Wi-Fi 6E: FAQs on performance benefits, use & deployment

Wi-Fi 6E is a critical milestone; it brings Wi-Fi to a new frequency band, 6GHz. Wi-Fi 6E is going to change how we think and plan our networks going forward; it’s going to enable more capacity, enforce the newest generation of Wi-Fi security and improve network performance. However, as with many new technologies, there are some essential considerations before plunging into Wi-Fi 6E. Together we’ll go through precisely what Wi-Fi 6E is and how it will affect real-world networks today.

What is it?

You may already be familiar with Wi-Fi 6, the latest Wi-Fi standard, also called 802.11ax. This standard uses the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency spaces; Wi-Fi 6E uses the same Wi-Fi standard but extends the available frequencies to 6GHz.

Those familiar with Wi-Fi will know that 2.4GHz is very congested, with only three non-overlapping channels and non-Wi-Fi devices all using the same frequency. 5GHz has more channels than 2.4Ghz and is considered less congested (though this congestion has been steadily increasing over the years), which is why most Wi-Fi networks are designed for 5GHz today.

Ofcom has approved a portion of the 6GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi in the UK, giving us more channels than we’ve ever had before. Coupled with a thorough design, more channels mean less interference and channel overlap, which will result in more reliable networks with greater capacity. These extra channels also allow us to use wider channels to increase throughput. Let’s compare 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 6GHz in the UK:

Wi-Fi 6e throughput
*channels are non-overlapping using 2.2Mhz channels.

Can I use it now?

To use Wi-Fi 6E, you need three things: to be in a country that has allowed the use of 6GHz (in the UK, 6GHz is allowed), a Wi-Fi 6E Access point and a Wi-Fi 6E device (such as a laptop or smartphone).

Wi-Fi 6E access points and devices have just started to enter the market. However, many new devices are still shipping without Wi-Fi 6E chipsets. One important point to note is that Wi-Fi 6E requires a 6GHz radio; this means that Wi-Fi 6E won’t be available with a firmware update as a physical hardware change is required.

Most Wi-Fi connections won’t be Wi-Fi 6E. However, we started to see the first Wi-Fi 6 devices entering the market two years ago, and based on our analysis of UK networks, Wi-Fi 6 devices now account for about 20% of connections. We may see a similar level of growth with Wi-Fi 6E.

A Wi-Fi 6E network deployed today will likely reap the benefits after the first few years.

What’s a good strategy for deployment?

When deploying Wi-Fi 6E, there are a few considerations, and of course, each network will have its own specific requirements.

Depending on your use case, you may decide to deploy Wi-Fi 6E in high-density areas or areas that require additional throughput. Another option is to include Wi-Fi 6E in all locations.

One exciting option available with some access points is switching radios between 5GHz and 6GHz. For example, the XE3-4 Wi-Fi 6E Access Point from Cambium Networks allows you to combine two radios that operate as a single 5GHz 6×6 device. Then as more devices start to support Wi-Fi 6E, you can separate these radios into a 5GHz 2×2 and a 6GHz 4×4.

Another important topic to consider is WPA3, WPA3 enhances Wi-Fi security, and it is mandatory with Wi-Fi 6E. As a result, WPA2 client devices won’t co-exist with a Wi-Fi 6E SSID. This requirement introduces a level of complexity for networks that support WPA2 devices, which are most networks today. A clear strategy should be developed for managing WPA2 and WPA3 connections on the same network.

6GHz radio waves will propagate differently to 5GHz radio waves. The higher the frequency, the greater the loss between free space and physical objects, resulting in smaller coverage cells for Wi-Fi 6E devices. So it is essential to plan for coverage of your new Wi-Fi 6E network and, where necessary, adjust AP placement and quantity.

Find out why Cambium Networks is the best choice WiFi solution for warehousing and industrial businesses.

If you’re thinking about using Wi-Fi 6E in your network and want to discuss your strategy for deployment, you can contact our Wi-Fi specialists on 01908 046 400.