Wi-Fi 6E: Wi-Fi® in the 6 GHz band (2021)

In less than 20 years, Wi-Fi® has grown from a nascent technology to a global necessity in business and in life. Wi-Fi innovation has given individuals more flexibility to work, be entertained, and connect to friends and family in a growing variety of places. Wi-Fi provides both social and economic value globally and has proven to be a star performer in enabling continued productivity in challenging times and during public emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, Wi-Fi Alliance® introduced a new Wi-Fi generation, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6, designed to meet the growing need for capacity and ensure that Wi-Fi devices could continue to operate reliably in crowded, congested environments. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 is based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.11ax standard, continuing broad adoption throughout the technology ecosystem with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), service providers, carriers, and semiconductor vendors.

As the number of Wi-Fi devices in use worldwide continues to grow rapidly, so does concern over a shortage of available spectrum to support the increasing number of Wi-Fi devices, as well as newer, more demanding applications and increased data consumption. For more than 20 years, Wi-Fi has provided great value while utilizing only the original amount of spectrum available to it. In 2020, nearly 17 years since the last major spectrum allocation, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved use of 1200 MHz in the 6 GHz band for unlicensed technologies. In effect, this nearly tripled the amount of spectrum available to Wi-Fi. Other regulatory bodies worldwide are also taking steps to expand Wi-Fi access to the 6 GHz band, including Brazil, Chile, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

As more countries approve unlicensed access to the 6 GHz band, silicon vendors and OEMs prepare to meet demand by developing Wi‑Fi 6 devices capable of operation in the 6 GHz band. These devices, known as Wi-Fi 6E devices, extend the benefits that Wi-Fi 6 already provides in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands to 6 GHz, and help increase overall capacity and performance. Wi-Fi Alliance now offers certification for Wi-Fi 6E products under the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program.

This paper discusses the importance of Wi-Fi access to the 6 GHz band, the benefits that Wi-Fi 6E devices provide to ensure continued success, and key market segments that will benefit from Wi-Fi 6E deployments.