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Wi-Fi 6 and Beyond Wireless Technology

(San Francisco, California, U.S.A. - Jeff M. Wang)

Connecting Everyone and Everything, Everywhere



Like all cellular technologies, 5G (or 4G, 4G LTE) is based on the use of licensed radio frequency spectrum. What this means is that companies that want to use these networks - that is, telco carriers - have to purchase the exclusive right to broadcast signals over certain radio frequencies. Those signals are broadcast from cell towers at high power levels and can travel for long distances, often measured in miles. In order to connect to those networks, any device you use needs to have a SIM card (or eSIM) that confirms you have a valid account on a particular cellular network, and you have to pay to get access to that network.

All Wi-Fi networks, on the other hand, use what’s called unlicensed or shared spectrum, meaning anyone has the right to create products that broadcast and receive signals on those frequencies. In addition, access to these networks (in most cases) is free, and devices don’t require anything like a SIM card to connect to them, just a radio capable of sending and receiving signals at certain frequencies. For WiFi, the frequencies that are used are 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Importantly, these frequencies are available for use globally, meaning you can use the same WiFi device and chips that power a WiFi connection anywhere in the world. Finally, the signals on WiFi networks are sent at lower power rates, which means they don’t travel as far - typically within the walls of your house, a section of your office, etc..

While there has been sustained growth in Wi-Fi usage, unlicensed spectrum allocation has not increased at pace with Wi-Fi growth until now. The U.S. FCC's (Federal Communications Commission) approval to provide all 1,200 MHz of spectrum for unlicensed use, including Wi-Fi, in the 6 GHz band is a monumental decision to provide more access for Wi-Fi devices. New Wi-Fi 6E standard brings 5G-related technologies to local area wireless. Thanks to the latest additions to the Wi-Fi standard, Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E. Several of the underlying technologies powering these new networks are very similar to, or in some cases even the same as, ones used for 5G networks. Signal modulation techniques like OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access) and transmission technologies like beamforming and MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output), for example, are a key part of both WiFi 6/6E and 5G.

Wi-Fi operation in 6 GHz addresses Wi-Fi spectrum shortage by providing contiguous spectrum blocks to accommodate up to 14 additional 80 MHz channels  or 7 additional 160 MHz channels. These wider channels are needed for high-bandwidth applications that require faster data throughput such as high-definition video streaming and virtual reality. Wi-Fi 6E designates devices capable of 6 GHz operation. Wi-Fi 6E devices leverage wider channels and additional capacity to deliver greater network performance and support more Wi-Fi users at once, even in very dense and congested environments.




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