WiFi 6E USB adapters are coming, why does that matter?

January 25, 2023



TLDR: WiFi 6E provides the fastest and most stable WiFi experience yet. WiFi 6 does not mean 6 GHz. To receive 6 Ghz signals, you must have a WiFi 6E product. Your WiFi router and receiving card must be WiFi 6E. WiFi 6E products are backward compatible with previous WiFi standards but performance will be limited to the specs of those previous standards.


The new 802.11ax WiFi 6E USB adapter from ALFA Network will be here at the end of February. Why does this matter, and should you upgrade? To answer these questions, let's look at what WiFi 6e is. And to do that, a look back at previous WiFi standards is helpful.

A brief history of common WiFi standards

802.11b 

One of the earliest and most widely-used WiFi standards is 802.11b, first released in 1999. It had a theoretical speed of 11 Mbps and was the first standard to be widely used in consumer-grade routers.

802.11g
The successor to 802.11b was 802.11g, released in 2003. It had a theoretical speed of up to 54 Mbps and was backward compatible with 802.11b, allowing products that had been produced for the earlier standard to be upgraded. It enjoyed much wider adoption than 802.11b.

802.11n
802.11n was released in 2009, with speeds up to 600 Mbps and support for multiple antennas. It was even more popular than 802.11g, and is still the most common Wi-Fi standard today.

802.11ac
802.11ac came to be in 2013 and is now beginning to replace 802.11n. It has speeds of up to 1.3 Gbps.

802.11ax, WiFi 6 & 6E
More recently the WiFi standards are referred to by single numbers for short. 802.11ac became known as WiFi 5, or the 5th generation of WiFi technology, and the newest 802.11ax standard is known as WiFi 6. It is important to understand that WiFi 6 does NOT mean 6 GHz. To use 6 GHz and have a true tri-band experience, a product must be WiFi 6E.

802.11ax, AKA WiFi 6, was officially certified in 2020. WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E are both the same 802.11ax Wi-Fi standard, but WiFi 6E adds an additional spectrum of 6GHz frequencies. This additional spectrum provides more bandwidth, which equates to faster connection speeds, more reliable connections, and better performance for more devices connected to a network.

WiFi 6 operates on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, which are the more commonly used frequencies, but this spectrum is now overcrowded and congested due to the huge number of devices using it. As a result, the performance of individual devices on the same network is negatively impacted. WiFi 6E operates on the additional 6GHz spectrum, which is far less congested, providing faster connection speeds and more reliable connections for more devices connected to a network without any noticeable performance drops.

Overall, WiFi 6E provides a much better user experience compared to WiFi 6 due to the additional bandwidth and the lack of congestion on the 6GHz spectrum.

Should you upgrade?

Determining whether or not to upgrade your current WiFi USB adapter depends primarily on your WiFi router. WiFi 6E USB adapters are backward compatible with WiFi 5 and 6 routers, and even early standards like 802.11n. But you won't get as much throughput using older standards, and you will not get 6 Ghz channels unless you:

A. Have a WiFi 6E router (not just WiFi 6, has to be 6E)
B. Are using Windows 11 (older versions of Windows do not have the capability to utilize 6 GHz regardless of product

Linux details are forthcoming. Keep in mind, as WiFi 6E is a newer standard, you may need to get your router's latest firmware update to resolve connectivity issues. 

Stay tuned for forthcoming bandwidth testing on our YouTube Channel!

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