Earlier this year, 1,200 MHz of additional spectrum – the 6 GHz band – was made available to the public for Wi-Fi devices.
6 GHz is a licensed band: Previously, only those who had licenses to use it could do so. It supported connectivity for fixed point-to-point terrestrial communication to support utilities, public safety and wireless backhaul. As of April 2020, however, it’s officially shared spectrum. By following the rules released by the FCC, essentially everyone can now use this band.
What does this mean? Instead of our routers, access points, surveillance cameras, smart thermostats and other Wi-Fi devices vying for space in the heavily trafficked 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands currently being used, they can use the 6 GHz band – as long as they’re designed to work in that spectrum.
After thinking about it for a while, we determined that the best way to describe the impact of this announcement is to use a fun analogy …
Congested Highways or Open Roads?
Imagine you’re racing your dream car. You want to go as fast and as far as you can … for as long as you can.
Would you rather race your car in an area with lots of obstacles, cars and people in your way? Or in a wide-open space where speed and barriers aren’t factors? The road would be yours, with no other traffic to compete with or stop signs to watch out for.
I don’t know about you, but I’d pick the open road every time!
Before you put your car on that clear track, you just need to make sure your car’s tires can hold it to the road. Once you’re confident that you’ve got the right tires on your vehicle, then you’re ready: You can go as quickly and effortlessly as you want. There are no obstacles and other traffic to slow you down.
In other words: Think of 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands as congested freeways, with bumper-to-bumper traffic and stop-and-go conditions. Other cars are constantly cutting you off, traffic is always merging on and off, and accidents or breakdowns can sometimes bring travelers to a halt. But the 6 GHz band is like an open highway you just discovered. Not many people know about it, and only certain cars with certain tires can drive on it. It’s just you, your car and the scenery.
Wi-Fi 6E Devices
In our example above, your car is like your Wi-Fi devices. Before you use them, you just need to make sure they’re designed to work in the 6 GHz spectrum. The only devices you can use in this shared-spectrum band without a license are ones designed based on the Wi-Fi 6E standard (an extension of Wi-Fi 6 using IEEE 802.11ax technology).
Contrary to what it may seem, Wi-Fi 6E isn’t a faster version of Wi-Fi. Instead, it’s like an addition to Wi-Fi 6. The difference between the two is in the frequencies they use: Wi-Fi 6E uses 6 GHz frequencies while Wi-Fi 6 uses 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Devices designed for the Wi-Fi 6E standard will also likely be able to use 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks, but devices supporting older standards won’t be able to take advantage of the 6 GHz band. This feature will help keep usage in check.
Don’t Forget About Cabling
There’s another important factor to consider before you use Wi-Fi 6E devices, too: your cabling system.
How can you ensure excellent in-building wireless performance with 6 GHz devices? By using a cable designed to support the highest obtainable throughput of Wi-Fi 6E.
Combining the Category 6A performance you need with the Belden quality and reliability you expect, our REVConnect 10GXW System offers best-in-class noise immunity with 4 dB of PSANEXT and 10 dB of PSAACRF headroom. This level of performance eliminates slow network speeds and maximizes uptime in wireless environments.
The end-to-end system consists of the smallest, lightest horizontal Category 6A cable available, as well as REVConnect Connectivity, which utilizes a single termination process for all components.
Every day, Wi-Fi 6E is becoming more of a reality. Updated hardware is already hitting the market from players like Intel and ASUS. As we quickly move closer to using the 6 GHz band, feel free to send me a note if you have questions.
Ron joined Belden in 2016 to help define the roadmap of technology and applications in enterprise. Prior to this, he developed cables and connectivity for Panduit and Andrew Corp. Ron Tellas is a subject-matter expert in RF design and Electromagnetic Propagation. He represents Belden in the ISO WG3 committee, TIA TR42 Premises Cabling Standards, IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group and is a committee member of NFPA 70 Code-Making Panel 3. Ron is the inventor of 16 US patents. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University, a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology, and a Master of Business Administration from Purdue University.