Wi-Fi 6e: 6 GHz Internet

The difference between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e, the point and the problem with 6 GHz Wi-Fi, and the availability status for Norway and Europe.

What is Wi-Fi 6e?

First of all, Wi-Fi 6e is part of  Wi-Fi 6, but not the same as Wi-Fi 6.

Wi-Fi 6 corresponds to the 802.11ax wireless communciation standard. This standard covers the two well established frequency bands for Wi-Fi: 2.4 and 5 GHz.

The industry association WiFi Alliance driver runs the certification program that allows vendors to market their products with the label Wi-Fi 6. WiFi Alliance has chosen to expand this certification to include the 6 GHz frequency band, and Wi-Fi 6 products that support these frequencies, can therefore use the designation Wi-Fi 6e.

However, the 6 GHz frequency band is not available everywhere; in most places it is still reserved for licensed uses.

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 space / 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.

The problem with expanding to 6 GHz is that this part of the spectrum is not hanging around unused today.

Where is 6 GHz Available?

The 6 GHz band corresponds to the four uppermost sections of the radio frequency spectrum often referred to as U-NII - Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure -- UNII-5 to UNII-8. (Sections 1 to 4 correspond to the 5 GHz band).

Countries that have approved the entire 6 GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi and other unlicensed uses so far include:

The United Kingdom has approved U-NII-5 - the first 500 MHz, also known as "low 6 GHz".

In the rest of the world, opening up 6 GHz for unlicensed use is still up for consideration and approval by local and regional authorities.

What is Happening in the EU and Norway?

Updates to both legislation and certification are necessary before 6 GHz products can be made available in Europe. Hold on to your hat, avalanche of acronyms incoming.

On a European level, CEPT - the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations - and their Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) are the professional bodies responsible for this area. Norway is one of 48 members of the CEPT, which in other words is not an EU body.

The CEPT has long since made it clear that the only thing on the table at this stage, is opening up UNII-5, the lowest 500 MHz of the spectrum.

To enter into law in the EU, the recommendations of the CEPT need to be approved by the European Commission. EU member states will then have six months to adjust their national legislations, while non-EU countries have up to two years to make their considerations.

CEPT/ECC approved opening up 6 GHz for Wi-Fi services in November 2020, and a European Commision binding decision is expected in the first half of 2021 -- as so much else, these processes have been delayed by COVID-19.

That was the legislation side. In order to sell electronics in Europe, products must also be CE certified. The European standardization body is called ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute). So far, they have no approved European standard for 6 GHz Wi-Fi products, and CE certification will not be possible until such a standard is available.

In Norway, the Norwegian Communications Authority (NKOM) handles matters of radio frequency usage.

All parts of the 6 GHz band are already in use for licensed services that Norwegian authorities cannot and will not immediately set aside. NKOM distributes these rights through regular license auctions that are valid for pre-defined time periods. NKOM has informed Eye Networks that usage of low 6 GHz continues as before pending a European decision.

The legal use of frequencies in Norway is regulated by the  Fribruksforskriften - which frequencies are allowed for wireless network usage is specifically covered by chapter 4, section 11. Opening up for the use of 6 GHz in Norway requires changes to this regulation.

Should You Wait for Wi-Fi 6e to Become Available in Norway?

The answer to this is pretty simple: No. Anticipation is all good, but don't hold your breath while you wait. When and whether the 6 GHz band will be made available for Wi-Fi in Norway is still uncertain. And then CE certified access points and clients need to hit the markets before the technology can actually be put to use. All of this will take a long time.

Wi-Fi 6 without the e is however available and storming ahead in Norway, so there is no need to wait for that!

Will Our Products have 6e?

Our vendor Zyxel tells us that they are ready to support 6e for devices targeting the Norwegian market when and if authorities approve it for usage. However, you should not expect products that are on the market today to be able to communicate on 6 GHz later.

Eye Networks is monitoring the development of 6e legislation and availability and will share updates from authorities and vendors as they become available.

Eye Networks AS
Ryensvingen 2
0680 Oslo
Norge / Norway
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