When you consider wifi 6GHz it’s natural to consider 5G. It’s the highest end of the LTE frequency range, and above where you think that of other wireless technologies like Wi-Fi operating. But it seems that Wi-Fi has been feeling cramped in its current bands. It wants to again expand up-town and may, because of an announcement from the chairman of the FCC, who intends “..to accommodate (an) increase in Wi-Fi demand, (by) getting to increase the availability of Wi-Fi spectrum with our boldest initiative yet: making the whole 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use”. The Wi-Fi Alliance is jazzed and is targeting a replacement Wi-Fi 6E standard to the present band.
Wi-Fi bandwidth squeeze
The motivation behind this alteration is that Wi-Fi demand is growing rapidly. Cisco projects that almost 60% of worldwide mobile data traffic is going to be off-loaded to Wi-Fi by 2022. However, the normal 2.4 GHz band for Wi-Fi has become crowded, competing with other technologies like Bluetooth and ZigBee. Wi-Fi expanded a short time ago to five GHz starting with Wi-Fi 2 (802.11a) but even that demand is now overflowing the capacity of Wi-Fi 4, 5 and 6 thanks to the increased internet connection.
Another challenge for Wi-Fi 6 is that the top-end of supported bandwidth – 160MHz – has never been practically useful. One very clear example is how access points (APs) in airports are used. in theory, these are often configured for 2 160MHz bands, though interference from other traffic is problematic. In practice, airports use five 80MHz bands – more network bandwidth and fewer interference. Which is disappointing for the wireless chipmakers. They put tons of effort into supporting 160MHz bandwidth and it’s never used.
The only answer was up, so that’s where the FCC and therefore the Wi-Fi Alliance have gone, to the 6GHz band, with up to 1200 MHz of bandwidth. This increases the spectrum available for Wi-Fi by almost an element of 5 – a very meaningful expansion with up to seven additional usable channels of 160MHz each.
Wi-Fi 6E applications
Wireless VR/AR headsets are expected to leap on this new bandwidth. Today they’re using WiGig at 60GHz, but these systems are big and power-hungry, demanding a much bigger battery and adding to user fatigue. Worse still, it must be built using niche technology. Wi-Fi 6E doesn’t have the latency or bandwidth advantages of WiGig, but it’s ok for many VR/AR applications, it’s much lower power (so smaller batteries) and may be built with mass-market mobile chip technologies, such a lot cheaper than WiGig chip.
There are always tradeoffs in fact. Wi-Fi 6E will have a slightly shorter range than the 5GHz band and power consumption will increase a touch, though neither is going to be much worse. Still, power consumption will likely make the new standard unattractive for wearables. it’ll still be good for airports, stadiums and our homes, best suited to fat pipes like video distribution though we’ll get to provide more APs to make sure good coverage.
Chips to support the new standard are already underway, from Qualcomm and Broadcom. The certification program isn’t yet finalized but is predicted to seem later within the year.
Anyone designing next-generation wireless chips and who wants to require advantage of Wi-Fi 6E goes to wish IP. Outside of the particular radio circuitry, the changes required in CEVA’s current RivieraWaves 802.11ax IP to support Wi-Fi 6E are fairly simple, and this IP is going to be available to the overall market as soon because the standard is ratified. you’ll learn more about RivieraWaves Wi-Fi HERE.