five things to know about the high-performance future of the wireless standard

The year 2020 saw Wi-Fi 6 enter the daily lives of a large number of users. Both ends of the chain have populated compatible devices. On the one hand with Wi-Fi 6 smartphones for the most part, if not all, and a blossoming of compatible laptops. On the other hand, two French operators have taken the plunge by integrating this technology into their box, which is certainly the best way to democratize it. This is also without counting on an increasingly rich and affordable offer from specialized players, who have enriched their range, extending it from low to high-end, models for gamers or geeks to mesh offers.

But Wi-Fi shouldn’t be sleeping on its laurels this year. According to the announcements of CES 2021 and the Wi-Fi Alliance, which looks after the commercial interests of these wireless standards, 2021 should be the year of Wi-Fi 6E, or Wi-Fi High Efficiency. We have already had the opportunity to tell you about it, but while this standard could be approved in France as early as next month, let’s take a look at what could be both an evolution of Wi-Fi 6 and a re-foundation of importance for this wireless standard.

1 – All the strength of Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6E is an evolution of Wi-Fi, moreover the E stands for Extended, an extension, therefore. It logically retains its strengths.

We thus find:

  • MU-MIMO, for simultaneous communication of connected devices, up to eight per dedicated channels
  • OFDMA to divide a communication channel into sub-channels allowing simultaneous communication of even more devices, adapting the channels to the needs of each client
  • 1024 QAM, which allows better data throughput
  • BSS Color, which streamlines the use of communication channels by identifying the origin of emissions

Without forgetting technologies such as beam forming, which allows a better controlled broadcast of the signal to the clients of the router, and some other technologies, like the Target Wake Time, which allows devices connected to the network to put their Wi-Fi module to sleep at the end of a transmission, which saves their battery.

2 – The potential of a third frequency band

The great novelty of Wi-Fi 6E is that it adds a new 6 GHz frequency range, in addition to the two historical bands of 2.4 and 5 GHz. And it is a much more interesting frequency than the others.

  • It is completely virgin for the moment, therefore without parasitic devices. Think of the 2.4 GHz band, where Bluetooth, baby monitors, microwaves, etc. fight.
  • It ranges from 5.925 GHz to 7.125 GHz. Either up to 1200 MHz available. A record! Even if we will have to see how much spectrum will actually be available in France.
  • Not only is this frequency band wide, but it offers an extremely large number of contiguous frequencies never seen before for Wi-Fi.

To put this frequency bandwidth into perspective, let’s compare the spectrum available in 2.4, 5 and 6 GHz:

  • 2,4 GHz : 80 MHz
  • 5 GHz: 180 MHz (500 MHz, maximum thanks to DFS, for Dynamic Frequency Selection)
  • 6 GHz : 1200 MHz

Wi-Fi 6E is therefore at least twice as much frequency band as what Wi-Fi offered, including 6, before it!

A gold mine that will allow the multiplication of communication channels, the size of which will vary according to the uses and the number of devices to be connected.

Where the 2.4 GHz offers only 11 channels, it will be possible to create up to 59 in Wi-Fi 6E. 59 20 MHz channels to connect a lot of devices with undemanding uses. No more congested networks!

On the other hand, if there is a need for wide channels, for uses requiring good performance and good transfer speed (4K streaming, online gaming …), we can count on larger channels, and therefore fewer. We can count up to seven 160 MHz channels in the 6 GHz band alone, against two in 5 GHz: that’s plenty!

In a future revision, scheduled for around 2023, it should even be possible to “reserve” 240 or 320 MHz channels. It is no longer an express road, it is the highway of the future!

3 – Very high speed wired or 5G Wi-Fi

With the addition of a new frequency band, Wi-Fi 6E routers will happily display maximum theoretical cumulative speeds of nearly 20 Gbits / s in downstream flows. How? ‘Or’ What ?

Simply because the 6 GHz band offers the same theoretical maximum speeds as those offered by the 5 GHz band, ie 9.6 Gbits / s. Obviously, the greater number of wide channels (160 MHz) should make it easier to obtain high data rates, even if the figures provided are only theoretical and under the best possible conditions. Because as with all wireless networks, the waves will have to deal with walls, furniture, parasitic networks, etc.

One might fear that, like the 5 GHz band, the 6 GHz band is more geared towards short-range speeds. And indeed, it is “physically” true.

However, some players in the Wi-Fi world are already announcing, perky, that 6 GHz Wi-Fi 6E will be able to provide speeds of up to 1.4 Gbits / s at 7m distance, even with obstacles. This is unheard of in Wi-Fi router tester memory.

This is the case with Broadcom. He was one of the first manufacturers to release a 6E Wi-Fi chip, which is also found in the Samsung Galaxy S21, and is rubbing his hands. He announces that not only the speeds will be of the order of 2 Gbits / s at three meters but that the latency should be less than a millisecond. With such speeds and such a low latency time, it finally becomes possible to imagine virtual reality headsets without cables to connect them to a PC.

We can’t resist the temptation to tell you about a little trick that the designers of Wi-Fi 6E have found to allow it to give its full potential. By nature, a large part of the data transferred by Wi-Fi is monopolized by the very management of the network, its availability, its identity, its ability to communicate, etc.

In order not to unnecessarily overload the 6 GHz band, the IEEE came up with the idea of ​​leaving most of the traffic management data to the historical 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. Thus, a 6 GHz compatible device will first detect the Wi-Fi router at 2.4 or 5 GHz, identify itself and then enter the VIP area of ​​Wi-Fi 6E.

As you will have understood, Wi-Fi 6E does everything to be up to the level of very high speed wired connections, via optical fiber, or wireless, via 5G. Wi-Fi 6E aims even more than its younger sibling to be the end-to-end wireless network, the one you use at home, in the office or in public places, even if the router that transmits its signal must be connected to the Internet in 5G.

4 – Strengthen uses, offer new ones

Even more than Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E is the wireless network for streaming 4K, 8K, and online video games. It is also, with the multiplication of frequencies and channels, ready to ensure connection to a large number of devices simultaneously. The appearance of this third true band will allow a more intelligent redeployment of frequencies.

  • 2.4 GHz, for home automation and “legacy” devices, which cannot do better or do not need a high speed.
  • 5 GHz, for devices compatible with Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6, more recent therefore, and which have serious needs at more or less important range.
    In the context of mesh Wi-Fi routers, one can even imagine that it will be easier for manufacturers to sacrifice part of this band to create a wireless backhaul between the routers to ensure a strong connection between the different ones. mesh modules.
  • 6 GHz, finally, for the top of the basket, for the most recent, the most powerful, the most demanding devices. The first smartphones and laptops compatible with this standard are already there. While the first routers will arrive in France as soon as the authorities have given the green light.

    Wi-Fi 6E will also open the door to new uses. It will no doubt facilitate the adoption of cloud gaming – if the inbound connections obviously hold up.
    But that’s not all. The players in the Wi-Fi world are already announcing that the greater precision of Wi-Fi 6E, in particular via its greater number of channels, could allow it to supplement indoor GPS in order to precisely locate devices.
    This could be of interest to tracking in public places for targeted advertising as well as emergency services in the event of a crisis. Wi-Fi 6E would even be able to be used to give access to certain locked or private areas without the use of a key, simply thanks to a compatible smartphone, for example.

Performance, speed, stability and coverage, Wi-Fi 6E has all the makings of a small revolution. But a revolution implies a rupture, and in technology the ruptures translate into an incompatibility between the generations. Is this the case here?

5 – What compatibility with the existing?

The IEEE, which is the body that sets many standards, including IEEE 802.11, better known under the trade name of Wi-Fi, has made an important decision. The 6 GHz band will be reserved for 6E Wi-Fi devices.

This means that to take advantage of the promise of 6 GHz, you will need to have both a router and a compatible device. In other words, your Wi-Fi 5 or 6 router will not be able to be updated to become compatible with Wi-Fi 6E.
It will need to be changed, just as it will be necessary to buy smartphones, laptops and other Wi-Fi 6E devices on the customer side. A Wi-Fi 6 router cannot become Wi-Fi 6E, unless it immediately embeds a compatible chip.

However, good news, since Wi-Fi 6E is an evolution of Wi-Fi 6, older (Wi-Fi 4 or 5) or recent (Wi-Fi 6) devices will be able to connect to routers compatible with this new standard, but only on 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies.

This means that if you plan to renew your fleet of smartphones and PCs in the short term, and you need to change your router, opting for a Wi-Fi 6E model is not necessarily a bad idea. You just won’t be able to enjoy the best it has to offer right away.

Source: Technos – 01net by

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