The Wi-Fi 6E standard is a newer generation Wi-Fi technology launched in 2019 that is set to replace the earlier Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 5 standards. It adds support for using the 6 GHz frequency of the electromagnetic spectrum. The Wi-Fi Alliance, a nonprofit organization that oversees the implementation and further development of Wi-Fi technology, described this new standard as the most monumental upgrade in 20 years.
Note that the 2.4 GHz frequency was first approved for Wi-Fi technology in 1997. The 5 GHz frequency was approved in 1999. Routers and compatible devices have been limited to using these two frequency bands prior to the introduction of the Wi-Fi 6E standard. But these bands have several drawbacks and limitations. Nonetheless, the new 6 GHz Wi-Fi band provides faster wireless connectivity speeds and new room for growing network traffic.
The Pros: Advantages of Wi-Fi 6E Standard and 6 GHz Wi-Fi Band
Higher Frequency Means Higher Speed
The 6 GHz frequency band defines the primary advantage of the Wi-Fi 6E standard, as well as over the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi and 5 GHz Wi-Fi bands: faster wireless connectivity. Note that the 5 GHz band outperforms the 2.4 GHz band in terms of speed. The 6 GHz Wi-Fi inherently outclasses these two because it has a higher frequency.
Wireless communication uses electromagnetic radiation to send and receive data between the router and compatible devices. Wi-Fi technology specifically and technically uses a form of EM radiation called microwaves. Within the electromagnetic spectrum, microwaves have higher frequencies and shorter wavelengths than radio waves.
Remember that electromagnetic radiation such as radio waves and microwaves transmit data through digital signals that are interpreted or decoded by receivers. Higher frequencies and shorter wavelengths theoretically transmit data faster because they translate to a faster movement of signal-bearing electromagnetic waves.
A Note on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi Bands
The 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band has several pros and cons. For starters, it has a longer range because it has lower frequencies and longer wavelengths. It can easily penetrate to some solid objects normally found in a house or buildings. Users can remain connected to their Wi-Fi routers within a range of between 150 feet to 300 feet.
However, the 2.4 GHz is inherently slower. There are also other devices such as microwave ovens, cordless phones, and baby monitors that also use this frequency band, along with other Wi-Fi routers and devices. The frequency has become too crowded due to spectrum congestion, thus affecting connection speed and overall wireless network reliability.
The 5 GHz Wi-Fi band comes into the picture to resolve this issue. Because it has higher frequencies and more channels, it is better in terms of speed and noise-to-signal performance. But growing local network traffic can still clutter the wireless network, especially if there are more users using the same frequency band.
Hence, the fundamental advantage of the 6 GHz Wi-Fi band over the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands is that it moves faster, thus translating to faster data transmission between devices and improved overall wireless connectivity, as well as less signal interference. This new band also provides users with more options between the three recognized Wi-Fi frequency bands.
New and Specific Features and Benefits
Aside from the fact that the new Wi-Fi 6E standard allows support for using the 6 GHz frequency of the electromagnetic spectrum, it also has new features and more specific advantages or benefits. Take note of the following:
• Maximum Link Rate: The maximum link rate of Wi-Fi 6E is similar to Wi-Fi 6: 600 to 9608 Mbit/s. Wi-Fi 5 has a maximum link rate of 433 to 6933 Mbit/s while Wi-Fi 4 has 72 to 600 Mbit/s. The link rate is the maximum speed that a bit of data can move across a wireless link between a router and device or wireless client. Higher bits per second means that more data travel in a given period.
• Cleaner Bandwidth: The superiority of using the 6 GHz band translates further to a cleaner bandwidth due to having wider channels, less signal interference, and spectrum congestion. The link rate and connection speed of the 6 GHz band when compared to the 5 GHz band are theoretically similar if not a little bit better under the defined standards set by the Wi-Fi Alliance. But the latter is more efficient. This is another notable advantage of 6 GHz Wi-Fi and the Wi-Fi 6E standard.
• Improved Channels: Wi-Fi channels are smaller bands within a Wi-Fi frequency band. The 2.4 GHz band has 11 channels, 3 of which are non-overlapping. The 5 GHz band can carry up to 23 non-overlapping channels. Overlapping channels cause interference. 6 GHz Wi-Fi band has 14 additional 80 MHz channels and 7 additional superwide 160 MHz channels. A greater number of channels with more non-overlapping ones allow simultaneous broadcasting between the router and up to 7 devices at maximum link rate and bandwidth capacity without interference.
Based on the above, both the Wi-Fi 6E standard and 6 GHz Wi-Fi band would benefit bandwidth-heavy users and consumers. These include online gamers, live streamers, subscribers of 4K video and gaming streaming services, those who use video conferencing, and families and workers dependent on smart systems, among others.
The standard and the higher frequency band would provide more advantages in dense areas or challenging environments to include apartment complexes, buildings with multiple units and floors, specific office or business spaces with large workforces, and residential areas with densely-packed houses, among others.
The Cons: Disadvantages of Wi-Fi 6E Standard and 6 GHz Wi-Fi Band
The 6 GHz Wi-Fi band and consequently, the Wi-Fi 6E standard have drawbacks. Take note that the limitation of 5 GHz Wi-Fi when compared to 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi is that although it allows faster wireless connection, it has limited range and the signal cannot pass through solid objects like concrete walls and floorings. The 6 GHz band has a shorter range than the 5 GHz band.
Below are the specific disadvantages of Wi-Fi 6E standard and 6 GHz Wi-Fi band:
• Shorter Distance and Physical Interferences: Signals travel to a limited distance and they will not go through physical obstructions such as concrete walls and dense floorings in buildings. The higher frequency and shorter wavelength of the 6 GHz provide better data transmission speed but at the cost of distance.
• Ideal for Indoors Such as Rooms and Offices: Another limitation of the 6 GHz Wi-Fi band is that it is more effective indoors. Use-case scenarios that involve connecting to a wireless network far from the wireless router or outdoors are not suitable for this band. Their devices would reconnect to either the 5 GHz or 2.4 GHz band only if they are using a multi-band wireless router.
• Compatibility Issues with Older Devices: Compatibility is a possible drawback of the Wi-Fi 6E standard. Of course, routers based on this standard are backward compatible with Wi-Fi 6 and earlier standards. However, to utilize the 6 GHz band, devices such as smartphones, laptops, smart televisions, and other smart devices should be compatible with Wi-Fi 6E. The standard is considerably new, and almost all devices released in 2020 and earlier do not support connecting to the 6 GHz band.
• Possible Cost in Implementation: For users who want to take advantage of the benefits of the 6 GHz Wi-Fi band, they need to update their phones, computers, or whatever devices they are using. Furthermore, because of the limited reach of this frequency band, they need to purchase and install peripherals to create a mesh network to ensure that the signals would reach different parts of their homes or buildings.
FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES
- Ivankov, A. 2019. “Modes and Types of Wireless Transmission and Communication.” Profolus. Available online
- Ivankov, A. 2018. “Advantages and Disadvantages of Wi-Fi Direct.” Profolus. Available online