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02.06.2020

Hi there! This time I decided to collect the recurring Q&As I’ve been answering from the past few months,  regarding the new Wi-Fi 6, and Wi-Fi 6E. This post covers my answers to the following questions:

  • What is Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE802.11ax)? How does it compare to Wi-Fi 5 (IEEE802.11ac)?
  • Will older phones connect to Wi-Fi 6?
  • How does Wi-Fi 6 achieve higher speeds than current technology?
  • What makes 6 GHz Wi-Fi better than 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz?
  • When will 6 GHz Wi-Fi be available?

Hope you find it useful.

What is Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE802.11ax)? How does it compare to Wi-Fi 5 (IEEE802.11ac)?

The amendment of IEEE 802.11ax (also called HEW, High-Efficiency WLAN) focuses on boosting average and worst-case scenarios, which will increase overall network performance. One more reason to introduce another improvement to Wi-Fi is the fact, that requirements also change over time. Some areas, like airports or universities, are more crowded than they used to be. They are crowded in wireless terms – even if the number of people didn’t change much, now everyone can have multiple devices that try to connect to the same network. Not to mention the IoT, where thousands of devices need low data rate connections.

Now, one more question is what is Wi-Fi 6E. Well, it’s just Wi-Fi 6 in the new band at 6 GHz. So, as I heard a good statement on this at one of the webinars, “Wi-Fi 6 is a new standard in old spectrum, while Wi-Fi 6E is a new standard in the new spectrum”. As simple as that.

Will older phones connect to Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 will work in 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands, as previous standards (except for the new 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi 6E). This means they will compete for the “air time” with older versions of Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi 6 APs in addition to a new access scheme (i.e., OFDMA) will need to be backward compatible to support old Wi-Fi standards within those bands, meaning that the AP will have to support older devices using Wi-Fi 3, 4 and 5.

How does Wi-Fi 6 achieve higher speeds than current technology?

Wi-Fi 6 is equipped with several features that allow it to achieve higher speeds, namely:

  • OFDMA and Scheduled/Coordinated Access – splitting the band onto subbands (called Resource Units in Wi-Fi 6 language), allows multiplexing users in the frequency domain, which effectively means that a single user which has some small amount of data waiting in its buffer does not have to wait until the other user ends its transmission (and that “air-time” is used more efficiently, and system capacity is improved). Additionally, OFDMA comes with scheduled access, i.e. it is the AP that steers/controls who transmit and when – again, allows for less “waiting time” and collisions – translating onto more efficient “air-time” utilization;
  • Higher-order modulations – by which you can transmit more bits in one symbol (Wi-Fi 6 use max 1024 QAM, while Wi-Fi 5 can use max 256 QAM – which effectively means 10 bits/symbol vs 8 bits/symbol);
  • MU-MIMO – by which you can multiplex users in the spatial domain, meaning that an AP can communicate with more than one user in the same time/frequency resources – which effectively yield higher system capacity;
  • Almost “empty” channels in new 6GHz band (Wi-Fi 6E) – this band “does not carry” the legacy Wi-Fi standards and transmission, which benefit from all the above features in a pure manner (i.e. not disturbed by legacy transmissions), which effectively yield optimized use of “air-time”.

What makes 6 GHz Wi-Fi better than 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz?

6 GHz is “just” another GHz 🙂 BUT there are few things, which differentiate the usage of Wi-Fi in 6 GHz, compared to the others:

  • The first thing is that this is a “new” spectrum band allocated for that purpose. This implicates that it is a fairly “clean” spectrum, i.e. it’s not used by wireless devices as of now, thus will not be occupied as 2.4 GHz which is significantly overloaded due to legacy Wi-Fi networks, but also Bluetooth, and others.
  • Another important aspect is that (at least in the US) it will require to use a form of “coordination” – for the improved performance.
  • Yet another aspect is that this is the higher frequency (compared to 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz), which limits the coverage of a single Access Point and a user device (STA). This effectively means that e.g. for home users the signal will be “kept” within a home, limiting the interference to/from neighbors.
  • Finally, Wi-Fi in 6 GHz will use OFDMA from scratch, which means that the transmission will be coordinated by the Access Point and there will be no devices using older transmission techniques.

When will 6GHz Wi-Fi be available?

Here is the official statement from Wi-Fi Alliance: Wi-Fi Alliance® brings Wi-Fi 6 into 6 GHz

The vendors and ISPs are pushing this solution, however, there are still work in progress at the regulatory side (at least in the US): Wi-Fi Alliance Announces Wi-Fi 6E Moniker for 802.11ax in the 6 GHz Spectrum

EU is also considering this: Europe’s process to release 6 GHz spectrum to Wi-Fi on track, expert says | Wi-Fi NOW Events

More resources about Wi-Fi at Grandmetric Web

If you are interested in more details about Wi-Fi 6 or about Wi-Fi in general, I’d recommend you take a look on the below links.

  1. Blog-posts
  2. Whitepapers and Case Study
  3. Grandmetric Services and Training
    • To check out our training on Wi-Fi systems, click here.
    • To check out our services on Wi-Fi, click here.

Author

Marcin Dryjanski, Ph.D.

Marcin Dryjanski received his Ph.D. in telecommunications from the Poznan University of Technology in September 2019. During the past 12 years, Marcin has served as R&D Engineer, Lead Researcher, R&D Consultant, Technical Trainer, Technical Leader and Board Member. He has been providing expert-level courses in the area of 5G/LTE/LTE-Advanced for leading mobile operators and vendors. In addition to that, Marcin was a work-package leader in EU-funded research projects aiming at radio interface design for 5G including FP-7 5GNOW and FP-7 SOLDER. He co-authored a number of research papers targeting 5G radio interface design and a book "From LTE to LTE-Advanced Pro and 5G" published by Artech House. Marcin is co-founder of Grandmetric and co-founder and CEO at RIMEDO Labs. You can reach Marcin at marcin.dryjanski@rimedolabs.com or marcin.dryjanski@grandmetric.com

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