The Extension of 802.11ax – WiFi 6E

Looking at the trend of devices that are becoming mobile and/or are becoming WiFi capable, it is obvious that WLAN would need more bandwidth and user handling capabilities. There are studies and numbers already out showing a growing need for WLAN infrastructure and the efficient technology to accommodate the new devices and applications. These applications like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality work on very low latency and needs high throughput. Many devices are coming up which supports these kinds of applications and creates a scope for a better WLAN infrastructure.

With 802.11ax High Efficiency technology, the WLAN has gained a lot of momentum. Its highly efficient logic and design makes a lot of room for the afore mentioned requirements. However, at a certain point in future this may as well reach a threshold where there would be a need for a higher capacity and larger bandwidth based WLAN systems. Addition of 6GHz Spectrum has made room for applications which demand continuous higher bandwidth and throughput. This is nothing but an extension of 802.11ax technology for the 6GHz spectrum.

Below are a few takeaways in 6GHz

  1. Wider Spectrum (5.925 – 7.125 GHz): This 1200 MHz of spectrum is granted for unlicensed use. This brings in around 59 non-overlapping channels with 20MHz. WLAN will be able to breathe more air with these channels as levels of congestion will come down to a great extent. WLAN devices, especially Access Points may not have to compete at all for an available free channel to communicate in WiFi. This would be true even if the deployment of Access Points is dense.
  2. Channel Bonding with upto 160MHz: This 1200MHz of contiguous spectrum can support upto 7 channels with 160MHz bandwidth size. That too without any interference OR channel reuse. This means, more data carriers for WLAN users and devices which in turn brings in higher speeds and throughputs. Link speeds of Gbs should be easily achievable with the support of a proper backend hardware.
  3. HE Greenfield: 6GHz only radio (will) only support HE capabilities. This means that any device which is communicating in 6GHz will not be allowed to communicate in 2.4 GHz (HT, DSSS, HR/DSSS OR ERP-OFDM) and 5 GHz (HT, VHT OR OFDM). It will only support 802.11ax (OFDMA, MU-MIMO) capable devices. This would practically eliminate older legacy devices which would bring down the latencies as well.
  4. Support for WiFi 6: As mentioned in point 3, 6GHz will support only HE capable 802.11ax Or WiFi 6 devices. This includes all the below important features listed by 802.11ax which is also supported by 6E:
    • Uplink and Downlink OFDMA
    • Uplink and Downlink MU-MIMO
    • Target Wake Time (TWT)
    • BSS Coloring
    • Supported Channel Widths: 20 MHz, 40 MHz, 80 MHz, 160 MHz
    • Highest modulation: 1024
    • Upto 8*8 MIMO streams.

Channel Schema

From A Channel schema for 6E. Available channels may be different based on different country/location approvals.

Comparative Channel schema

From: Comparison of WiFi spectrum between 6GHz, 5GHz and 2.4GHz

From various documents that I have gone through, there are few important take aways (as discussed above) which I feel should be known and will be helpful to understand this new Radio. However, these features and characteristics are not limited to the ones I discussed above. There are many more technical details with respect to 6E which is worth exploring and discussing. This new radio brings in new opportunities in WLAN learning as well.

To summarise, WiFi 6 is ready to take advantage of the new unlicensed spectrum WiFi 6E which along with its efficient and robust features brings in a lot of support for WLAN devices and applications. Growing WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E technologies together will definitely drive many innovations and much better WLAN communications in days to come.

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