Wi-Fi 6E: 6 GHz Internet

Why is Wi-Fi 6E so eagerly awaited, why is everything taking so long, and what do you need to start testing this technology?

What Is Wi-Fi 6E?

Wi-Fi 6E is wireless internet communication on the 6 GHz band, "new" frequencies that have not previously been available to wifi. This is a much needed expansion; the 2.4 GHz band has been packed for a long time, and the increase in wifi usage and number of connected devices has started to become noticeable on the 5 GHz band as well.

Wi-Fi 6E is not the same as Wi-Fi 6. Wi-Fi 6 corresponds to the standard 802.11ax. This standard mainly refers to the two established frequency bands for wifi; 2.4 and 5 GHz.

Products labeled Wi-Fi 6 do not support 6 GHz. Products that support both 802.11ax and communication on the 6 GHz frequency band, may be certified as Wi-Fi 6E by the industry association WiFi Alliance.

What is the Point and the Problem with 6 GHz?

What we here succinctly refer to as 6 GHz is really a 1200 MHz spectrum from 5,925 to 7,125.

For comparison:

  • The 2.4 GHz frequency band covers a 70 MHz spectrum
  • The 5 GHz frequency band is a 500 MHz spectrum

So the point of expanding the range of frequencies available for Wi-Fi is the possibility of significantly reducing the fight for airtime. On today's frequency bands, Wi-Fi networks compete both with each other and with other wireless standards such as Bluetooth. There is also no room for increasing the transmission bandwidth to 80 or 160 MHz to increase throughput without creating excessive interference for surrounding networks.

In other words, Wi-Fi 6E is bringing some much needed bandwidth and capacity to wireless communication. Over time, we expect this access to new frequencies to provide massive improvements to the user experience for bandwidth intensive applications.

The problem with expanding to 6 GHz is that this part of the spectrum was not hanging around unused, it was reserved for licensed usage.

How Much of the 6 GHz Band Is Available?

A change in usage of these frequencies has to be approved by local and regional authorities before it can happen, and more and more countries have opened up either the entire spectrum or what is known as "low 6 GHz" or U-NII-5, the lowest 500 MHz.

  • In EU and Norge the lowest 500 MHz have been opened up.
  • Countries that have approved the entire 6 GHz spectrum for wifi and other unlicensed usage are in the minority, but include among others the USA and South Korea.
  • WiFi Alliance has an updated overview of the status worldwide.

In Norway, matters of radio frequency usage are regulated in Fribruksforskriften. A revision of this regulation that opens up for 6e / low 6 GHz entered into force on July 1, 2021. The local regulator is the Norwegian Communications Authority (NKOM).

Why Is It Taking So Long?

The rollout of a new standard always takes time, and the need to change legislation worldwide has made the process extra time consuming this time.

Both access points and clients with CE approval need to be on the market before we can start making use of this technology.

Our vendors Zyxel and eero both intend to deliver Wi-Fi 6E access points to Norway, and access points and wifi clients with Wi-Fi 6E have started appearing on the Norwegian market.

How To Get Started Testing Wi-Fi 6E

If you are ready to try out this technology, what do you need and which problems could you be facing?

To communicate on the 6 GHz band, the first and most important requirement is that both your wireless access point and your wifi client support the new standard.

In other words, you will not be able to test Wi-Fi 6E if you only have a client or an access point that support 6 GHz communication, and Wi-Fi 6E must also be fully supported in both hardware and software.

The number of available clients is so far limited. It was a disappointment to many when Apple launched iPhone 14 without support for Wi-Fi 6E, but several Android models with Wi-Fi 6E support are available from vendors including Asus and Samsung, and more are on the way.

Wi-Fi 6E on a PC?

  • Newer laptops from several manufacturers come with built-in support for Wi-Fi 6E, but you can also get adapters that give you hardware support for the standard (Intel AX210 being the most common at the moment).
  • You also need support in the operating system--at the time of writing, only Windows 11 supports Wi-Fi 6E out of the box, but you can upgrade Windows 10 to get support. Linux distributions must be upgraded to the latest version of the Linux kernel.

Also note that to get Wi-Fi 6E communication between nodes in a mesh network (backhaul), all mesh nodes must support the standard.

Possible Wi-Fi 6E Compatibility Issues

The rollout of Wi-Fi 6E in Norway can barely be said to have started, so we have limited information about concrete compatibility issues, but our testing so far indicates that:

  • Many problems can be avoided by actively ensuring all clients are fully upgraded at all times. For a pc this may involve manually upgrading drivers.
  • Ensure that both access points and wifi clients are seet to the correct region so that there is no risk of them operating on different frequencies. Remember that the available spectrum is different in for example South Korea and the US than in Norway and the EU.
© Copyright Eye Networks - All Rights Reserved