The year 2020 will go down in history as the year of Wi-Fi advances, as the industry is granted numerous changes and improvements in the spectrum. When it comes to Wi-Fi connectivity, speed is the key, and it is precisely this point that has been evolving rapidly in recent years.
First, in 2019, Wi-Fi 6, a new and faster version of Wi-Fi, came to market. Now, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has unanimously approved the expansion of the spectrum that will now use the unlicensed 6 GHz band, to be known as Wi-Fi 6E, which could become the most important advance yet, reaching the U.S. by the end of 2020. Other countries have yet to make the same decision, so Wi-Fi 6E still faces regulatory barriers in much of the world.
This decision has been due to the increase in connected devices expected in the coming years with the irruption of IoT and other technologies, and with it the future of the Internet will be faster and smarter.
Today, most equipment uses WiFi 4 and WiFi 5, and these two technologies use either 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz bands. For its part, Wi-Fi 6E is the next generation of Wi-Fi connections and a slight evolution of Wi-Fi 6 that was launched last year and is still being implemented.
Wi-Fi 6E offers higher speeds for compatible devices, as it can use both the typical 2.4Ghz band and the 5Ghz band, but also adds the 6Ghz band to the Wi-Fi 6. That is, when Wi-Fi 6 was introduced, its main feature was that it could use both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands, but it stayed there. With the Wi-Fi 6E also adds 1.2Ghz more to that Wi-Fi 6, so you can cover more than 6Ghz. This is why the new Wi-Fi 6E is also known as 6Ghz Wi-Fi.
In addition, this new spectrum offers additional channels that do not overlap, namely 14 additional 80 MHz channels and 7 additional 160 MHz channels, compared to currently only 2 channels can be configured in 160MhZ.
It basically quadruples the space available for routers and other devices, which means significantly more bandwidth, will avoid connection and interference problems, and will minimize congestion for any device that can take advantage of it. It is expected to be twice as fast as the current standard.
Many technology companies support the action:
Amazon believes that “the Wi-Fi 6E will pave the way for a more innovative future and allow us to deliver a smarter, faster and more convenient customer experience”.
Facebook said that “the move comes at a critical time to improve Internet connectivity and will complement the 5G implementation”.
However, some companies, including utilities, have expressed concerns about the use of this new spectrum:
AT&T Inc believes that it “will allow the introduction of devices that can damage, or even eliminate, the links in the networks that monitor our electrical network”.
The 1,200 Mhz used by the Wi-Fi 6E will allow significantly higher transfer rates on devices connected to the same network. Wi-Fi 6E devices take advantage of wider channels and additional capacity to offer higher network performance and support more Wi-Fi users at once, even in very dense and congested environments such as public spaces, airports, stadiums, etc.
The greater the number of channels, the less interference there will be in connections between different devices, congestion can be minimized, and communication will not be degraded and will be smoother and faster.
For example, if content is to be transmitted in 4K resolution with a high bit rate, or use augmented reality or virtual reality, having this bandwidth will be essential for an optimal user experience.
At the same time, the 6GHz spectrum would only be available for new generation compatible devices, so it will not be slowed down by slower devices. But for those devices that still use earlier generations of Wi-Fi, the benefit of freed-up bandwidth will also increase their connectivity, as Wi-Fi 6E absorbs the higher performance use cases.
In other words, Wi-Fi 6E devices will be compatible with Wi-Fi 6 versions and earlier Wi-Fi standards. However, taking advantage of these new 6GHz channels will require the use of compatible devices.
However, this new spectrum also generates a series of problems, and that is that it will not always be possible to take advantage of this speed, as the signal has less penetration capacity. This means that it passes through the walls more slowly, which means that if a person moves away from the router, he or she may have a greater loss of speed.
In addition, it is necessary to consider that the benefits of 6GHz will not be able to be seen until one acquires a router Wi-Fi 6E. These are likely to be some of the first products to hit the market.
Although the Wi-Fi Alliance introduced Wi-Fi 6E earlier this year, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken some time to clear the 6 GHz frequency band for Wi-Fi 6E. In addition, for the standard to be adopted globally, all countries are required to approve the availability of that unlicensed band. This means that regulatory issues could delay the availability of this technology in some countries. Many devices are also shipped worldwide, so it could also delay overall adoption if major markets are left behind.
Still, the first devices supporting Wi-Fi 6E are expected to reach the U.S. market by the end of 2020, with widespread adoption expected by 2021. As 6 GHz equipment becomes more common, there will be more applications and new functionality, for example, for what is coming over the Internet of Things and Smart Homes.
It is quite likely that smartphones will be the first consumer devices to adopt Wi-Fi 6E. After smartphones, tablets and TV adoption are expected to follow probably in 2022.
Manufacturers have been preparing for this time. Chip maker Broadcom has already announced a mobile Wi-Fi 6E chip, with Intel saying it will have chips ready by January 2021.And Qualcomm has said it is ready to support 6GHz Wi-Fi on next-generation wireless products for less congested and faster connections. The company has announced two types of chips that support Wi-Fi 6E: one for smartphones that will be available by the end of the year, and another for router manufacturers that are ready to make them available immediately.
Wi-Fi 6 and soon Wi-Fi 6E will be essential, for example, to deliver improved performance and meet the demand for platforms and applications such as streaming, online gaming, virtual and augmented reality, healthcare, faster downloads and corporate networks with high user density.
For example, in a shopping mall, university, airport or trade show the connection often fails or is quite slow. This is mainly due to the fact that the network capacity is still limited to cope with the increasing need to exchange, consume data and connect multiple mobile devices, but this is solved by the new standards.
Wi-Fi 6E will also bring further technological advances in Wi-Fi that will introduce new use cases and accelerate, for example, next generation connectivity to 5G networks.