What you need to know
- Regulators around the world may be opening up the 6GHz band to use by Wi-Fi devices.
- As a result, the Wi-Fi Alliance is introducing the Wi-Fi 6E branding for devices capable of operating in this spectrum.
- The change will allow for 14 additional 80 MHz channels and 7 additional 160 MHz channels, according to the Alliance.
If better, faster, and more reliable internet is at all interesting to you, you've likely heard about the new Wi-Fi 6 standard. The new set of technologies is set to revamp Wi-Fi for our increasingly more connected world and facilitate our vociferous hunger for more data.
While Wi-Fi 6 — also known as 802.11ax — is set to provide all that with a 3x higher theoretical throughput than Wi-Fi 5, most of us will likely never really have an internet connection that comes anywhere close to the 9.6 Gbps limit it boasts. One of its most tangible benefits of the new tech, then, will be its ability to handle more simultaneous connections and more crowded Wi-Fi spaces.
However, with everyone having their own Wi-Fi connection and everything from our fridges to our thermostats being internet-capable, the spectrum available for Wi-Fi operation is becoming increasingly congested. Think of Wi-Fi 6 as bringing out a new Ferrari onto a one-way street. You've theoretically got all the horsepower in the world, but you can't really take advantage of it all because everywhere you look, there's a car looking to hit you.
Given the situation we're in, the head of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has been talking about opening up the 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi radios. Wi-Fi communication currently only occurs in the 2.4GHz and 5 GHz spectrums. As the Wi-Fi alliance points out, opening up the 6 GHz will allow for "14 additional 80 MHz channels and 7 additional 160 MHz channels," ultimately enabling more Wi-Fi users and more different Wi-Fi networks to all occupy the same physical space without interfering with one another.
Anticipating the FCC's impending decision to open up the airways a little more, the Wi-Fi Alliance is already in the process of a rebranding. All Wi-Fi 6 devices capable of operating in the 6GHz spectrum will now be referred to as Wi-Fi 6E-compatible. Even more, since the change only requires minor modification of devices' radios, the Alliance expects Wi-Fi 6E devices to hit markets very soon after regulators around the world open up the spectrum for use by Wi-Fi devices.
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