The new wireless networking standard 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) delivers enhanced wireless technology in dense environments where it can more effectively overcome interference from cells on the same channel. An even newer version of Wi-Fi 6, dubbed “Wi-Fi 6 Extended” (Wi-Fi 6E), could deliver even better service.
As Jerry Jackson in PC Mag reports, Wi-Fi 6E provides faster speeds and lower latencies than Wi-Fi 6 and earlier versions. At the time of announcement, the IEEE 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) standard “was limited by law to a wireless spectrum that only covered the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands”. These 2.4GHz bands have just three non-overlapping channels— meaning you, your household, and your neighbors, all share bandwidth.
Since multiple devices are competing for bandwidth, signals are often lost. However, after the Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted to make the 6GHz band available for unlicensed use in April 2020, significantly more airwaves opened, which routers can use to broadcast Wi-Fi signals.
Hence, Wi-Fi 6E expands on Wi-Fi 6 to cover 6GHz frequency.
“The opening of the 6GHz band is the biggest spectrum addition to Wi-Fi since 1989,” writes Jackson. “The jump from 5GHz to 6GHz might not sound like much, but it essentially quadruples the amount of airwaves (14 additional 80MHz channels, and seven additional 160MHz channels) available for routers and smart devices. That means less signal interference.”
What Are the Technical Benefits of Wi-Fi 6?
Wi-Fi 6 is expected to bring a number of technical benefits that will “enable use cases beyond what is possible today,” states Tim Pohlmann, CEO of IP Analytics, an IP intelligence tool. According to Pohlmann, these benefits will include:
- Connected venues and cities: Wi-Fi 6 BSS Colouring technology will guarantee resistance to interference— even in public places with a high density of devices such as event venues and universities. With its larger bandwidth, Wi-Fi 6 can deliver consistent real-time data exchange while allowing thousands of people to connect.
- Connected cars: Wi-Fi 6 enables larger bandwidth that will let vehicles exchange real-time information. Furthermore, Wi-Fi 6’s target wake time (TWT) feature allows for lower battery consumption. This means Wi-Fi sensors in traffic lights or buildings will only “wake up” when needed.
- Connected factories: Wi-Fi 6 technologies OFDMA and MU-MIMO will support “more IoT devices to operate unimpeded on the network, and thus means that millions of machine components can be connected and real-time data points operated at low-power consumption.”
- Connected homes: Wi-Fi 6 enables 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz to operate at the same time, delivering high bandwidth and low latency for high-definition video systems, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) devices, high-quality streaming platforms used for, conference video calls and gaming.
“Wi-Fi 6 will likely become the dominant access choice for indoor networks on account of improvements in speed, latency and higher density of connected devices,” states Pohlmann. “It is also the ideal system in spaces where access points will serve more users.”
However, he notes that Wi-Fi 6 must exist alongside 5G to support “use cases at home, while driving, at the office, outside or when working remotely.” While many argue that Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will be competitors, Pohlmann believes that they will work in tandem and complement each other in many applications. Furthermore, it is unlikely that a sole technology would support all connectivity.
Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6 Extended are still developing. However, the ability to overcome service issues in high-density environments will undoubtedly spur advancement.
Improving Quality of Experience with IEEE Std 802.11ax™
The work on High Efficiency Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) in IEEE Std 802.11ax™ started in 2013 as a new amendment to the IEEE 802.11 WLAN standard. A goal of the new amendment is to address dense deployments characterized by a large number of access points and stations placed in close proximity in a limited geographical area. Such usage scenarios impact the quality of experience (QoE) for latency-sensitive applications such as voice-over-Wi-Fi™ and video conferencing.
Join IEEE Educational Activities and IEEE Standards Association on 15 December at 12pm ET for a virtual event that describes the new IEEE 802.11ax features such as Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access and Uplink multi-user transmissions together with Physical (PHY) and Medium Access Control (MAC) enhancements specific to IEEE 802.11ax to improve QoE. This event will be available on-demand when the session concludes.
Jackson, Jerry. (7 October 2021). What Is Wi-Fi 6E? PC Mag.
Pohlmann, Tim. (2021). Who’s ahead in the WiFi 6 patent race. I am.