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What You Should Know About the 6 GHz Wi-Fi Band

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6 GHz Wi-Fi will allow for less congestion and faster speeds as it becomes more common in the workplace

Key takeaways

  • 6 GHz Wi-Fi is newly approved by the FCC
  • The technology will solve many Wi-Fi connection issues by leveraging a broader spectrum
  • Integration will require new modems and devices

Wi-Fi is critical to the global economy, with estimates suggesting it will contribute $4.9 trillion by 2025. This financial impact makes it an essential service that will grow even further in importance in the coming years.

Your business likely has dozens, if not hundreds, of devices connected to your access points at any given moment, potentially leading to congestion.

As more devices require wireless internet connections, something needed to be done to address Wi-Fi spectrum capacity on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks worldwide. These bands have limits, and congestion and performance issues are becoming more common as the number of connected devices expands exponentially.

Enter a new standard from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE): 802.11ax-2021, commonly known as Wi-Fi 6 and now also Wi-Fi 6E. 

Wi-Fi 6 achieves speeds 30-40% faster than its predecessor, Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac). And while the more recently released Wi-Fi 6E “uses the same specifications as Wi-Fi 6,” the “E” means “extended.” It “can tap into new unlicensed wireless blocks in the 6 GHz range.” 

The use of the 6 GHz spectrum will provide numerous benefits—at least, for the devices that can leverage and connect to it. Here's what you should know about 6 GHz Wi-Fi and how it's different from its predecessors.

What is Wi-Fi6E?

In basic terms, 6 GHz Wi-Fi can operate on a less congested Wi-Fi spectrum, allowing devices equipped to work on this band to maximize their performance. Previously, all Wi-Fi ran over the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Both home and work access points use these lines to communicate with equipment.

The 2.4 GHz band is the narrowest, with a frequency range of only about 70 MHz. It has limits on how much data it can send, but is able to send it a decent distance. Businesses with limited access points might stick with this technology, at least in the short-term.

With the 5 GHz band, there's 500 MHz of bandwidth, helping it transmit more data. The drawback is that this band can't transmit the data as far. 

Now, 6 GHz represents a third band that will broadcast and receive Wi-Fi signals, and devices connected to it will have less competition for bandwidth. In essence, 6 GHz increases the amount of Wi-Fi space available by a factor of two.

The 6 GHz band offers 1,200 MHz of additional bandwidth, allowing it to transmit massive amounts of data. It does have an issue, though, as its range limitations mean it’s best-suited for data transfers between devices in the same room. The FCC approving the 6 GHz band for use is the most significant spectrum addition since 1989, making this big news for the future of wireless technology.

Other things to know about 6 GHz Wi-Fi

One of the main benefits associated with 6 GHz Wi-Fi is its speed compared to other Wi-Fi bands. While 2.4 GHz signals can travel further than 6 GHz waves, 6 GHz can deliver the data faster. 

Both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands have limited spectrum available. The result is devices achieving speeds far slower than the maximum. Access points that use the 6 GHz band are more likely to broadcast at closer to the maximum allowable channel size, creating faster connections. 

It's worth noting that in the United States, multiple new channels will be added to Wi-Fi devices, helping to alleviate congestion on the 6 GHz band. These additions include: 59 x 20 MHz channels, 29 x 40 MHz channels, 14 x 80 MHz channels, and 7 x 160 MHz channels.

These numbers are different in the United Kingdom, for example, which will only be freeing 500 MHz of spectrum on the 6 GHz band. The American system could see better performance. 

How to get 6 GHz Wi-Fi

If you want to leverage 6 GHz Wi-Fi, there's good and bad news.

On the positive side, this Wi-Fi isn't an upgraded service from your business internet provider but rather a new way to broadcast the existing signal. Therefore, there’s no need to sign up for a new plan if you wish to use Wi-Fi 6. However, you may require new access points to broadcast this signal because most existing equipment doesn’t have the capability. Options on these new models are limited, but more will appear in the coming months.

It's also worth noting that most existing Wi-Fi accessible devices don't have 6 GHz capabilities either. These devices will need special adapters to connect to the 6 GHz spectrum, although new products that enter the market in the coming years should handle this band without adapters. As a result, the full usage of 6 GHz will take some time as your office equipment catches up to the band’s availability. 

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