What's next in Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi 6E: This is how fast the Wi-Fi 6 successor offers

Thomas Rau & Christoph Hoffmann

Wi-Fi 6 is often not in use yet. But the next generation is already ready: with Wi-Fi 6E, the name changes little, but the effects are enormous.

EnlargeThis is what Wi-Fi 6 offers.
© antstang / Shutterstock.com

At the end of November 2020, AVM brought out its first VDSL router with Wi-Fi 6 - alias IEEE 802.11ax - the Fritzbox 7530 AX. There is still a VDSL top model with the current WLAN standard as a successor to the Fritzbox 7590. But with the Fritz boxes 7530 AX, 6660 Cable and 5530 Fiber, there are already three Wi-Fi 6 routers from AVM.

Other router manufacturers such as Asus, D-Link, Honor, Huawei, Lancom, Linksys, Netgear, TP-Link, Xiaomi and Zyxel have recently increased their range for Wi-Fi 6 and are now offering corresponding devices.

This means that there are now not only expensive models for gamers, but also numerous comparatively cheap products for less than 100 euros. A search on Amazon for “wifi 6 router” yields over 250 hits with corresponding devices. The choice is huge. Good: The Wi-Fi 6 standard is compatible with the older WLAN standards 802.11a, b, g, n and ac.

WLAN check : Does every device have the best connection?

The second Wi-Fi 6 generation comes with good extensions

The first routers and access points of the second Wi-Fi 6 generation are coming soon: They are equipped with WLAN chips in accordance with 11ax Wave 2, the functions of which pay off especially in large WLANs. For example, multiple clients can now use multi-user MIMO to send data to a router at the same time (upload) - previously this only worked in the opposite direction. This is particularly advantageous when, for example, photos and videos as well as backups are uploaded to the cloud. Chip manufacturer Qualcomm offers Wave-2 chips in the four series Networking Pro Series 1200, 800, 600 and 400. Their difference lies in the number of radio data streams that can be used simultaneously - i.e. the 12, 8, 6 and 4 MIMO streams. These are then distributed over the two WLAN radio bands with 2.4 and 5 GHz.

While Wi-Fi 6 primarily ensures that as many devices as possible can transmit as quickly as possible in a full WLAN, Wi-Fi 6E goes an important step further: The new standard uses additional radio frequencies in the 6 GHz spectrum and thus gives WLAN devices more space to achieve high transfer rates undisturbed.

The American regulatory authority FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has already released the frequency range between 5.925 GHz and 7.125 GHz for unlicensed use and thus for use with WLAN. Thanks to the additional spectrum, more WLANs can transmit simultaneously at high speed than before: 14 additional areas are now available for an 80 MHz radio channel instead of the previous five. If a 160 MHz wide channel is used, up to seven more wireless networks can now transmit side by side without interference instead of just two.

Although many Wi-Fi 6 and some 11ac devices already support 160 MHz channels, they have so far rarely been used, as only a few WLANs in the vicinity can disrupt or slow down the transmission.

EnlargeAs with the previous standard, router manufacturers initially serve gamers with the new Wi-Fi 6E models - for example Asus with its GT-AXE11000 gaming router.

Wi-Fi 6E brings these advantages in everyday life - for compatible hardware

With the new standard, WLAN transmission can better exploit the technically possible speed: This should bring advantages above all for 4K video streaming, in combination with lower latency also online games with complex image effects as well as more powerful apps with virtual and augmented reality on the Enable smartphones and better VR and AR glasses without a cable connection. In addition, a 5G smartphone can pass the high cellular bandwidth on to other devices unchecked via Wi-Fi 6E tethering. To ensure that high data rates can be achieved in practice, older standards such as Wi-Fi 5 (WLAN-ac) and Wi-Fi 4 (WLAN-n) will no longer use 6 gigahertz connections - this frequency range is used exclusively by Wi-Fi 6 .

According to the Federal Network Agency, the extended frequency range for Wi-Fi 6E should be available in Germany and the EU from mid-2021. However, in this country it is only about 500 MHz between 5.925 and 6.425 MHz, which would allow up to six additional 80 MHz and up to three additional 160 MHz channels for WLAN. The British supervisory authority Ofcom already approved this area in spring 2020. A corresponding decision by the EU Commission is expected for the EU in April 2021.

Since existing Wi-Fi 6 devices cannot use the additional spectrum, new hardware is required for Wi-Fi 6E. Broadcom and Qualcomm have already presented suitable WLAN chipsets for routers and smartphones. The M.2 AX210 card for notebooks comes from Intel. Smart TVs and media receivers are also to be equipped with the fast WLAN standard for video streaming in the future. This makes particular sense for families where streaming on Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Video and Disney Plus has largely replaced linear television.

The first routers and mesh systems come from Asus, Netgear and TP-Link: Asus wants to bring the GT-AXE11000 gaming router onto the market. The Nighthawk RAXE500 router is said to come from Netgear. In addition to the fast WLAN, both devices also have 2.5 GBit LAN connections. TP-Link announces the Deco X96 mesh system, which uses the 6 GHz band for fast transmission between the mesh stations. Exact information on prices and availability in Germany is not yet available.

Samsung has pushed ahead with smartphones. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first smartphone with a WLAN chip for Wi-Fi 6E. According to the manufacturer, the BCM4389 chip from Broadcom achieves speeds of up to 2.1 GBit per second. In addition, the chip has a unique multi-radio Bluetooth 5 architecture that supports an improved audio experience with the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. Tri-Band Simultaneous (TBS) connectivity is also designed to improve Wi-Fi and Bluetooth performance, as well as battery utilization. It is only a matter of time when other smartphone manufacturers will follow suit and also offer devices with Wi-Fi 6E. According to insiders, the new iPhone generation expected for the coming autumn should also have support for Wi-Fi 6E on board. There is no information from Apple.

EnlargeThe mesh system Deco X96 from TP-Link uses the additional 6 GHz frequency for fast exchange between the two access points.

Pro tips:More power for your WLAN