As the FCC and similar regulatory agencies around the world prepare to open up 6GHz radio spectrum for use in Wi-Fi networks, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced today that it has selected a new name to identify devices that support the technology: Wi-Fi 6E. The branding is expected to see early use over the next year or two, assuming regulators continue on their current path toward approval.
Current Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) devices use 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio frequencies to transmit relatively huge quantities of data at homes, businesses, and schools. Wi-Fi 6E extends the latter standard’s support to include adjacent 6GHz frequencies, with 14 additional 80MHz channels and seven additional 160MHz channels to serve as extra wireless pipes for data.
Used individually or collectively with existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels, these new frequencies promise to dramatically increase the amount of data that one or more devices will be able to share on a local network. Virtual reality, 8K video streaming, and other next-generation technologies will all benefit from the additional bandwidth, while other Wi-Fi devices won’t have to fight for ever-shrinking slices of the network’s pie.
“6GHz will help address the growing need for Wi-Fi spectrum capacity to ensure Wi-Fi users continue to receive the same great user experience with their devices,” Wi-Fi Alliance CEO Edgar Figueroa said. “Wi-Fi Alliance is introducing Wi-Fi 6E now to ensure the industry aligns on common terminology, allowing Wi-Fi users to identify devices that support 6 GHz operation as the spectrum becomes available.”
The name is slightly confusing since Wi-Fi 6 — the latest generation of Wi-Fi technology — overlaps numerically with the 6GHz spectrum, yet vanilla Wi-Fi 6 won’t include 6GHz support. There’s also a 60GHz version of Wi-Fi, sometimes called WiGig, that will appear in high-bandwidth virtual reality devices. Regardless, the differentiated Wi-Fi 6E branding will eventually help consumers choose compatible equipment, once regulators allow companies to use 6GHz spectrum.