For a couple of years, Wi-Fi 6 was hyped as the solution to wireless networks that had been crowded with smartphones, computers and countless smart home devices that all required their bandwidth. In 2020, we finally saw a large influx of Wi-Fi 6 devices, just in time for the arrival of a new protocol, Wi-Fi 6E, which companies like Netgear are already embracing as a major improvement on congested wireless networks.
Wi-Fi 6 (also known as Wi-Fi 802.11ax for those who refuse to leave the old naming scheme) enhanced Wi-Fi 820.11n’s dual 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz band technology by increasing the bandwidth of each channel to accommodate multiple devices simultaneously with minor interruptions such as increased wireless transmission speeds. Wi-Fi 6 was a big improvement for wireless network technology, but at the same time it was also a kind of patch for older technologies that was quickly overwhelmed by the number of wireless devices we use regularly, and their demand for more and more bandwidth.
If 2.4 GHz was the paved suburban highway that led to your house, while 5 GHz was the main two-lane highway that takes you downtown, Wi-Fi 6E will introduce a new 6 GHz band equivalent to a massive multi-lane highway that allows many the devices must operate at maximum speed at the same time. The top speeds it will theoretically allow will be on a par with what the 5 GHz band offers, but the real advantage of the 6 GHz band is that it will offer 59 non-overlapping channels (compared to 25 non-overlapping channels on the 5 GHz band, and only three channels on the 2.4 GHz band) that will dramatically reduce interference that is a major contributor to reduced bandwidth speeds on a crowded network.
The 6 GHz band extends over 1200 MHz, giving Wi-Fi 6E-compatible devices access to multiple 160 MHz high-bandwidth channels simultaneously, which will be appreciated by anyone jumping on the 8K TV band. But most importantly, while older wifi protocols were backward compatible, no older devices will be able to use the new 6 GHz band, only new devices that support it. Using the highway analogy again, your devices will not be stuck behind a decade old device that cannot hit the speed limit.
It seemed like it took a couple of years from that time Wi-Fi 6 became a buzzword for the industry by that time consumers could actually get hold of Wi-Fi 6 compatible hardware, but Wi-Fi 6E looks like it’s going to enjoy a much faster rollout. One of the first Wi-Fi 6E wireless routers will be Netgear’s new Nighthawk RAXE500 arriving later this year. Powered by a quad-core 1.8 GHz processor, the router will be able to deliver multiple gigabit-speed wireless connections to devices that use Wi-Fi 6E 160 MHz channels, plus fast wired connections with five additional gigabit LAN ports (including one Multi-Gig 2.5G port), and a pair of USB 3.0 ports
As with all new technology, there are a couple of good reasons not to run out and buy a Wi-Fi 6E router yet. The first reason is the price. The Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 will sell for $ 600 at launch, which may also give you one well-equipped Wi-Fi 6 mesh network system with at least three nodes scattered throughout your house. The second reason is that there are very few devices out there that can actually connect to a Wi-Fi 6E network. Only in recent months have companies such as Intel, Broadcom and Samsung released (or submitted for FCC approval) devices that can take advantage of Wi-Fi 6E speeds. Your new iPhone 12 Pro? No. All the gadgets you found under the tree at Christmas? Sorry. It will take a long time before consumers can actually reap the benefits of Wi-Fi 6E. So for now, your best plan is to persevere for as long as possible with 6E routers as the new Nighthawk begins to fall in price.