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WiFi 6E: Why CSPs Need to Invest

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Most of us have experienced frustrating issues with slow internet and spotty connections, from freezing during important video calls to losing connection while assisting clients or gaming online. The FCC’s approval of WiFi 6E was greeted with enthusiasm, as it promised to alleviate these WiFi connection problems associated with our digital lives.

Now, in 2022, WiFi 6E is finally available. However, many communications service providers (CSPs) have been uncertain about when to enter the WiFi 6E market.

It seems that the time to fully embrace it is now. However, CSPs need to plan ahead by understanding how to make the most of the advantages—and address the challenges—presented by WiFi 6E.

The Concept, Capacity, and Challenges of WiFi 6E

Put simply, WiFi 6E builds upon the capabilities of WiFi 6 by accessing the sought-after 6GHz band.

Currently, most people connect to the internet using the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Opening up the previously restricted 6GHz band adds more frequency channels, reducing congestion and interference for smoother video streams, downloads, and other online activities.

Consumers using WiFi 6E should notice improvements in speed and reliability.

Moreover, the 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels will still be available, but they should be less crowded as more devices utilize the less congested 6GHz band.

The Drawbacks of WiFi 6E

Despite the advantages of WiFi 6E, it also poses challenges, particularly from the perspective of CSPs. Managing the varying bandwidths and addressing the downsides of WiFi 6E will be a complex task for these telecommunications companies.

What are the key limitations of WiFi 6E? Firstly, 6GHz waves have a shorter range compared to their 2.4GHz and 5GHz counterparts, making it harder for them to reach every corner of a building, especially larger ones.

Secondly, WiFi 6E doesn’t perform as well outdoors due to the 6GHz bandwidth not being completely clear and having some licensed users, resulting in spottier coverage. This can lead to a disappointing experience for users trying to stay connected while outdoors.

Overall, WiFi 6E is expected to be highly beneficial. However, CSPs must strategize on how to meet customer expectations, as the anticipation for WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E has been substantial. Subsequently, customers will expect their CSPs to have addressed any WiFi 6E-related issues.

Strategies for CSPs to Prepare for the Arrival of WiFi 6E

During a recent Wi-Fi NOW global keynote address, Plume CTO Bill McFarland emphasized the need for innovative approaches to overcome WiFi 6E’s limitations. He noted that although many believed WiFi 6 would render WiFi management obsolete, the reality is that more management is required to harness the potential of WiFi 6, not less.

This serves as a crucial reminder to CSPs who may not have fully considered the realities of offering WiFi 6E to their customers. It is essential to implement measures to streamline future transitions, including the following recommendations.

1. Use AI-powered, cloud-based band steering.

Implementing a series of extenders to avoid WiFi access interruptions may seem logical, but signals degrade with each hop. A smart system can optimize signals in real-time, identifying the best connections for each unique home, avoiding the need for excessive physical extenders.

2. Accommodate legacy devices.

Since many customers won’t upgrade to devices that support the 6GHz bandwidth for years, support for older devices operating on 2.4GHz and 5GHz is essential. Advanced management solutions relying on AI can help CSPs manage this mixed channel environment and prevent disruption to WiFi 6 devices.

3. Maximize existing infrastructure.

CSPs can minimize customer disruptions by adopting strategies to roll out WiFi 6E efficiently in various locations, such as homes, offices, and apartment complexes. Predictive insights can inform the strategic placement of extenders, reducing the need for major physical upgrades.

Engaging in these discussions prior to WiFi 6E becoming mainstream will help CSPs stay competitive while customers with WiFi 6-capable devices will experience an immediate improvement upon switching to 6E.

Every emerging technology requires an adjustment period for all stakeholders, and WiFi is no exception. The advantage with WiFi 6E is that CSPs have the time and knowledge to devise workarounds to mitigate its limitations and capitalize on its benefits.

Image Credit: Andrea DeSantis; Pexels.com; Thank you.

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