WiFi 6E and 6 GHz

This page covers everything you need to know about the Wi-Fi Alliance WiFi 6E certification and 6 GHz networking. 

 

New frequency, new Superwide channels, lower latency and better roaming. Massive performance improvements across the board.

 

The opening of the 6 GHz frequency band for commercial use in the US marks the beginning of the next major advancement in WiFi technology. 

Overview - Wide Spectrum, Fast Speeds

In 2020, following the new IEEE 802.11ax-2021 standard, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced Wi-Fi 6. This name was a bit of a misnomer, as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States had not yet opened up the 6 GHz frequency band for commercial use, so Wi-Fi 6 devices were still limited to the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. In 2021 FCC finally opened up the 6 GHz frequency band for commercial use in the US. Following this announcement, the Wi-Fi Alliance established Wi-Fi 6E, a designated name for devices ready to support 6 GHz.

So what does this mean for WiFi? Wi-Fi 6E makes a few promises:

  • 1200 MHz of additional uncongested bandwidth
  • More channels (109 total) to support far more devices at once
  • Superwide channels
  • Super low latency
  • Improved client device roaming

Wi-Fi Alliance 6 GHz General Info Graphic

 

6 GHz (Superwide) Channels

The IEEE 802.11ax-2021 standard, which has been marketed by the Wi-Fi Alliance as Wi-Fi 6, focused on high-efficiency for overall improvements in dense environments. Wi-Fi 6 was initially limited to the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless frequency bands due to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation in the United States. In April of 2020, the FCC unanimously voted to open the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use in the US. 

Following the change in FCC rules, the Wi-Fi Alliance added the Wi-Fi 6E designation in 2020 for devices that support the 6 GHz spectrum. With access to the 6 GHz spectrum, a whole new landscape of channel availability is among us. At 160 MHz-wide, 7 of these new channels are "superwide".

Wi-Fi Alliance 6 GHz Channel Graphic

 

With 1200 MHz of additional bandwidth, in the US 6 GHz allows for up to seven 160 MHz-wide channels, fourteen 80 MHz-wide channels, twenty-nine 40 MHz-wide channels and a whopping fifty-nine 20 MHz-wide channels.

At a normal power mode, APs are only allowed to access 850 MHz of spectrum space. On low power mode, there are no restrictions, and APs can use the entire 1200 MHz spectrum range. So, in a space with more access points at lower power, devices on 6 GHz can operate over 59 20 MHz-wide channels.

Download the PDF version of our detailed 6GHz WiFi channel plan from here

 

AP Discovery

The introduction of Wi-Fi 6E and the 6 GHz frequency band brings two new methods of communication between client devices and APs.

Traditionally, wireless devices communicate with access points in a specific exchange of information. Client devices use an active “hunt-and-seek” approach to scan for existing APs. This active scanning approach involves sending probe request frames along the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency spectrum. An AP would respond with a probe response frame containing all the necessary basic service set (BSS) information to connect to the network. This information would consist of SSID, BSSID, channel width, and security information among other things. 

This active “hunt-and-seek'' approach to network connectivity is no longer necessary and is actually discouraged in Wi-Fi 6E on the 6 GHz band because it's now inefficient to broadcast the same probe requests over so many channels.


In-band discovery  is used for communication between 6 GHz devices, and there are three methods of in-band discovery.  Fast Initial Link Setup (FILS) and unsolicited probe response (UPR) frames are two passive methods of in-band discovery. Preferred Scanning Channels (PSC) is an active method of in-band discovery.  

The third discovery method in Wi-Fi 6E, which is active, is Preferred Channel Scanning (PSC). This is actually the only method by which Wi-Fi 6E client devices are allowed to send probe requests. With PSC, client devices are limited to sending probe requests on every fourth 20 MHz channel. 

 

Primary Channel Scanning channel allocations on 6 GHz

Out-of-band discovery is used for cross-communication on all 3 frequency bands (2.4, 5, and 6 GHz). This method, introduced in 802.11v is known as reduced neighbor reporting (RNR). Essentially, when a Wi-Fi 6E-capable AP sends a probe response frame it includes, (along with basic service set (BSS) information for the 2.4 or 5 GHz band) RNR information about its 6 GHz radio. This RNR will serve as enough information for the client device to roam between 6 GHz and 2.4 or 5 GHz networks. 

 

Click here for our article on AP discovery in Wi-Fi 6E / 6 GHz

 

Applications

Upgrade Your Computer

If you use an Intel-based PC, there's a good chance you can upgrade your device's Wi-Fi Card to the new Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210 wireless adapter chip. We have a full tutorial on installing the drivers and making registry edits to make your device state of the art.

 

Windows Laptop connected to a 6 GHz network

 

Scan 6 GHz with WiFi Scanner for Windows

Our popular and easy-to-use scanning tool, WiFi Scanner for Windows, has been updated to fully support scanning on the 6 GHz frequency band. Click here to read our article on covering the exciting update.

A 160 MH-wide 6 GHz network shown in WiFi Scanner version 2.5

A 160 MH-wide 6 GHz network shown in WiFi Scanner version 2.5