WiFi 6: The first smartphones and routers support the new WiFi


The global expansion of the new 5G mobile communications standard is progressing gradually. Even if it is slowed down by international political rifts between the USA, the EU and China and, most recently, a conspiracy theory that links 5G transmission masts with the spread of the coronavirus. The technology not only promises faster Internet for 5G-enabled cell phones, but also to drive the expansion of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. One problem with 5G: the short range of the frequencies used.

Meanwhile, the internet at home is also making great strides. While providers were able to get customers to sign up for contracts with 16,000 DSL lines just a few years ago, lines with 100 megabits per second are almost the norm today. But the data packets also have to get from the line to the end user and WLAN routers are mainly used for this, because wired applications are becoming increasingly rare. These routers only have limited frequency ranges to choose from, for example to enable the user to surf the net. This is exactly where WiFi-6E comes in. Because unlike WiFi-6, it brings with it a range of new frequencies.

Contrary to what the name suggests, WiFi-6 does not rely on 6 gigahertz, but is merely a further development of WiFi technology in the 2.4 and 5 gigahertz frequency range, in which it increases transmission speeds. Devices equipped with WiFi-6E transmit the data packets in the 2.4 and 5 gigahertz frequency ranges as well as in the 6 gigahertz frequency range. Especially in densely populated areas this can mean the difference between a fast and a slow connection to the Internet. Because in residential areas dozens of WLAN routers often transmit one above the other in the limited frequency range, which leads to delays in data transfer. WiFi-6E is supposed to remedy this, it is the largest WLAN update in 20 years.

The first WiFi 6E devices are on the way, including the Galaxy S21

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the authority in the USA that regulates the exchange of information in various media and the granting of frequency usage rights. In spring 2020, the FCC decided to release the 6 gigahertz band for unlicensed use, which enables the production and use of WiFi 6E technology on a large scale.

The WiFi alliance, which is behind the new standard, is now starting to certify the first products with Wi-Fi 6E, as reported by “The Verge”. The first smartphones, PCs and laptops are expected in the first months of 2021, televisions and VR glasses are to follow in the summer.

The first WLAN routers that support Wi-Fi 6E were presented at the CES tech trade fair in early January. Samsung’s new flagship smartphone Galaxy S21 also comes with 6E support, as the new Snapdragon 888 processor is compatible. This will probably land in many Android smartphones in the foreseeable future.

The pros and cons of Wi-Fi 6E

The standard offers great advantages and disadvantages at the same time, because the new frequency range enables even faster data transfers than WiFi 6, which enables simultaneous 4K streaming and VR online gaming, but reduces the range. Even today, the jump from the 2.4 to the 5 gigahertz frequency range only makes sense if the router and end device are in relative proximity to one another. If the router is at the end of a long hallway and there are obstacles such as doors or thick walls in the way, little of the 5 gigahertz signal will arrive. The 2.4 gigahertz range has a wider range. WiFi-6E reduces this range even more, which can only be absorbed by a stronger signal or the use of repeaters.

This article was published by in April 2020. It has now been reviewed and updated.

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