The Road to WiFi 6E Part 1: Introduction

Published on February 6, 2022

The Road to WiFi 6E Part 1: Introduction

This blog post is the first in a series of articles we’ll be presenting over the course of 2022 about WiFi 6 (and 6E) – the current and future top-of-the-line WiFi standards championed by the WiFi Alliance. We’ll be discussing the history of the evolving standard of WiFi, new features introduced in WiFi 6 and 6E, applications beyond the commonly known consumer use cases, and much more. Additionally, we’ll be releasing a companion series of video interviews with Ezurio (formerly Laird Connectivity) experts, which you can find here.


A, B, G, N… 5, and 6.

In 1997, when WiFi was first introduced, it was barely a shadow of what it has become: one of the chief wireless technologies that makes our modern world possible. With roots in cashier systems, with low bit rates, and with nothing remotely resembling today’s power, range, and security, 802.11 began a revolution in wireless that went beyond commercial spaces into the office, then into the home, then into public spaces, until eventually we brought it with us into the sky. The notion that this happened over such a relatively short amount of time speaks to the immense usefulness of WiFi, as well as the wisdom and foresight of the WiFi Alliance in guiding the technology to be interoperable, well-defined, and consistently changing to meet performance and security demands.

Nearly every new major version of the WiFi standard has brought leapfrogging growth in terms of performance, range, or cleverer ways to share spectrum and support the demands of all devices in the network. To dramatically simplify: 802.11b (1999) multiplied link rates by a factor of 5 at 2.4 GHz; 802.11a (also 1999) multiplied rates by a factor of 25 at 5 GHz. Four years later, 802.11g brought that same link rate to 2.4 GHz. 802.11n harmonized 2.4 and 5 GHz into a single standard and brought the maximum link rate up to 300 times what WiFi delivered in 1997. Over this whole time, WiFi has gone from delivering 2 Mbit/s to 9608 Mbit/s today, an increase of 480,000%.

And it’s not just link rates. At every step of the development of WiFi, it has incorporated new mechanisms and features that address the emerging problems and concerns facing individuals and organizations. Allowing support for increasingly complex cryptographic standards, multiple streams in and out of access points, network traffic prioritization, support for simultaneous 2.4 and 5 GHz operation, and increasingly wider channels are all examples of feature-based changes that address the needs of WiFi users as they emerged.


In our previous webinar with Electronic Design, we discussed how to leverage WiFi 6 for the future of embedded applications. In this blog post, we’ll focus primarily on an introduction to what WiFi 6 represents as the next leap forward for the 802.11 standard, whose naming scheme no longer relies on a letter distinction (802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, etc) but on a recently rebranded numbering method (WiFi 6, as well as retroactively rebranding previous standards to WiFi 0 through WiFi 5). We’ll look at the benefits of WiFi 6, the ways in which it’s perfectly suited for embedded applications, and what makes it the most important revision of WiFi since the addition of the 5 GHz band in 1999.

What’s New?

As you might expect for such an important release, it’s difficult to broadly summarize the advancements that comprise the WiFi 6 standard – and its counterpart, the soon-to-arrive WiFi 6E. But if you take nothing else from this introduction, consider these three main categories:

  • Increased performance
  • More available spectrum
  • Higher efficiency

These three top-line goals are driven by many, many sub-features, changes in allocation and availability of spectrum as granted by global regulatory bodies, and improvements to existing features like MU-MIMO, QAM, and wide-frequency channels. And in fact, some of these top line goals are supported by the alignment and force-multiplicative power of many features. For example, better organization of collocated APs and their spectrum use via Basic Service Set Coloring, in addition to wide channels for high-demand devices and OFDMA, all contribute to a smarter and more aware infrastructure that helps all devices succeed.

What’s Next in our Series?

There are many innovations that drive WiFi 6, and they will largely be covered in greater detail in subsequent posts. In the future of this series, we’ll specifically focus on:

  • Higher throughput
  • Increased device density
  • Low latency
  • Lower power
  • 6 GHz spectrum
  • Characteristics of WiFi 6E devices

Importantly, we’ll be looking at the ways that WiFi 6 serves more than just the traditional consumer use cases. Every kind of WiFi application has something to gain from these improvements, and we’ll be examining specifically how embedded and industrial applications can leverage WiFi 6 and 6E for better performance, battery life, and much more.

To follow along, subscribe to our resource center. You’ll receive weekly updates on our latest materials, including videos, blogs, white papers, news, and case studies. Follow us throughout 2022 as we discuss the many unique, groundbreaking elements that make WiFi 6E the technology to adopt for the future of wireless.

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