Hey there! If you‘re like me, you rely on Wi-Fi to stay connected and get things done. But with new generations of Wi-Fi coming out all the time, it can be confusing trying to understand what the differences are and if upgrading is worthwhile.
In this guide, we‘ll unpack the new Wi-Fi 6E standard and see how it compares to previous versions of Wi-Fi, as well as competing wireless technologies like 5G and satellite internet. My goal is to equip you with the knowledge to decide if Wi-Fi 6E is right for your needs.
Ready? Let‘s dive in!
What Exactly is Wi-Fi 6E?
Wi-Fi 6E represents the newest generation of Wi-Fi technology. It builds on the previous Wi-Fi 6 standard, operating on the 802.11ax protocol that was engineered for high-efficiency, high-density usage scenarios.
The key upgrade Wi-Fi 6E brings is access to the new 6 GHz band. Previous generations of Wi-Fi utilized the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. By expanding into the largely unused 6 GHz band, Wi-Fi 6E massively increases available spectrum and reduces interference from other devices.
More spectrum means more bandwidth and channels for your devices to operate on. This translates to faster top speeds, increased capacity, lower latency, and reduced congestion compared to Wi-Fi 6. We‘re talking peak speeds of up to 9.6 Gbps!
Wi-Fi 6E began rolling out in 2020 and is quickly gaining global adoption. It‘s the cutting edge of Wi-Fi technology today and a glimpse of the future.
A Brief History of Wi-Fi Standards
To understand where Wi-Fi 6E fits in, it helps to look back at how Wi-Fi has evolved over the years.
The first Wi-Fi specification was introduced in 1997. Known as 802.11b, it could deliver maximum speeds of 11 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band.
Over the next two decades, successive generations of the 802.11 protocol brought steady improvements:
- 802.11a (1999) – 54 Mbps speeds on the 5 GHz band
- 802.11g (2003) – 54 Mbps, 2.4 GHz band
- 802.11n (2009) – 600 Mbps, dual-band support
- 802.11ac (2013) – 1 Gbps theoretical maximum, 5 GHz only
- 802.11ax (2019) – 9.6 Gbps max, dual-band again
With every iteration, the Wi-Fi Alliance aimed to boost connection speeds, capacity, and efficiency. The latest 802.11ax standard supercharges Wi-Fi performance even further.
Operating as Wi-Fi 6 on existing 2.4/5 GHz bands, then expanded to 6 GHz with Wi-Fi 6E, this technology is cutting-edge. But more enhancements are doubtless coming to meet our insatiable demand for faster, more ubiquitous wireless connectivity.
Key Benefits and Features of Wi-Fi 6E
So what exactly does Wi-Fi 6E bring to the table compared to prior versions? Let‘s look at some of the core benefits and enabling technologies:
1. More spectrum and channels
The newly opened 6 GHz band contains 1200 MHz of additional spectrum. This vast range is comparably uncongested, since it hasn‘t been available for Wi-Fi until now.
Having more open spectrum results in 7 new 80 MHz channels and 14 new 160 MHz channels for Wi-Fi 6E networks. Less competition and interference means greater capacity for client devices.
2. Faster top speeds
Wi-Fi 6E attains maximum theoretical speeds up to 9.6 Gbps, a notable upgrade from Wi-Fi 6‘s 3.5 Gbps. Real-world speeds won‘t reach those peaks, but you can expect 40-50% higher throughput from Wi-Fi 6E.
3. Lower latency
Latency refers to the delay between a device requesting data and receiving it. Wi-Fi 6E provides latency under 5 ms, which is critical for time-sensitive applications like gaming, VR, and autonomous tech.
4. Increased capacity
With more available spectrum and the latest multiple access technologies, Wi-Fi 6E offers 4X greater capacity per access point compared to Wi-Fi 5. This means more devices can be simultaneously connected without congestion.
5. Backwards compatibility
Wi-Fi 6E access points and routers work with older Wi-Fi client devices, while still providing next-gen advantages to newer Wi-Fi 6E clients. Upgrading your network doesn‘t mean replacing all devices.
In short, Wi-Fi 6E delivers substantial speed, efficiency and performance improvements through clever use of the new 6 GHz band. It‘s the most advanced Wi-Fi version yet.
How Wi-Fi 6E Compares to 5G
Wi-Fi and cellular tech like 5G have always advanced in parallel. But how exactly does the latest Wi-Fi standard stack up against 5G for your connectivity needs?
5G is a cellular wide area network, accessing licensed and managed radio spectrum. Wi-Fi 6E is wireless local area networking on unlicensed frequencies.
5G requires installation of cellular towers by licensed providers, although coverage is rapidly expanding. Wi-Fi requires access points provided by internet service providers.
Peak theoretical 5G speeds can rival Wi-Fi 6E at up to 10 Gbps thanks to mmWave technology. But average real-world 5G speeds are currently closer to 100 Mbps.
5G latency is expected to reach 10 ms and lower. Wi-Fi 6E already offers sub-5ms latency today.
Range & Reliability
5G provides broader coverage outdoors, but signal degrades through obstructions. Wi-Fi 6E offers more reliable connectivity indoors and in high density environments.
5G data plans remain quite expensive compared to home internet service. Carriers continue working to make 5G more affordable.
5G shines for on-the-go uses like navigation and streaming. Wi-Fi 6E is ideal for indoor needs like gaming, office work, and smart homes. The technologies complement each other well.
Neither is objectively "better" – they each have advantages based on use case. My take? We‘ll ultimately use both 5G and Wi-Fi 6E seamlessly as needed.
How Wi-Fi 6E Stacks Up to Satellite Internet
Satellite internet provides an alternative to land-based cable and fiber optic connections. Could emerging options like SpaceX‘s Starlink provide an advantage over Wi-Fi 6E? Let‘s compare.
Starlink uses a network of low earth orbit satellites to deliver broadband globally. Wi-Fi 6E uses ground-based access points with wired internet backbone.
Starlink advertises 100-200 Mbps speeds today, with goals of 300 Mbps. That‘s fast, but Wi-Fi 6E already offers nearly 10 Gbps of bandwidth. Huge advantage to Wi-Fi 6E.
Here‘s where satellite internet struggles – latency over Starlink averages 45 ms presently. Wi-Fi 6E latency is sub-5 ms. Latency makes a big difference for real-time apps.
Reliability & Availability
Satellite connectivity may suffer occasional brief drops in service as satellites orbit overhead. Wi-Fi 6E provides steady, robust connectivity where access points are available.
However, Starlink offers service virtually anywhere, while Wi-Fi 6E depends on infrastructure being in place. Big win for satellite in rural areas.
Starlink plans run $110 per month. Wi-Fi 6E access requires existing home internet that may cost $50 or less monthly.
For most consumer uses in populated areas today, Wi-Fi 6E simply provides faster, lower latency service for less money compared to satellite internet. But satellite has an advantage in availability.
Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 6E: Key Differences
Wi-Fi 6E may seem very similar to Wi-Fi 6 since it‘s built on the same 802.11ax protocol. But the addition of the 6 GHz band makes a world of difference. Here are the key contrasts:
Wi-Fi 6 operates on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz only. Wi-Fi 6E adds 6 GHz support for a 3x increase in available spectrum.
Wi-Fi 6E theoretical peak speed is 9.6 Gbps versus 3.5 Gbps for Wi-Fi 6. Real-world speeds are roughly 50% faster.
Latency is slightly reduced with Wi-Fi 6E versus Wi-Fi 6 thanks to less interference and congestion on 6 GHz.
The massive amount of new bandwidth on 6 GHz allows Wi-Fi 6E to support 2.6X more devices simultaneously per access point.
Wi-Fi 6E has slightly better range than Wi-Fi 6 when using the 6 GHz band, thanks to properties of the higher frequency waves.
Wi-Fi 6 is widely available now, while Wi-Fi 6E is still ramping up. But Wi-Fi 6E provides backward compatibility when you do upgrade.
Across the board, Wi-Fi 6E represents an upgrade over Wi-Fi 6, opening speed, capacity and efficiency advantages by expanding into the new 6 GHz spectrum. But Wi-Fi 6 remains a robust technology in its own right.
The Bottom Line
There‘s no doubt Wi-Fi 6E provides the most bleeding edge wireless performance available today. With lightning fast speeds, ultralow latency, and enough capacity for a small city, it future-proofs your network.
For consumers, small businesses, and pro users alike, Wi-Fi 6E is the new gold standard. It handily outperforms preceding Wi-Fi versions and competes favorably with 5G and satellite for many applications.
Upgrading isn‘t essential for everyone just yet – Wi-Fi 6 remains quick and capable. But as more Wi-Fi 6E devices hit the market, taking advantage of this next-gen technology will enable the peak speeds and performance we crave.
The world of wireless moves fast, so standards will continue advancing. But for now, Wi-Fi 6E represents the pinnacle. I hope this overview gave you the insights you need to make sense of this new Wi-Fi frontier! Let me know if you have any other questions.