While the market is still struggling to adopt the Wi-Fi 6 standard, manufacturers are already at war to offer devices that support Wi-Fi 6E, an even more recent standard. We make a balance of all these standards and their specificities, their advantages and the differences to take into account.
Wi-Fi 6 reached the end of its standard in early 2021. Since then, it has become a selling point for internet carriers and even wireless access point manufacturers. The promise is attractive, for example, with theoretical speeds that exceed the usual Gigabit Ethernet port.
However, this standard is already beginning to be supplanted by its first evolution: Wi-Fi 6E. This new iteration has the main advantage of using a hitherto unused frequency band. However, it does not bring any great revolution in terms of speeds, which are very close to those of Wi-Fi 6.
What does Wi-Fi 6 bring to our digital uses? Should I invest in a computer that supports these standards? We break it all down for you in this file which will actually complete our Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E device tests. Feel free to discover the best routers and PC cards to take advantage of this standard.
Wi-Fi 6E: a bit of history
We’re not going to rehash the entire history of Wi-Fi and its various iterations here. We already have a file that summarizes everything you need to know about the wireless network and its speeds. Instead, here we will focus on Wi-Fi 6 and its evolution. However, it’s worth taking a quick look at Wi-Fi 5, to fully understand the benefits of the new standards we’re going to talk about here.
To put things in context, Wi-Fi 5 in Europe had a 60 MHz band around 2.4 GHz and two bands of around 455 MHz in total around 5 GHz. This bandwidth, although quite obscure for the common of mortals, represents, in a way, the space available for your Wi-Fi network.
These different bands, as well as the technologies used, allow Wi-Fi 5 to deliver actual speeds of approximately 800 Mb/s under good conditions, on a given machine. At the scale of a network, with the latest standards and high-performance devices, we can theoretically reach almost 10 Gb/s cumulatively.
The problem is that these frequency bands have evolved little since the beginning of Wi-Fi, in fact with the development of the Internet and new technologies it was necessary to look for ways to obtain better Wi-Fi performance, this is where Wi-Fi -Fi 6 enters.
Wi-Fi 6, a necessary evolution
With the exponential development of connected objects, our old Internet boxes and the Wi-Fi 5 that equip them struggle to provide a quality network. This is even more true in dense environments like buildings where all networks must co-exist and share the different frequency bands that are already in high demand.
That’s why Wi-Fi 6 was created. Its primary goal is to improve performance at a network scale. To do this, several technical choices have been made, in order to obtain better performance, while continuing to use the same frequency bands as those used in Wi-Fi 5. Among these technical improvements, we highlight, for example, the ‘use of :
- OFDMA : a modulation technique that allows channels to be grouped together to transmit data simultaneously to different devices. In a nutshell, it’s as if we could deliver to multiple customers at the same time with a single truck, whereas Wi-Fi 5 required one truck per customer. OFDMA is particularly interesting in dense environments and for moderate uses such as web browsing.
- MU-MIMO – Already present in Wi-Fi 5 (but now works in both directions), MU-MIMO allows the router to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously. Returning to our example of trucks, we can use several trucks, which would circulate in parallel to deliver more goods. This technique also works perfectly with a single client, allowing a substantial speed boost to a machine with high bandwidth requirements for video playback or streaming, for example.
- 160MHz channels : the generalization of the channels with a width of 160 MHz in the compatible devices logically allows to increase the flow for the latter as well as the latency. It’s like having a wider pipe, so more data flows faster.
- 1024-QAM : Instead of 256-QAM, a modulation scheme that makes sense for uses with high bandwidth demands and therefore offers the possibility of transmitting more data in the same bandwidth.
Note also the arrival of the TWT for target wake up time allowing access points to tell clients when to go to sleep and wake up. This, first of all, discharges the battery of devices (in particular, connected objects), and also frees up the different frequency bands when there is no need to use them.
Wi-Fi 6 also marks the arrival of bss coloring. The idea is to “colorize” the transmitted data using a unique identifier to help each access point find its youngsters in crowded environments, such as buildings. We also find the beamforming which has the role of optimizing the path of the waves to improve in particular the range and efficiency of transmission.
The main objective of all these technical improvements is to optimize and make the historical Wi-Fi frequency bands even more reliable. The results are clear: at network scale, the speed improves by around 300% and the latency drops by 75%. . On the other hand, at single machine scale, the gains are less substantial with about 40% improved performance.
Specifically, with a good access point and a decent client machine, we can expect to achieve real throughput of 1 to 1.5 Gb/s. So we easily outperform the Gigabit Ethernet ports that most devices are equipped with.
Beyond the improvement in performance, Wi-Fi 6 brings interesting news in terms of security with the arrival of WPA3. Otherwise, it still uses the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands and bandwidths identical to those found in Wi-Fi 5. And that’s where Wi-Fi 6E comes in!
What are the differences between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E?
Wi-Fi 6E is no different from Wi-Fi 6. In fact, it is the exact same standard and both use the same technologies. The only difference is in the frequency band used, as Wi-Fi 6E allows you to use the 6GHz band where we were previously limited to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
This new band has a particular advantage: previously it was not used by Wi-Fi networks, so there are no congestion problems like those that occur in the usual 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. It is as if a new road parallel to the others and accessible only to newer vehicles.
Best of all, this strip is more than twice as wide as the historic stripes. In theory, this leaves twice as much room for our networks and data to circulate properly. Taking the example of our highway, it is as if in addition to benefiting from a dedicated road, it had more traffic lanes.
However, European regulations do not authorize the use of all the expected spectrum in Wi-Fi 6E. If you have 1200 MHz of bandwidth available for US channels, we have to settle for just 500 MHz, which doesn’t really allow us to revolutionize the raw speeds of our machines.
Therefore, at present, Wi-Fi 6E compatible devices do not specifically revolutionize usability and performance. In tests carried out by our colleagues and ourselves, the raw speed increases slightly compared to Wi-Fi 6, but this does not change much in practice. In the idea, and in perfect conditions, some devices, however, easily manage to reach 1.8 Gb/s speed, enough to tickle the performance of a 2.5 Gb/s Ethernet port.
However, the 6 GHz band not only has advantages, since with the increase in frequency come the usual range problems. In fact, the higher the frequency of the waves, the more difficult it is to pass through walls and other such structures. Therefore, performance quickly suffers.
Finally, just like Wi-Fi 6, this new “E” version doesn’t seem destined to deliver exceptional raw performance. We are again in an evolution to relieve existing bands and improve performance and reliability across the network. All this in order to guarantee impeccable operation of networks despite the explosion in the number of connected devices.
What devices are compatible with Wi-Fi 6E?
By the end of 2022, the vast majority of mobile devices, computers, and tablets are at least Wi-Fi 6 compatible. Note that this does not mean that they are compatible with the latest Wi-Fi 6E standard and they are not. it probably never will be unless they replace its Wi-Fi chip.
Among smartphone manufacturers, Samsung is in the lead as the S21 Ultra released in 2021 already supported Wi-Fi 6E. Since then, other models have followed. Without being able to be exhaustive, we can mention the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the Galaxy S22 Plus and the Galaxy Z Fold 4 as well as the Xiaomi Mi 11, Xiaomi 12 Pro or the Asus Rog Phone 6 Pro and Zenfone 9. On the portable side, the models newer, mid-range to high-end models are compatible with the standard. This is particularly the case with Acer’s Swift 5, for example.
If you’re using Wi-Fi on a desktop computer, it’ll be even easier to take advantage of the 6E standard. In fact, Wi-Fi cards, equipped with the Intel AX210 chip, can be found for about fifty euros on Amazon, for example. This is the easiest way to take advantage of the 6 GHz band.
Currently, all carriers except SFR offer a box capable of transmitting a Wi-Fi 6E network. If you don’t want to rely on your carrier for this, you still have the option of equipping yourself with a Wi-Fi router or a Wi-Fi Mesh kit.
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