What is WiFi 6E?

Comcast announced the launch of the next generation xFi Advanced Gateway that is WiFi 6E capable. Kunle Ekundare, Senior Director of Product Development, is one of the product engineers that helped bring this device to life. We spoke with Kunle about the significance of WiFi 6E, as well as what the future of WiFi technology means for consumers.

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Q: We’ve started to hear about WiFi 6E. What is it?

A: Simply put, WiFi 6E is one of the most important advancements in WiFi technology over the past 30 years. Most people know that most, if not all, of the data traffic in consumers’ homes use WiFi to get from your Internet modem to your smartphones, tablets, game consoles or streaming devices, etc. What you may not know is that the “highway” that data uses to reach those devices is called spectrum, and that’s really important when describing WiFi 6E.

Different bands of spectrum have different characteristics. The first spectrum band dedicated to WiFi was the 2.4 GHz band and it allowed data to reach devices located far away from the gateway but not super-fast. A few years ago, the 5 GHz spectrum band was made available for WiFi and that helped data go faster but didn’t reach as far. WiFi 6E uses the 6 GHz band of spectrum, which is both far reaching and very fast, plus offers more attributes like low latency which is important for gamers like me.

In fact, both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands provided about 600 MHz in the home and WiFi 6E alone adds an additional 1,200 MHz. That opens up incredible opportunities for less congestion, faster speeds and more efficiency over WiFi in the home.

Q: How will it change the way consumers experience the Internet?

A:  WiFi 6E will dramatically improve the connectivity experience by enabling devices to download and upload data from the Internet faster and with lower latency. It provides roughly four times the number of airwaves dedicated to WiFi for smart devices to connect to a home network. It’s like adding five more lanes to the current two-lane data highway in your home. Similar to what would happen to cars on a road, it virtually eliminates traffic congestion for devices connecting to your home WiFi network. 

It also opens up the WiFi network in the home to a new level of efficiency. The way WiFi works is every device needs to take turns getting data from the network. Your WiFi gateway is kind of like a teacher in a classroom full of kids who raise their hand to ask a question. They can’t all ask at once, so the teacher calls on each child one after the other. WiFi 6E makes this process much more efficient, allowing the gateway to schedule every device’s turn faster, which allows that device to perform its task of sending and receiving data from the Internet quicker. This process is already measured in milliseconds and is referred to as latency.

Q: About two years ago we introduced the next generation of our xFi Advanced Gateway that is WiFi 6 Certified. What exactly is the difference between WiFi 6E and WiFi 6?

A: Much like the cellular industry has been transitioning from 4G to 5G over the last few years, WiFi 6 was introduced in 2019 as the next generation of WiFi technology that offered faster speeds, lower latency and better overall performance. WiFi 6E builds upon these benefits, but it also incorporates the additional 6 GHz spectrum to provide substantially more capacity, lower latency and reduce congestion for device connectivity in the home.

Q: How soon will consumers see WiFi 6E in their homes? What can they do to take advantage of this new technology?

A: Chip makers like Broadcom, Qualcomm and Intel have all created WiFi 6E capable chips that leverage the 6 GHz band. We’ve seen these chips pop up in newer mobile devices and laptops, making them WiFi 6E capable. For instance, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3, Google Pixel 6 and Google 6 Pro, as well as newer laptops from Dell and Lenovo are all WiFi 6E capable. Further, the WiFi Alliance estimates that 338 million WiFi 6E device shipments will be sent in 2021 alone. 

Consumers can keep an eye out for new WiFi 6E capable devices that will come into the market in the coming months. And, if they already have a WiFi 6E capable device at home and are looking to take advantage of all it has to offer, call your Internet Service Provider and ask if they offer a WiFi 6E capable gateway or modem. 

And today Comcast announced its next generation xFi Advanced Gateway that incorporates WiFi 6E, making the latest advancement in WiFi available to our customers, so they are ready for all of the WiFi 6E capable devices that hit the shelves in the future.