It was just a few short years ago when we told you about a
then-upcoming wireless technology called Wi-Fi 6. At the time, what was once known as
802.11ax was henceforth given a much more consumer-friendly name,
and previous convoluted Wi-Fi standards got similar names: 802.11ac
became Wi-Fi 5, 802.11n became Wi-Fi 4, and so on.
And now we have an even newer name, Wi-Fi 6E. In short, it's an
updated version of Wi-Fi 6 that includes access to the new 6GHz
frequency band. But while it doesn't bring new technology over
Wi-Fi 6, this new frequency could be a huge deal and will make a
major impact on the future of wireless networking. Recent rumors
suggest that Wi-Fi 6E could show up as early as the iPhone 14.
What's up with that E?
It's hard to believe, but the Wi-Fi standard has been using the
same chunks of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands for over 20
years! Wi-Fi 6 is just the latest attempt to use fancy processing
to wring more bandwidth out of it and make it more reliable.
In April of 2020, the FCC took the long-awaited step of offering
up 1,200MHz of new unlicensed spectrum in the 6GHz
range, more spectrum for Wi-Fi than we've ever gotten at once.
Wi-Fi 6E is simply the first technology to support these new radio
frequencies. It didn't get a new name because it's not actually a
new technologyâ€”the encoding standards and block size and all the
other stuff are exactly the same as Wi-Fi 6.
That's also why it's not called Wi-Fi 7, which is otherwise
known as 802.11be and is still a few years out. Since it's still
Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E is still classified as 802.11ax, but they stuck
an E on there so people know which products are able to use the new
More spectrum means
Allow us to get technical for a moment: The 1200MHz of new
spectrum in the 6GHz range is divided up into fourteen 80MHz
channels and seven 160MHz channels (they overlap). Wi-Fi 6E routers
can use these new channels in addition to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz
channels already available to them, which means they can move a lot
more data at once.
How much more bandwidth? Well, that will depend on the router
and the device and what features they support, but we're talking
about multi-gigabit speeds at the high end. Wi-Fi 6E sets
up Wi-Fi to support the internet of the future, speeds that are
currently way faster than the internet coming into almost
Technically, the top theoretical limit of Wi-Fi 6E is the same
as you'd get on the 5GHz band of Wi-Fi 6 (9.6Gbps), but you're much
more likely to one day test those limits with the big spacious 6GHz
Wi-Fi 6E also uses more antennas. With Wi-Fi 6 on the iPhone 13,
Apple uses 2X2 MIMO (Multiple-Input Multiple-Output), which is a
two-antenna configuration with two receiver antennas. Wi-Fi 6E
could double that capability to 4X4, which would increase the
bandwidth and download speed.
interference means better reliability
The other big selling point of Wi-Fi 6E is that there's nothing
else in that range contending with it. With Wif-Fi 6's 2.5GHz and
5GHz spectrums have to fight with a ton of old Wi-Fi networks,
microwave ovens, you name it, Wi-Fi 6E enjoys a bunch of big, wide
channels. There are other technologies broadcasting in the 6GHz
frequency range, but with so many big channels to work with,
automated frequency control should be able to easily take care of
Higher frequencies tend to mean lower latency, too, so your
Wi-FI could get closer to wired networking responsiveness. There's
a downside, of course: higher frequencies also don't travel as far
or through walls as well, so Wi-Fi 6E doesn't necessarily offer any
improvements to range over regular Wi-Fi 6.
When is Wi-Fi 6E coming?
It's already here! You can buy Wi-Fi 6E routers today from
companies like Linksys or Netgear. Of course, they're very new and very
expensive, and they're only going to help if the devices you
connect to them (laptops, tablets, phones, game consoles, and so
on) also support Wi-Fi 6E. And most of them don't, including the
most recent iPhones, iPads, and Macs.
Apple isn't always the first to support a new Wi-Fi technology,
but it doesn't wait very long. With the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra already ushering
Wi-Fi 6E support on Android phones, there's a very good chance that
the iPhone 14 will support Wi-Fi 6E. Higher-end
Macs and iPads released in 2023 stand a very good chance of
supporting it as well as Apple gets on board with the latest in
So if you're looking to update your router, you might want to
wait a bit for the Wi-Fi 6E routers to come down in price. Wi-Fi 6
is great but Wi-Fi 6E is even better, and the last thing you want
when investing in a new Wi-Fi system is buyer's remorse.