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Wi-Fi Gets Its Biggest Upgrade in Decades

Wi-Fi 6E
(Image credit: Asus)

The Wi-Fi 6 revolution is here ... for real this time. 

Actually, the biggest upgrade to Wi-Fi tech in decades is called “Wi-Fi 6E,” and it promises to vastly improve the way our router/gateway communicates to the myriad connected devices in your home, including the smart TV, box, stick, dongle, laptop or tablet you stream video on. 

This week, the Wi-Fi Alliance, the industry trade group that oversees the evolution of Wi-Fi, began certification of Wi-Fi 6E. You’ve probably already heard of Wi-Fi 6, but the "E" (for "extended') is new. Introduced in 2019, the sixth iteration of the 802.11 Wi-Fi standard dramatically improved the way routers and gateways handled multiple devices at once. 

Using 802.11 ax Wi-Fi, these devices tap into OFDMA (orthagonal frequency division multiple access), a modulation scheme similar to what is used in DOCSIS and LTE that helps routers and gateways increase the efficiency of how channels are split. 

Last year, American and UK regulators approved use of the 6 GHz band for home Wi-Fi use, allowing WiFi 6 another 1,200 MHz of midband unlicensed spectrum all to itself. 

Also read: Unto This 10G and 5G World Comes WiFi 6

This massive haul of new frequency is where the "extended" comes in for Wi-Fi 6E, offering huge benefits in places such as multi-family dwellings, in which users have traditionally bumped into one another in terms of Wi-Fi frequency usage. 

At CES, which virtually kicks off on Monday, numerous technology vendors will be pitching Wi-Fi 6E gateways and routers, as well as devices like compatible smart phones and laptop computers. 

These devices will be backward compatible with traditional Wi-Fi routers and gateways that rely on old-fangled 2.4 GHz and 5 Ghz spectrum. But paired with those that do enable Wi-Fi 6E, they’ll deliver far lower latency, while maximizing those pricey 1-gig internet subscriptions to boot. 

As this Roku user form thread indicates, don’t look for streaming devices from the major suppliers to offer Wi-Fi 6E players, sticks and dongles at this year’s CES. 

But it’s a good bet that the technology will proliferate beyond the major Wi-Fi components (routers and computers) to peripheral devices by CES 2022. 

Want to learn more? Who doesn't? This video from the Wi-Fi Alliance includes catchy, upbeat catalog music and interesting explainer: