Wi-Fi 6 is going to be expanded into 6GHz spectrum, alongside existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz coverage, with this fresh spectrum set to be classified as Wi-Fi 6E, and initially supported by devices such as smartphones and consumer routers.
At least this is the theoretical next step in the world of Wi-Fi, according to a press release from the Wi-Fi Alliance, although the organization notes that the 6GHz plan will be subject to regulatory approval.
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The hope is that this “important portion of unlicensed spectrum … may soon be made available by regulators around the world”, and following that official approval, Wi-Fi 6E devices will become swiftly available.
As mentioned, it’s expected that initial Wi-Fi 6E devices would include phones and consumer Wi-Fi access points, and those would be followed by enterprise-grade access points.
The Wi-Fi Alliance also observed that it anticipates considerable adoption of Wi-Fi 6E in industrial settings, as well, facilitating the likes of remote maintenance or machine analytics.
Furthermore, Wi-Fi 6E is expected to be used in both augmented and virtual reality, in terms of both businesses and consumer hardware.
All of this assumes the regulatory path is clear for the use of 6GHz wireless spectrum, of course.
In the bigger picture, the idea is to address the potential shortfall in Wi-Fi spectrum, as more and more wireless devices come online, providing fresh bandwidth which will have less interference from existing Wi-Fi 4 or 5 devices.
The Wi-Fi Alliance notes: “6GHz addresses Wi-Fi spectrum shortage by providing contiguous spectrum blocks to accommodate 14 additional 80 MHz channels and 7 additional 160 MHz channels which are needed for high-bandwidth applications that require faster data throughput such as high-definition video streaming and virtual reality.”
As was always the case with Wi-Fi 6, the idea isn’t just faster speeds, but better performance in dense environments where there are lots of wireless devices (like apartment blocks, or public venues).
When Wi-Fi 6 was first ushered in, the intention to use more frequency bands in the future – as well as the traditional 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi – was made clear, so it’s no surprise that this is happening.
One slight oddity is that the whole point of introducing Wi-Fi 6 as the new name for the wireless standard formerly known as 802.11ax was to simplify the naming scheme, and make it more consumer-friendly (and the preceding Wi-Fi standards, too, which became Wi-Fi 5 and 4).
So announcing Wi-Fi 6E as a different variant is rather going against that goal in terms of introducing a potential point of confusion for the less tech-savvy folks out there.
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