Declared Friday, the Wi-Fi 6E name of the Wi-Fi Alliance refers to equipment capable of “operating at 6 GHz”. This concerns the unlicensed spectrum bands that regulators around the world should make available to producers of devices to use for radio communications, particularly with Wi-Fi connections in mind.
In September, FCC President Ajit Pai confirmed his commitment to free up 1.2 GHz more spectrum for Wi-Fi and other unlicensed uses in the 6 GHz band. The additional spectrum will enable more bandwidth for Wi-Fi connections, give more room so that wireless networks do not have to compete for signal and reduce interference with older Wi-Fi technologies using lower bands.
In preparation for the likely launch, the Wi-Fi Alliance has created new Wi-Fi 6E terminology, to highlight devices capable of connecting to this newly released band. Normal and currently available Wi-Fi 6 devices will not be able to take advantage of the additional spectrum.
As with other Wi-Fi technologies, Wi-Fi 6E will always be compatible with Wi-Fi 6, 5, 4 and earlier versions. The spectrum in question will be continuous, capable of accommodating 14 channels at 80 MHz and 7 other channels at 160 MHz.
Analysts predict rapid adoption of Wi-Fi 6E once the spectrum is made available by regulators, smartphones and mobile devices expected to be the main drivers of adoption, followed by enterprise applications.
“6 GHz will help meet the growing need for Wi-Fi spectrum capacity to ensure that Wi-Fi users continue to enjoy the same great user experience with their devices,” said President and CEO of Wi- Fi Alliance, Edgar Figueroa. “Wi-Fi Alliance now introduces Wi-Fi 6E to ensure industry aligns with common terminology, allowing Wi-Fi users to identify devices that support 6 GHz operation as the spectrum becomes available. ”
While defining the name of the technology is helpful, it goes back a bit to the most recent revision of the naming scheme.
In October 2018, the Wi-Fi Alliance renamed Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 4, etc. easily remembered, instead of using names like 802.11ac or 802.11ax. The update has significantly simplified the way generations of Wi-Fi networks are identified to the public, with higher numbers being backward compatible with devices using lower prior technologies.
The addition of Wi-Fi 6E to the list may confuse some users, due to the effective existence of two in the same Wi-Fi 6 level. Although officially unannounced, the use of the name Wi-Fi 7 should only happen with the creation of standards for the next generation, with major changes in the underlying technologies rather than an extension of usable bandwidth.
Companies like Qualcomm are all working on next-generation Wi-Fi technologies, including capacity and speed increases.