Wi-Fi has been around for over 20 years. With each new generation, the world has seen remarkable gains in wireless performance, connectivity, and user experience. Wi-Fi 6E is a game-changing version of Wi-Fi that brings the technology to the 6 GHz frequency band. Past articles have outlined the technical differences between the IEEE standards known widely as Wi-Fi 5 (IEEE 802.11ac) and Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax), as well as the improvements made for Wi-Fi 6E. While Wi-Fi 6E is faster than previous versions (9.6 Gbps versus 3.5 Gbps on Wi-Fi 5), it isn’t all about speed. The real value of Wi-Fi 6 will be its ability to improve the network when many devices are connected.
When Wi-Fi 5 came out, the average U.S. household had an average of five Wi-Fi devices. Today, homes have nine Wi-Fi devices on average. Experts predict this number to jump to nearly 50 Wi-Fi devices within several years, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Wi-Fi 6 will alleviate the issues of connecting dozens of Wi-Fi devices on a single network. An essential feature of Wi-Fi 6E is that it lets routers communicate with more devices at once, send data to multiple devices in the same broadcast, and allows Wi-Fi devices to schedule check-ins with the router. In addition to being faster with more device capacity, Wi-Fi 6 can improve the battery life of devices while also having a better security protocol.
IoT is Fueling Wireless Growth
By 2025, it is predicted there will be 55.7 billion connected devices worldwide, 75% of which will be connected to an Internet of Things (IoT) platform. The wireless connectivity market is poised to reach US$157 billion by 2027, driven by wearable devices, smart home technology, and cloud service models, all working with IoT devices. While it has been challenging to meet the connectivity demands of IoT in the past, Wi-Fi 6 offers a potential solution. By extending Wi-Fi operation into the 6 GHz band, Wi-Fi 6 can support industrial IoT devices around the globe with high bandwidth, low power, and low latency capabilities.
Wi-Fi 6 and 5G Are Not the Same, But Work Together
It is important to note that some of the featured improvements of Wi-Fi 6 are similar to the emerging 5G cellular standard improvements. Though both standards employ some of the same features, they are different technologies (wireless LAN versus cellular) built for different uses. According to Network World, Wi-Fi is best suited for indoor applications in dense, high-volume environments. While Wi-Fi can work outdoors, 5G is designed to seamlessly offer cell phone coverage as you use your phone’s GPS while driving or check your email while on public transportation. As most smartphones will have both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G built-in, the two technologies will work together to support different use cases across industries.
Wi-Fi 6 Impact on Industry
Wi-Fi 6E extends the capacity, efficiency, coverage, and performance benefits of Wi-Fi 6 and offers incredible value to companies. With Wi-Fi expected to contribute nearly US$5 trillion to the global economy by 2025, more than 2.3 billion Wi-Fi 6 products and 350 million Wi-Fi 6E products entered the market in 2022. According to independent market research firms TechKnowledge Strategies and FeibusTech, Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E will offer more bandwidth, greater performance, and compelling user experiences:
- Public Wi-Fi: Venues and providers recognize the potential of Wi-Fi 6 and are working on next-generation applications. Demand is high for Wi-Fi 6 in public venues like airports, stadiums, university campuses, and high-density apartment complexes. Several pilot deployments of Wi-Fi 6 are addressing financial transactions at stadium settings, resolving incidents with minimum disruption at airports via Wi-Fi 6 security cameras, and making video calling smooth without buffering in public settings.
- Home: Wi-Fi 6 routers will improve wireless performance for many situations, including homes with smart home devices (like thermostats and security cameras) or older devices slowing the network, as well as households with streaming difficulties or many neighbors nearby, all of which will have their own routers and collections of devices. FeibusTech forecasts that Wi-Fi 6 will also spark a revolution in the smart home. Virtual assistants, like Amazon Alexa and Google Voice, could have far more processing power and storage available on Wi-Fi 6.
- Enterprise: Overall, the transition to Wi-Fi 6 in enterprise deployments is expected to be more of an evolutionary story. However, CIOs and other IT decision-makers who opt for full-spec Wi-Fi 6 solutions, such as Qualcomm’s Pro platform, can plan for up to 1,500 devices connecting effortlessly on a single access point. Several companies are getting into the arena early. For example, cloud-based applications like Skype and WebEx running on laptop and smartphone apps might have us saying goodbye to traditional desktop phones. Ruckus and Lenovo are making educational applications for students using VR goggles, where Wi-Fi 6 will be critical.
- Automotive: Wi-Fi 6 could be used to revolutionize the automotive market. For autonomous cars, vehicle-to-vehicle communication could be used to prevent accidents and speed up stop-and-go traffic. Likewise, vehicle-to-infrastructure can improve traffic flow at stop lights. In-car entertainment will get a boost from both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G. This combination will offer real-time responsiveness for streaming. Additionally, automobile dealers will be able to connect wirelessly to vehicles’ onboard diagnostics as customers enter the service area. This would help cut wait times and increase the capacity of the service department.
Preparing for Wi-Fi 6— Are You Ready?
Wi-Fi 6 will bring immediate benefits in network speed, capacity, and responsiveness to the global market. Such benefits will allow for new applications in virtually every segment.
Learn more in IEEE 802.11ax: An Overview of High Efficiency Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 6) Part One and Part Two. Join us for this live virtual course program on 21 and 22 February from 12-3pm ET. It will provide an overview of the features and optimizations introduced by IEEE 802.11ax to the physical and medium access control layers. Purchase this course program by 17 February for the opportunity to ask questions and interact with the instructors.
Can’t make the live sessions? Purchasers will have access to the on-demand version of the course program. See more details>>
Cisco. (2022). 5 things to know about Wi-Fi 6/6E and Private 5G. Cisco.
Kastrenakes, Jacob. (21 February 2019). Wi-Fi 6: is it really that much faster? The Verge.
Research and Markets. (28 November 2022). Wireless and Fixed Connectivity Market Report 2022. BusinessWire.
Robinson, Kevin. (21 March 2022). Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E: The key to IoT. Wi-Fi Alliance.
TechKnowledge Strategies. (2019). Wi-Fi 6 Industry Impact Report. Qualcomm.
Telecom. (10 November 2022). Value of Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi Alliance.
Weinberg, Neal. (24 May 2022). What is Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), and why do we need it? Network World.