Is WiFi 6 better or WiFi 6E?

WiFi technology is constantly evolving to meet the demands of our increasingly connected world. The latest generation, WiFi 6, was released in 2019 and aims to provide faster speeds, greater capacity, and better efficiency than previous versions. However, WiFi 6E, an enhanced version of WiFi 6, is already on the horizon promising even further improvements. This article examines the key differences between WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E to help you determine which is better for your needs.

Is WiFi 6 better or WiFi 6E?

WiFi 6, also known as 802.11ax, builds on 802.11ac technology with the following upgrades:

Faster theoretical maximum speeds

  • WiFi 5 (802.11ac) maximum speed: 3 Gbps
  • WiFi 6 maximum speed: 9.6 Gbps

This 4x increase is achieved through more efficient data encoding and modulation techniques. Real-world speeds will depend on your internet connection and devices.

Increased number of simultaneous connections

WiFi 6 uses MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input, multiple output) technology to allow more devices to connect and transmit data simultaneously. Where WiFi 5 supports 4×4 MU-MIMO (4 devices concurrently), WiFi 6 supports 8×8 MU-MIMO (8 devices concurrently).

This helps reduce network congestion in busy environments with many connected devices.

Improved efficiency with OFDMA

WiFi 6 introduces OFDMA (orthogonal frequency-division multiple access), allowing data transmissions to be divided into smaller sub-carriers. This allows more devices to share the available bandwidth efficiently.

With WiFi 5, only one device could transmit at a time. OFDMA enables multiple devices to transmit simultaneously, reducing latency.

Better performance in dense, congested environments

WiFi 6’s combination of MU-MIMO and OFDMA adds up to improved speed and capacity in crowded networks where many devices are competing for bandwidth. Ideal for public spaces, sports stadiums, or IoT environments.

Increased battery life

WiFi 6 is designed to consume less power, improving battery life on devices. It enables devices to sleep when not transmitting data, while still remaining connected to the network.

Backwards compatibility

WiFi 6 devices maintain compatibility with older WiFi 5 and WiFi 4 networks and devices. However, to experience the full benefits, all devices and routers need to support WiFi 6.

WiFi 6E Overview

WiFi 6E builds on WiFi 6 technology, adding in one major new feature:

Support for the new 6 GHz band

WiFi currently operates on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. WiFi 6E opens up the new, wider 6 GHz band providing:

  • Additional “clean” bandwidth – the 6 GHz band is currently unused by WiFi devices meaning less interference and congestion.
  • 7 additional 160 MHz channels for even greater capacity.
  • Support for even faster maximum theoretical speeds – up to 9.6 Gbps on the 5 GHz band and 30 Gbps on the 6 GHz band.

All other benefits of WiFi 6

WiFi 6E incorporates all the advancements already introduced with WiFi 6: higher speeds, increased capacity, better efficiency, lower latency, and longer battery life.

The 6E simply provides access to more bandwidth in the 6 GHz spectrum allowing for even faster potential speeds.

Key Differences Between WiFi 6 vs WiFi 6E

Specs WiFi 6 WiFi 6E
Maximum theoretical speed 9.6 Gbps 9.6 Gbps (5 GHz band)<br>30 Gbps (6 GHz band)
Frequency bands 2.4 GHz<br>5 GHz 2.4 GHz<br>5 GHz<br>6 GHz
Channel bandwidth 20/40/80/160 MHz 20/40/80/160 MHz
Backwards compatibility Yes Yes
MU-MIMO 8×8 MU-MIMO 8×8 MU-MIMO
OFDMA Yes Yes
Latency improvements Yes Yes
Battery life improvements Yes Yes

In summary, the key advantages WiFi 6E offers over WiFi 6:

  • Access to faster maximum speeds up to 30 Gbps on new 6 GHz band.
  • Less congestion and interference thanks to clean 6 GHz spectrum.
  • 7 additional 160 MHz channels for more bandwidth.

Other than access to the new 6 GHz frequencies, WiFi 6E is functionally identical to WiFi 6. All other core technology and improvements remain the same.

When to Choose WiFi 6E Over WiFi 6

Here are some scenarios where WiFi 6E can provide worthwhile benefits over WiFi 6:

You need the fastest possible WiFi speeds

If you have gigabit fiber internet or do a lot of large local network file transfers, WiFi 6E can provide wireless speeds exceeding 1 Gbps thanks to its huge extra bandwidth on the 6 GHz band. This outstrips even the fastest WiFi 6 connections.

You have many connected devices congesting your WiFi

In homes with dozens of devices on the network – smart home gadgets, security cameras, TVs, phones, laptops – WiFi 6E provides crucial extra bandwidth and capacity to reduce interference and bottlenecks. Those 7 extra 160 MHz channels make a big difference.

You live in a crowded apartment or urban area

Environments flooded with competing WiFi networks can cause interference and slow speeds due to congestion in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels. WiFi 6E solves this by opening up wide uncongested bandwidth in the 6 GHz band.

You need low latency for VR, gaming, video streaming

Latency sensitive applications like online gaming, AR/VR, and video conferencing benefit greatly from the reduced interference and high throughput provided by WiFi 6E networks.

Future-proofing new devices

As adoption of WiFi 6E grows over the coming years, new laptops, phones and other devices will support it. Choosing WiFi 6E capability now will ensure your network is ready.

When WiFi 6 May Still be the Right Choice

WiFi 6E is not necessary, or even compatible, with all use cases:

Budget constraints

WiFi 6E requires a new router and devices that support 6 GHz WiFi. WiFi 6 provides excellent performance at a lower cost.

No need for 30 Gbps speeds

For general web browsing, email, and standard definition video streaming, WiFi 6’s maximum speed of 9.6 Gbps will easily suffice.

No devices that currently support 6E

Until more laptops, phones, smart home devices support WiFi 6E, WiFi 6 can serve most homes and offices well. Adoption of 6E clients will grow steadily.

Office environments with older WiFi 5 clients

Businesses may need to maintain compatibility with older WiFi 5 phones, printers, IoT devices in the short term. WiFi 6 is backwards compatible.

Conclusion

WiFi 6E builds on WiFi 6 adding access to faster 30 Gbps speeds and uncongested bandwidth in the new 6 GHz spectrum. However, WiFi 6 still provides excellent performance for general use cases.

To decide which you need, consider your internet speeds, number of devices, need for low latency, and budget. For most, WiFi 6 hits the sweet spot today. But WiFi 6E becomes compelling if you need the absolute best speeds and capacity in a congested environment.

As device support for 6E grows, it will become the new high-end standard. But WiFi 6 remains a reliable, affordable choice for several more years for typical home and office use.

Key Takeaways:

  • WiFi 6E offers faster maximum speeds up to 30 Gbps by adding the new 6 GHz band, building on WiFi 6.
  • It reduces congestion and interference thanks to extra “clean” bandwidth in the 6 GHz channels.
  • WiFi 6E is ideal for users needing the fastest speeds, lowest latency, and highest capacity.
  • WiFi 6 still excels for general use with its speed boost to 9.6 Gbps and advanced efficiency.
  • Consider device compatibility, budget, internet speeds and latency needs when deciding between WiFi 6 vs 6E.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the difference between WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E?
    The key difference is WiFi 6E adds support for the new 6 GHz band. This allows for faster theoretical maximum speeds up to 30 Gbps, plus 7 additional channels to reduce congestion and interference. WiFi 6 is still limited to existing 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.

  2. Is WiFi 6E better than WiFi 6?
    WiFi 6E offers faster potential speeds and more bandwidth thanks to the 6 GHz spectrum. But for general use, WiFi 6 still provides excellent performance and value. WiFi 6E is only better for users who specifically need 30 Gbps speeds or additional capacity.

  3. Do I need a new router for WiFi 6 or WiFi 6E?
    Yes, to benefit from WiFi 6 or WiFi 6E features you will need a new router that supports these standards. WiFi 6/6E clients like laptops and phones will also need upgraded wireless adapters.

  4. Is 160 MHz channel width supported on both WiFi 6 and 6E?
    Yes, both WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E support using 160 MHz channel width for faster data rates, assuming compatible devices and no interference. WiFi 6E offers more 160 MHz channels due to the additional 6 GHz spectrum.

  5. What is the range of WiFi 6 vs WiFi 6E?
    The range is similar as they use the same core technology. Actual transmitting distance depends on many environment factors. But WiFi 6E may provide slightly better range thanks to less interference in the 6 GHz channels.

  6. Should I buy a WiFi 6 device today or wait for WiFi 6E?
    It depends on your budget and needs. For top speeds, WiFi 6E is best as adoption increases. But WiFi 6 still enables significant speed improvements and is a good value choice. Evaluate based on speeds required.

  7. What is the maximum speed of WiFi 6?
    The theoretical maximum speed of WiFi 6 is 9.6 Gbps. Real-world speeds will be lower depending on your internet connection, router capability, device capabilities, congestion and other environmental factors.

  8. What clients and devices currently support WiFi 6E?
    As of 2022/2023, WiFi 6E adoption is still growing. Some smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S21, high-end laptops, and latest gaming PCs support WiFi 6E. Routers are also available. Expect wider availability over the next 1-2 years.

  9. Should I upgrade my home internet before getting WiFi 6?
    If your internet speeds are below 1 Gbps, upgrade your broadband first before upgrading routers and devices. Faster WiFi won’t help if your internet plan limits speeds to a lower level. Match your router WiFi generation to your broadband.

  10. What is the range of WiFi 6 vs WiFi 6E?
    The range is similar as they use the same core technology. Actual transmitting distance depends on many environment factors. But WiFi 6E may provide slightly better range thanks to less interference in the 6 GHz channels.

  11. Is WiFi 6 worth it over WiFi 5?
    For most general users, yes – WiFi 6 brings worthwhile speed and capacity improvements over WiFi 5. Upgrading provides a boost to latency-sensitive tasks like video streaming. Power efficiency gains are also beneficial for battery-powered devices.

  12. How is OFDMA different in WiFi 6E compared to WiFi 6?
    OFDMA works the same way in both WiFi 6 and 6E. The key difference is WiFi 6E has additional 6 GHz channels available for dividing up data transmissions via OFDMA simultaneous streams. This added bandwidth improves OFDMA efficiency.

  13. Can I upgrade just my router to WiFi 6E without new devices?
    You can upgrade your router first, but without WiFi 6E compatible devices you won’t benefit from the new 6 GHz band speeds. You will still get the other WiFi 6 enhancements. Upgrade devices later to fully leverage 6E.

  14. Is the range affected by congestion and interference on WiFi 6 vs WiFi 6E?
    Yes, congestion and interference in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands can reduce WiFi 6’s range. The clean 6 GHz channels used by WiFi 6E improves range. But core factors like obstructions and building materials also impact any WiFi range.

  15. Should I disable the 2.4 GHz band on my WiFi 6E router?
    No, disabling 2.4 GHz can cause issues with smart home devices and IoT that only use 2.4 GHz. But you can disable 2.4 GHz on WiFi 6 router when all devices support 5 GHz for reduced interference. Maintain compatibility on WiFi 6E.

  16. Does beamforming work differently on WiFi 6E?
    No, beamforming functions the same way. Routers focus signals towards clients based on feedback. Beamforming helps extend range and performance. The additional bands in WiFi 6E provide more options for beamforming tuning to environment.

  17. Are there security differences between WiFi 6 vs WiFi 6E?
    No, WiFi 6 and 6E use the latest WPA3 encryption protocol to provide robust security. Both also include Target Wake Time security feature for IoT devices. No known vulnerabilities exist specific to WiFi 6E. Keep firmware updated regardless of version.

  18. Will WiFi 6E replace or obsolete WiFi 6?
    WiFi 6E augments rather than replaces WiFi 6. In the near term, WiFi 6 remains the baseline standard, with 6E offering additional high-end capabilities. Over time as 6E adoption spreads, it may successor WiFi 6 as mainstream. But WiFi 6 will remain relevant for many years.

  19. Do I need WiFi 6E for 8K video streaming?
    Not necessarily. WiFi 6 can support 8K streaming, but WiFi 6E provides extra bandwidth headroom that may help reduce buffering. However, your internet connection speeds are the primary factor – 8K needs 25Mbps minimum. With very fast internet, WiFi 6 can stream 8K to one device. WiFi 6E enables smoother 8K streaming to multiple devices simultaneously.

  20. Will 160 MHz channels on WiFi 6E cause interference with radar?
    Potentially yes, the upper end of the 6 GHz band is still used for some radar and satellite communications. To prevent interference, regulations require “auto-notching” to detect radar signals and avoid those frequencies. WiFi 6E devices must implement advanced frequency coordination techniques to share the spectrum safely.

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