At CES 2020, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced the Wi-Fi 6E standard. Wi-Fi 6E is a rapid evolution of the new Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax standard, which builds on prior IEEE wireless standards like 802.11n (aka Wi-Fi 4) and 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5).

Compared to its predecessors, 802.11ax utilizes additional frequency bands and wider channels within those bands. Wi-Fi 6E extends that advantage by tapping into an entirely new band: 6 GHz. Back in April, the Federal Communications Commission paved the way for 6E by opening up those frequencies for unlicensed use in the United States.

Each standard sets out to address the limitations of earlier ones, and Wi-Fi 6E is no different.

One of the biggest benefits of 6E is alleviating network congestion. In the 802.11n days (circa 2009), the average home network might have had two or three Wi-Fi devices. Now, thanks to the popularity of IoT and mobile devices, it’s not unusual for 30+ Wi-Fi-connected devices to be on a home network. Scale that up to the enterprise level and it becomes a serious problem.

The ubiquity of Wi-Fi doesn’t help matters. When multiple Wi-Fi networks are concentrated in a small area, it can result in signal interference and reduced performance for wireless devices.

Wi-Fi 6E will help solve those congestion issues by offering additional non-overlapping channels and increased bandwidth. Even—or especially—in crowded environments, 6E should bring 4x better throughput per user. Network efficiency will roughly see the same fourfold improvement. The new standard will also draw less power to get superior results. That will help extend the runtime of our battery-powered mobile devices.

That’s probably why Broadcom’s Vijay Nagarajan has called the 6 GHz band “the most disruptive boon for Wi-Fi users in the last twenty years.” Once users start enjoying 10 Gbps wireless speeds and more time between charges, it will be hard for them to go back.

In fact, the industry advocacy group WifiForward is estimating that 6E will generate $183 billion in total economic value just over the next five years.

Upgraded Wi-Fi, upgraded testing

The enhanced performance of Wi-Fi 6E is certainly a technological milestone and a rich revenue source for multiple industries. But electronics manufacturers also have to recognize that 6E represents uncharted territory. That will make comprehensive, repeatable RF testing all the more vital.

For a device to receive the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 label, it will have to jump through some rigorous hoops.

Three frequency bands: Unlike prior 802.11 standards, Wi-Fi 6E is true “triple band.” That means devices will need to operate seamlessly across three different Wi-Fi frequencies: 2.4, 5 and 6 GHz.

More channels: Wi-Fi 6E is able to leverage up to 14 additional 80 MHz channels or 7 further super-wide 160 MHz channels on the 6GHz band.

Lower latency: Wi-Fi 6 makes use of advanced technology like orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA). In a nutshell, OFDMA increases the efficiency of transmission by fitting more data into a signal.

Increased capacity: Access points based on the Wi-Fi 6 standard can accommodate more individual devices through multi-user multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO) capabilities. MU-MIMO isn’t totally new; Wi-Fi 6 just takes it further.

New applications: By utilizing channels that are optimized for high-bandwidth activities like augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) and 8K video streaming, Wi-Fi 6E will make wireless connections more stable for low-data IoT devices too.

And that’s just a high-level overview of some of the performance targets that Wi-Fi 6E devices will be expected to meet.

AdauraTech R3 series attenuators are ideal for Wi-Fi 6E testing

Advanced RF testing calls for equipment that’s up to the task.

AdauraTech’s new AD-USB R3 series of programmable RF attenuators is designed for the next-gen testing requirements of Wi-Fi 6E. With a frequency range of 50 MHz up to 8 GHz, the R3 series actually exceeds the current 6E upper limit of 7.125 GHz. The 1-, 2-, 4- and 8-channel devices can handle 95 dB of attenuation and feature a step size of 0.25 dB for precision measurements.

Best of all, the R3 series is affordable. While each compact device is housed in a custom-machined aluminum enclosure and equipped with both USB and Ethernet ports, pricing remains very budget-friendly. That makes it cost-effective for startups as well as large organizations to update their RF testing kit right away.

Setup is incredibly easy too. AdauraTech’s zero-software platform allows engineers to hit the ground running and control the units through a browser-based GUI, HTTP REST commands or direct Telnet connections. The R3 series is OS-agnostic, so it works equally well with Windows, Linux or macOS.

For more information on purchasing RF attenuators from the AD-USB R3 series or their application in Wi-Fi 6E testing, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.