it as Wi-Fi 6E. This has to be the biggest upgrade we’ve seen since Wi-Fi was cleared in 1989 by the FCC, 20 or so years ago.
What is Wi-Fi 6E?
The current Wi-Fi routers you use probably use the 2.4 GHz or the 5GHz bands. The new 6E will operate on the 6 GHz band which will have an additional 12,00MHz of the spectrum as compared to the 400MHz spectrum we see today. This connection will be faster and much more efficient and allow for better management of your Wi-Fi network in saturated areas.
How is Wi-Fi 6 different from Wi-Fi 6?
Wi-Fi 6E is not a new form of Wi-Fi. Rather it is used to describe the devices and routers which would have to be equipped with certain chips which will allow for them to operate in the new spectrum FCC just approved (the 6 GHz band).
2.4GHz vs. 5GHz vs. 6GHz
The main difference between each is the distance they can travel and the data they carry over a certain frequency. For starters, 2.4GHz has a frequency range of 70MHz and can travel farther but can carry the least amount of data. Next, the 5GHz bandwidth at a frequency of 500MHz can carry comparatively more data but cannot travel as far.
Finally, we have 6GHz, which will operate over 1200 MHz and carry a lot more data but without the ability to travel very far.
This means it will be best suited for densely crowded environments such as transportation units, apartments, and sports arenas. So you could easily access make use of your Wi-Fi without having to compete for bandwidth.
When will we see Wi-Fi 6 devices?
We’re expecting the first Wi-Fi 6E devices to launch by the end of 2020 but the full-fledged deployment should be by the start of 2021. Manufacturers are already gearing up, Broadcom has announced its Wi-Fi 6E mobile chip and Qualcomm has also announced that its new wireless products will show support for Wi-Fi 6E. Intel also came forward expecting chips to be made available by January 2021.
Analysts expect smartphones to be the first in line to adopt Wi-Fi 6E, not really surprising considering that we use smartphones for practically everything. Tablets and smart TVs are expected to follow suit by 2022.
Will we have to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6E compatible hardware
Yes, just as you would have to get new Wi-Fi 6E compatible smartphones equipped with new chips, you’ll also have to get a new router to operate on that bandwidth.
But slow down. If you’ve already purchased a new Wi-Fi 6 router this year, don’t worry. Don’t expect Wi-Fi 6E to be available widely until 2021. So your Wi-Fi 6 router is perfectly fine to put to use for at least one more year. Besides the first designs to hit the market will be pricey. You should consider waiting for 6E to be adopted and adapted to before making a purchase.
Can your old devices operate on Wi-Fi 6E?
No. You will have to purchase new devices equipped with chips to access the new spectrum of bandwidth. However, your older devices will still be able to access earlier versions of Wi-Fi on your new Wi-Fi 6E router however they will not be able to access the exclusive 6 GHz bandwidth range.
Image Courtesy: Techspot, Broadcom