When the FCC voted in 2020 to make 1,200 megahertz of spectrum available for unlicensed use, millions of gamers around the country had cause to celebrate. Now, the result of that measure is making its way into the hands of consumers in the form of WiFi 6E-enabled routers, with gamers standing to benefit most.
WiFi 6E is without question one of the most important breakthroughs in WiFi technology to date, and for gamers, it addresses one of their biggest gripes: latency.
To understand WiFi 6E and its role in improving reaction speeds, it’s worth taking a quick look at the state of WiFi in most homes today, along with the wide-open expanse of WiFi 6E.
In a nutshell, there are two bands of spectrum prevalent in most homes – 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Each of these present benefits and drawbacks. The 2.4 GHz band reaches devices at a greater distance but is not especially fast, while the 5 GHz band shuttles data faster, but doesn’t reach as far.
WiFi 6E uses the 6 GHz band of spectrum, which is very fast and the closest thing to having one’s own personal data superhighway, free of the congestion that causes the high latency that’s detrimental to gamers.
Put simply: WiFi 6E is like adding five more lanes to today’s two-lane data highway. It eliminates traffic congestion for devices connecting to WiFi. It’s the place to camp if one’s gaming experience requires immediacy and precision.
“We suddenly have this spectrum, and nobody lives in it,” said Albert Garcia, who serves on the Wi-Fi Alliance Board of Directors and leads a 70-person team of WiFi engineers, architects and testers for Comcast.
It’s not hard to identify the source of the data smog WiFi 6E helps purify. Over a billion unique devices connected to WiFi in Xfinity households in 2021 alone, a 1,000 percent increase from 2018. What’s more, Xfinity households connected 36.7 million game consoles, an almost 1,200 percent increase. Add mobile and PC gaming and the data demand grows even stronger.
“We needed to stay ahead of it,” said Albert, who, along with WiFi industry peers, advocated for the added spectrum to handle the massive increase in connected devices. Once it was approved, he and his Comcast team went to work on a WiFi 6E-enabled router.
The newest xFi Advanced Gateway, which was unveiled in December and rolls out to customers in April, includes all three bands – 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz, giving it three-times more bandwidth than Comcast’s previous generation.
It’s also incredibly fast. Combined with Comcast’s efforts to evolve its network to 10G, it delivers multigigabit upload and download speeds to pair ultra-low lag with faster speeds, at a fraction of the price of other WiFi 6E devices, which can cost more than $1,000.
Relatively few WiFi 6E-enabled devices are in the hands of consumers, but they’re coming. In the meantime, this high-capacity, low-latency breakthrough is ready for the next split-second reaction to what lurks behind the corner.