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WiFi 6E: Fast WiFi in the 6 GHz frequency band

For many years, little has happened in the WLAN sector with regard to the usable frequency spectrum. The two frequency bands 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz seemed to be set in stone. Wi-Fi 6E now makes the 6 GHz frequency band usable for WLAN devices. The Federal Network Agency released the 6 gigahertz band for Germany in 2021. In the following article, you will learn what is behind the designation Wi-Fi 6E, what innovations the standard brings with it, and which applications will particularly benefit from Wi-Fi 6E.

What is Wi-Fi 6E?

The Wi-Fi Alliance markets an extension of the IEEE 802.11ax standard under the name Wi-Fi 6E. The “E” in Wi-Fi 6E stands for “Enhanced”. In addition to the two frequency bands that have been established for years, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, Wi-Fi 6E enables the use of a further license-free frequency band in the range between 5.9 GHz and 7.1 GHz. For Europe, the frequency range between 5.9 GHz and 6.4 GHz is planned. The German Federal Network Agency released 480 MHz of spectrum between the 5.945 GHz and 6.425 GHz frequencies for Wi-Fi 6E devices in Germany in 2021. Final European harmonization of the spectrum is planned for 2023.

The new spectrum offers additional, wider channels and promises significantly improved WLAN performance while reducing interference from the heavily used 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands. As far as the basic characteristics of WLAN communication are concerned, Wi-Fi 6E is based entirely on IEEE 802.11ax, the successor to 802.11ac. The key features of IEEE 802.11ax are the use of Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA), 1024-QAM modulation schemes, bi-directional multi-user MIMO, Spatial Reuse, Target Wake Time and BSS Coloring.

The innovations of Wi-Fi 6E in detail

The main innovation of Wi-Fi 6E is the additional use of the 6 GHz frequency range. The 480 MHz spectrum designated for Germany and Europe allows additional radio channels with a width of up to 160 MHz. The maximum gross data rate can be increased significantly and more devices can communicate wirelessly at the same time without mutual interference. WLAN networks become more performant (higher speed and lower latency), more reliable and support higher device densities. It should be noted that devices require new, adapted antenna technology due to communication in the 6 GHz band. It is not possible to upgrade conventional 2.4- and 5-GHz devices to Wi-Fi 6E with a simple software update.

The key features of Wi-Fi 6E at a glance

The main features of Wi-Fi 6E are briefly summarized as follows:

– is based on the IEEE standard 802.11ax

– uses the frequency range between 5.945 and 6.425 GHz in Germany (complete frequency block: 5.925 to 7.125 GHz)

– offers additional radio channels with up to 160 MHz bandwidth

– achieves maximum data rates of over 10 Gbit/s (depending on the usable frequency spectrum)

– reduces latency

– supports higher device densities

– requires less power thanks to Target Wake Time (TWT)

Areas of application for Wi-Fi 6E

The additional frequency spectrum in the 6 GHz band promises significantly improved WLAN performance. Existing WLAN installations in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands are relieved and WLAN networks become more reliable due to the reduced mutual interference. Wi-Fi 6E is predestined for applications such as virtual or augmented reality, ultra-high-resolution video streaming and real-time applications from the IoT and Industry 4.0 environments thanks to the high bandwidths, low lantency times, reduced energy requirements and high supported device densities. WLAN enterprise networks also benefit from the advantages and achieve a performance gain thanks to Wi-Fi 6E. For the industrial environment, Wi-Fi 6E represents a provider-free alternative to 5G networks due to the use of license-free frequency bands.