SpaceX’s “Universe” WiFi was launched in August 2021. Its ubiquitous availability remains questionable. But now, in developed countries, you can connect to free Wi-Fi from any operating system for gaming PC and almost any public place: shopping malls, restaurants, parks, subways, buses, and beaches. You can even access the Internet from the summit of Mount Everest, from the depths of underwater, from outer space, and from drifting ice camps.
Over the past five years, the number of public WiFi hotspots, including households, has increased six-fold, from 94 million to more than 541 million. And devices connected to them now generate more than half of the world’s Internet traffic. With the development of the Internet of Things and the widespread deployment of hotspots, WiFi networks may become the main link in the information space.
We have analyzed the peculiarities of WiFi innovations and discussed what they could bring to businesses and consumers.
Four and Five in Writing, Six in Mind
Over the lifetime of WiFi technology – since 1996 – there has been a major increase in data transfer speeds, from 2 Mbps to almost 10 Gbps. In addition to speed, each successive generation has generally outperformed its predecessors in bandwidth, connectivity, and reliability.
Today, the first, second, and third WiFi standards are considered outdated. They were replaced in 2009 by the fourth generation, and in 2013 the fifth generation appeared.
Currently, both are in active use. WiFi 4 provides broader coverage than WiFi 5 (5 GHz) due to its support for the 2.4 GHz band but guarantees lower data rates and stability. Therefore, these standards complement each other to some extent and are applied depending on the user’s tasks.
Yet, both of these frequencies are congested (especially 2.4 GHz – there are only three channels, whereas in 5 GHz, there are 23). This is not surprising. Almost every apartment has several smartphones, laptops, smart speakers, lamps, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, and other gadgets connected to a router. And even though there are about 36 billion IoT devices now (of which about half are in the corporate sector), in 2025, the number will exceed 75 billion. The load will grow proportionately.
In 2019, another standard, WiFi 6, was registered. It is designed to work in both bands (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) but ensures an average data transfer speedup of 35% while minimizing delays even when dozens of users are connected to one point. Besides, the “younger” generation consumes less power.
New Addition to the Wireless Family
Innovation has not stopped at the invention of WiFi 6. In 2020 its improved version came out, with an extended standard, which was named WiFi 6E.
The new technology works in the bands of other standards while using the frequency of 6 GHz. This band solves the WiFi spectrum shortage for years to come, as it accommodates 14 additional 80 MHz wide channels and seven 160 MHz channels.
In practice, this means the following:
- Bandwidth is increased, thereby solving problems with the number of connections and congestion;
- Data transmission channels are expanded – even highly loaded services will be able to work without delays;
- Only 6E-enabled devices can use this band. This means that microwave interference and other “side effects” of legacy standards are eliminated.
The Verge aptly compared this biggest WiFi upgrade we have had in decades to replacing a two-lane road with lots of restrictions with a multi-lane expressway.
What will WiFi 6E Mean to a Business?
The superstructure over WiFi 6 will provide a seamless experience for speed-intensive, uninterrupted solutions – such as streaming services, multi-channel telecom platforms, digital offices. New possibilities for augmented and virtual reality, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things will unfold. Ultimately, it will all come down to faster business, greater efficiency, lower costs, and greater employee and customer loyalty.
What will WiFi 6E Mean to a Consumer?
With WiFi 6E, applications and services related to high definition content, gaming, streaming will be in high demand. In other words, WiFi expansion will be needed wherever high performance or high volume, traffic-intensive wireless networks need to be supported.
The updated standard also supports advanced encryption and authorization systems. You will be able to connect your smartphone to a public network and not have to worry about the privacy of banking information and other private data.
Who Needs the Wifi of the Future First and Foremost
The main demand for WiFi 6 networks in the world today comes from banks, retail, manufacturing, medical facilities, and universities. 6E is expected to become widespread in the same areas.
Yet, ultra-high density networks with peak loads may switch to expansion more quickly. They include stadiums, airports, train stations, and concert venues.
Who’s Already “Pulling” 6 Ghz
To connect to a WiFi 6E network, you’ll need a router as well as a smartphone, laptop, or computer, all of which support this standard. However, if any of these devices are only certified for WiFi 6 or lower, you will not be able to experience the high speeds and other benefits of 6E.
There will be 3.5 billion WiFi 6 devices shipped in the market next year, which is 1.5 billion more than this year. That will account for nearly 80% of all new WiFi products, 20% of which will come from 6E-enabled solutions – that’s about 700 million devices.
The foundation for this was laid by the WiFi Alliance, an alliance of major IT companies working to develop a family of WiFi networks. In early January of this year, the organization announced that it had begun certifying devices compatible with 6E. The first device to receive the certificate was the Samsung Galaxy Note10 smartphone, followed by the iPhone 11 and its modifications. Routers for this standard are already being offered by several major companies, including Aruba.
Where, When And How Much
Commercial application of WiFi 6 technology has already started in many countries. China, India, South Africa, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, and others are already using it. Analysts predict that this standard will become widespread within the next year.
Yet, WiFi 6E will require more time. First, regulators must deal with the frequencies and providers – develop and test devices. For example, IDC estimates that by 2025 more than 40% of WiFi devices shipped will also support WiFi 6E. At the same time, 650 Group expects the number of enterprise WiFi 6E access points to grow by over 200% by next year.