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Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E: Differences, Definitions, and More

Wi-Fi 6E builds on the Wi-Fi 6 standard. It has double the bandwidth, translating into less network congestion, faster speeds, and more reliable connections. We dig into the details.

The evolution of Wi-Fi technology over the past few decades has been nothing short of extraordinary. From its humble beginnings to its now ubiquitous presence, Wi-Fi has revolutionized the way we live, work, and communicate.

In this blog post, we delve into two of the most recent iterations of Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E. We unravel the differences between the two standards and explain why these differences matter. Here’s what we cover:

What Is Wi-Fi 6? A Quick Overview

Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, was introduced as the successor to Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) to tackle the demands of our increasingly connected world. Wi-Fi 6 ushered in a new era of connectivity, designed to improve network speed, efficiency, and capacity. Let’s go over these one at a time.

Improved Network Speed and Efficiency

Wi-Fi 6 is capable of delivering peak speeds up to 9.6 Gbps, significantly higher than its predecessors. It's worth noting, however, that this is a maximum theoretical speed and actual speeds can be much lower depending on various factors such as the number of connected devices and network congestion.

But where Wi-Fi 6 really shines is its efficiency rather than raw speed. When the standard was first launched in 2019, it introduced new technologies like Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) and Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) to handle more devices simultaneously. It also leverages target wake time (TWT) to improve the battery life of connected devices by scheduling check-in times.

More Capacity

Wi-Fi 6 was largely a response to heightened demand for Internet access by increasingly sophisticated Wi-Fi technologies and the proliferation of associated use cases.

As the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) connectivity found their stride, wireless devices, like smart phones, tablets, laptops, and connected equipment required more Internet connections in a wider variety of contexts. This includes retail spaces, industrial and manufacturing settings, distribution centers, sports venues, and modern workplaces.

As a result, with a growing number of devices vying for more connections, network capacity became just as important as speed. Wi-Fi 6 addressed this by offering four times the capacity of Wi-Fi 5, enabling it to handle more devices without slowing down.

What Is Wi-Fi 6E? An Introduction

If Wi-Fi 6 is so great, why do we need Wi-Fi 6E? The answer lies in one crucial aspect of Wi-Fi technology: spectrum.

Wi-Fi operates in certain frequency bands, much like radio stations. Until the advent of Wi-Fi 6E, Wi-Fi operated on two primary bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. But, as the number of Wi-Fi devices has grown, these bands have become increasingly congested.

Enter Wi-Fi 6E. The 'E' in Wi-Fi 6E stands for "Extended," representing the expansion of Wi-Fi into the 6 GHz frequency band. This expansion opens up more than double the bandwidth previously available, translating into less network congestion, faster speeds, and more reliable connections. Again, let’s go over these improvements one at a time.

More Bandwidth

Imagine Wi-Fi networks as highways. The 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands are like two-lane highways that have served us well for many years. But with the increase in the number of devices, these highways are now crowded, causing network traffic jams. Adding the 6 GHz band is like adding several new lanes to the highway, accommodating more traffic and reducing congestion.

Better Performance

Since Wi-Fi 6E exclusively uses the 6 GHz band, which is less crowded and not shared with older Wi-Fi generations, it can deliver more efficient performance with less interference. This results in a cleaner and stronger signal, especially important for bandwidth-intensive processes and operations like VoIP, video streaming or Web conferencing.

The Caveat: Device Compatibility

While Wi-Fi 6E offers significant benefits, it comes with a significant caveat: device compatibility. To take advantage of the 6 GHz band, devices need to be specifically designed to support Wi-Fi 6E. As of 2023, Wi-Fi 6E devices are still relatively new, and while more and more are becoming available, they are not yet ubiquitous.

Wi-Fi Monitoring and Optimization

The growth and evolution of Wi-Fi technology have made the task of managing and optimizing network performance a complex one. Despite the many advancements brought about by Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E, several factors can still impact the quality of a Wi-Fi network. Interference from other devices, physical obstructions, device compatibility, and configuration issues can all impact Wi-Fi performance. This is where third-party monitoring and optimization platforms like 7SIGNAL come into play.

At 7SIGNAL, we offer a platform made up of RF sensors and endpoint agents powered by a slick analytics engine. Here are some reasons this is so important:

Continuous Monitoring

7SIGNAL continuously monitors wireless networks for performance issues, focusing on the 5 pillars of enterprise Wi-Fi: roaming, coverage, congestion, interference, and connectivity. This allows for the proactive identification and resolution of potential problems before they impact end-users.

Performance Optimization

By providing detailed visibility into network performance, 7SIGNAL allows network managers to fine-tune and optimize their Wi-Fi networks, complementing tools provided by AP vendors. This is particularly valuable for Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E networks, since they offer more features and complexity that can be optimized for performance.

User Experience

Ultimately, the aim of any Wi-Fi network is to provide a seamless and smooth user experience. By ensuring optimal network performance, 7SIGNAL helps to enhance end-user experiences. This is increasingly important with the advent of Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E as users have come to expect faster speeds, higher capacity, and more reliable connections.


Wi-Fi technology will continue to evolve, and with each iteration comes new complexities. Using a platform like 7SIGNAL ensures that your organization is ready to handle these changes and get the most out of your Wi-Fi network. With tools designed to improve everything from basic network troubleshooting to in-depth performance analysis, 7SIGNAL helps to future-proof your Wi-Fi network.

Click here to try 7SIGNAL for free in your environmet.

Learn More From the 7SIGNAL Experts

We’re always here to answer your Wi-Fi questions at 7SIGNAL. Our enterprise Wi-Fi optimization platform helps you plan and execute a healthier network. Contact us to learn more.

7SIGNAL® is the leader in enterprise Wi-Fi optimization, providing insight into wireless networks and control over Wi-Fi performance so businesses and organizations can thrive. Our cloud-based platform continually tests and measures Wi-Fi performance at the edges of the network, enabling fast solutions to digital experience issues and stronger connections for mission-critical users, devices, and applications. Learn more at www.7signal.com.