Although due to COVID-19 this year, the main conferences of CES have been changed to be held online, in this four-day consumer electronics event, we also saw a lot of the most cutting-edge product trends in the consumer electronics field.
In the Wi-Fi field, last year’s CES 2020 also represented the term “Wi-Fi 6”, but this year the keyword has become “Wi-Fi 6E”: including Netgear, Linksys, TP-Link Other manufacturers have released the world’s first batch of routers that support Wi-Fi 6E, which also makes the concept of Wi-Fi 6E that looks “slightly” different from Wi-Fi 6, and further appears in the eyes of more users.
Obviously, we need to introduce what Wi-Fi 6E is. After all, a series of problems derived from this new concept is closely related to the network we can experience next: it is related to Wi-Fi 6 that we are more familiar with. What are the differences in the experience? Can devices that support Wi-Fi 6 support Wi-Fi 6E?
What is Wi-Fi 6E
To answer this question, we first need to review the concept of Wi-Fi 6: Wi-Fi 6 is essential to allow us to better understand the concept of Wi-Fi technology iteration and is selected for the next-generation network standard “802.11ax” The maximum transmission speed of Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) can reach 9.6Gbps (approximately 1.2GB/s); at the same time, a more important improvement lies in the optimization of the multi-device experience and the more secure WPA3 encryption standard.
Back to the topic of this article, what is the difference between Wi-Fi 6E and it?
The suffix of WIFI 6E actually stands for Extended. This can also start from the current performance bottleneck of WIFI 6: Although Wi-Fi 6 has greatly improved in various aspects compared with the previous Wi-Fi standard that we used before, in the current main frequency bands, Wi-Fi 6 We are still using the 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz (5GHz) frequency bands that we are already quite familiar with, even in the environment of existing routers/supporting devices that currently support Wi-Fi 6.
For example, the 2.4GHz frequency band we currently use is equivalent to the main road in the city. Although it is a very familiar existence for everyone, it has been congested with the development of the times. Various smart homes, gateways, and Switches that do not support 5GHz in some areas need to occupy this part of the bandwidth; while 5G Wi-Fi is like an elevated/circular line built to alleviate congestion. In the initial stage, it can effectively improve traffic efficiency, but with the participation of 5GHz traffic participation (Network access equipment) The number and network demand are gradually increasing, and the advanced and efficient concepts in the past have also begun to show weakness and become overwhelmed.
Image source: Wi-Fi Alliance®
In this case, looking for new frequency bands to match the new enhancements of Wi-Fi 6 has become a logical solution. 6GHz higher than 5.8G has become a new area of concern for the first time: According to the definition of the 6GHz frequency band in the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote in 2020, the complete range of 6GHz mainly includes 1200MHz frequency band resources from 5.925GHz to 7.125GHz. The addition of this frequency band can give Wi-Fi 6 bands Comes with 14×80M channels or 7×160M broadband channels that support the new features of Wi-Fi 6. Although the next advancement on this issue will depend on the allocation strategies of national regulatory agencies, it is an indisputable fact that the addition of 6GHz can further greatly improve the experience of Wi-Fi 6 networks.
As mentioned earlier, an important experience improvement of Wi-Fi 6 compared to the previous generation standard is the transmission performance of multiple devices on the same radio frequency. This optimization can be extended to the above analogy and understood as “optimizing a single lane to carry multiple vehicles. Traffic performance”; and the addition of WIFI 6E, which uses the 6GHz frequency band, can increase the total usage of typical Wi-Fi radio waves to four times the original amount, which is equivalent to a change from “single lane to four lanes.” With more bandwidth available for devices, it will naturally greatly alleviate the Wi-Fi signal interference of multiple devices in the same frequency band. This is why media including The Verge called it “the biggest upgrade to Wi-Fi standards in two decades.”
In terms of technical specifications, the theoretical transmission speed of Wi-Fi 6E is actually the same as Wi-Fi 6: both are 9.6Gbps, which is also the highest transmission speed that can be provided under the current Wi-Fi standard; but this data is after all Coming from a specific environment, in actual use, Wi-Fi 6 devices can achieve this peak transmission speed. The scene requirements are very, very strict, and it is almost non-existent.
The addition of Wi-Fi 6E using the 6GHz frequency band can be understood as another sprint towards theoretical extreme speed under current conditions: get rid of the spectrum limit and use the maximum bandwidth to allow routers and devices that support Wi-Fi 6E to get Faster uplink/downlink speed and lower latency.
Do devices that support Wi-Fi 6 support Wi-Fi 6E?
Unfortunately: not really.
Moreover, the flagship mobile phone that supports Wi-Fi 6 / Wi-Fi 6 router at home in your hand now cannot use Wi-Fi 6E.
Similar to the Wi-Fi 6 certification method, only devices that can use the 6GHz Wi-Fi 6 network can be called “Wi-Fi 6E support” and marked with the exclusive logo that represents support for Wi-Fi 6E.
Although it does not seem to be very different from Wi-Fi 6, the Wi-Fi 6 routers currently on the market and the Wi-Fi 6 supported by flagship phones are still essentially using the 2.4G/5G Wi-Fi frequency band. Only devices equipped with network cards and antennas that support Wi-Fi 6E standard certification can be regarded as truly supporting Wi-Fi 6E networks; the industry organization responsible for this certification work-the Wi-Fi Alliance® According to the report, the first batch of standard-compliant devices will be officially launched in the first half of 2021, which is why we will see various router manufacturers gather to showcase new products during CES this year.
In addition, in the field of smartphones: 2021 is also the year when the first flagship phones supporting the Wi-Fi 6E standard are on the market: for example, the Samsung S21 series, which will hold a conference almost at the same time as CES 2021. Among them, the S21 Ultra is the first smartphone that supports the Wi-Fi 6E standard: thanks to its Broadcom BCM4389 chip, which is also one of the first Wi-Fi 6E devices that have been certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance; so Wanting to “grab the starter” technically is often not the work of a family.
From another perspective, if it is as strong as Samsung, it can only add this new feature to its top flagship in the first half of the year, so that geek users can try it. To a certain extent, It reflects that the current promotion of Wi-Fi 6E is destined not to be as fast as Wi-Fi 6: because it also needs to face new problems brought about by more new frequency bands.
Is it compatible with 5G networks?
Since the most important difference between Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 6 can actually be attributed to the addition of the new frequency band, the main problem of Wi-Fi 6E deployment is the problem caused by the use of the new frequency band: one of them The important issue is compatibility with 5G mobile networks that also use the 6GHz frequency band.
The difference will affect the smartphone antenna design in the next few years, the 5G networking methods in different countries and regions, and the subsequent actual user experience. The impact can be described as profound.
Relatively speaking, Wi-Fi 6E is the one that needs to “give way” in the important upgrade process of 6GHz: after all, 5G network development has entered the stage of actual network deployment, and it is obviously unrealistic to let the first mover give way to the latecomer. Therefore, how to not interfere with each other at the same time with 5G and even 6G mobile networks that also need to use the 6GHz frequency band is the problem in the promotion of this new technology.
On this issue, in the main use scenario of Wi-Fi—indoor use scenarios; naturally, Wi-Fi 6E uses frequency bands first, but for wider outdoor use scenarios, the FCC currently requires Wi-Fi 6E You need to use the “automated frequency control” (automated frequency control) specification to ensure that it will not interfere with the normal transmission of other devices that also use the 6GHz frequency band: this specification is also issued by the Wi-Fi Alliance to ensure all support The structure, protocol, and function of the device interface of this specification are consistent, and can “get along” at 6GHz.
However, in addition to the direct improvement, the 6GHz used by Wi-Fi 6E is also the same as 5GHz Wi-Fi. The “through-wall” performance is poor, and the long-distance is further attenuated. This is why the two TP-Link released during CES The mesh routers that support Wi-Fi 6E, although they all support 6GHz, can only be used for data transmission between routers.
In fact, with the rapid deployment of 5G, “Whether 5G/6G will completely replace Wi-Fi in the future” is a topic that has been explored by the academic community. At this stage, the upcoming conflict between 5G and Wi-Fi 6E on the 6GHz spectrum is also To promote the study of this issue at a certain level; fortunately, we do not have to choose one of the two.
The current global Wi-Fi 6E development
The actual allocation of Wi-Fi 6E and 5G in the 6GHz frequency band mentioned above is a problem that countries in the world are still promoting to solve. At the same time, similar to the 5G development technology route, Wi-Fi 6E is promoted in different countries and regions. It will also be based on the opening of the 6GHz spectrum by local regulatory agencies.
In addition to the US FCC’s early opening of the entire 1.2GHz to Wi-Fi 6E devices, the Wi-Fi Alliance also stated in an earlier article that the United Kingdom, the European Union, South Korea, Chile, and the United Arab Emirates have all approved their country. Wi-Fi equipment uses 6GHz, and regulatory agencies in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and Japan have also promoted the opening of 6GHz for Wi-Fi 6E equipment; however, different countries/regions allocate resources in the 1200MHz frequency band from 5.925GHz to 7.125GHz. It will also be adjusted according to the local existing frequency band usage: for example, the European Union first opened up 500MHz for Wi-Fi 6E and will decide whether to further increase 400MHz based on actual usage.
More Wi-Fi 6E devices are on the way
Although this year’s CES was already the first wave of new Wi-Fi 6E products, CES is after all an exhibition that represents the new developments of various products in the next year. Therefore, the six Wi-Fi 6E models we saw during CES were all the earliest. Can only be shipped in the second quarter of this year: This progress is also closely related to the Wi-Fi Alliance certification and the certification speed of national regulatory agencies and the promotion of Wi-Fi 6E in major countries/regions itself determines the entire consumer electronics industry Whether it will usher in the important conditions of the Wi-Fi 6E era faster.
At present, the Wi-Fi Alliance is now beginning to certify the first products that support Wi-Fi 6E. At the same time, according to research data, mobile phones that support Wi-Fi 6E (S21 Ultra is the first), PCs and laptops will be available in the first half of 2021; TVs and VR headsets that support Wi-Fi 6E are expected to be available It will be listed in the middle of this year; manufacturers including Apple and Qualcomm have already stated that they will release new products supporting Wi-Fi 6E in the next generation; Intel has also released the AX210 network card that supports Wi-Fi 6E.
In other words, in 2021, we will be able to see: Wi-Fi 6E has become a support standard that is increasingly mentioned in the fields of mobile phones, laptops and smart homes, although different countries and regions have Wi-Fi 6E The actual promotion progress of Wi-Fi 6E is not the same; however, Wi-Fi 6E still relies on the greatly increased new frequency band resources, which can be used as a further extension of the Wi-Fi 6 specification to improve the user experience in the future Wi-Fi environment. Let more countries and regions’ regulatory agencies be more willing to work to promote the implementation of Wi-Fi 6E.
At present, the various new products launched around the Wi-Fi 6E standard in the consumer electronics industry are also accelerating the construction of the Wi-Fi 6E ecosystem, which is of course a good sign for the promotion of Wi-Fi 6E. In the near future, maybe we will be able to actually experience the improvement of the network experience after the opening of the 6GHz spectrum to Wi-Fi. Although the speed conditions promised by Wi-Fi 6 are still stringent, Wi-Fi 6E can bring us The actual improvement of Wi-Fi experience can still be said to be the biggest leap in Wi-Fi standards in recent years-even in terms of a twenty-year cycle.