This question relates a little more to 2023. In 2022 most manufacturers have a limited 6E portfolio and supported devices are even more limited. In addition, manufacturers tend to release high-end Access Points first, so for most that means a high RRP, significantly higher than WiFi 6 and as their high-end will be over-specified for many situations it means buying something that you may never see the full benefits of.
If you find yourself in 2022 needing a Wi-Fi upgrade our advice would be to first look at your budget. If you can afford the latest 6E Access Points, then great, take a look. If you’re a little more budget conscious then Wi-Fi 6 still brings a whole host of advantages as discussed on this page. Plus. You can add in some 6E Access Points at a later date that will work with your Wi-Fi 6 AP estate.
Looking further ahead into 2023 this question changes a little and adds more focus to Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 because we expect to see a wider portfolio of 6E Access Points, including some mid-tier models, plus more devices that operate on 6Ghz and Wi-Fi 7 will be just around the corner.
The best way to answer this is to look at the many differences in the two protocols. The three biggest are the change in theoretical maximum speed, increased channel width, and the QAM.
First, the speed difference. Wi-Fi 6 maximum speed is 9.6 Gbps (which, honestly, is fast), while Wi-Fi 7 is expected to have a maximum speed of 46 Gbps. That’s 46 Gbps for a single client. That’s reaching the plaid range on the speedometer.
Second, the increase of channel widths. When people don’t have enough resources to accomplish tasks, they say, “We don’t have enough bandwidth to accomplish that.” Stolen directly from wireless, we now have more bandwidth to move more data. The maximum channel bandwidth in the 5 GHz band was 160 MHz wide, but, with the new spectrum in the 6 GHz band, that’s increasing to a channel bandwidth of 320 MHz wide. For reference, the entire 2.4 GHz band is only 83 MHz wide, so this is a huge increase.
Finally, the increase in QAM. Quadrature amplitude modulation is the technique of encoding data on a radio signal. Wi-Fi 6 has 1024-QAM and Wi-Fi 7 is expected to be 4096-QAM. This new QAM rate, combined with the 320 MHz wide channel, makes it possible to achieve 46 Gbps.
As for similarities, both include the 6 GHz band, have really fast speeds, and have really wide channels. Also, both have few to no client devices to use all these new developments.
For the average network, it’s hard to beat a well-designed Wi-Fi 6 network with quality hardware.
In Wi-Fi, speed is often the primary number that drives people to the newest technology, but it comes with a cost. That cost isn’t just the pounds spent. It’s also the requirement to get to those big numbers like 46 Gbps.
To achieve those crazy-fast rates, many things need to fall into place. In the real world, that’s not always feasible. Humans can build a car that will break the sound barrier, but it’s not an innovation you or I can use to go food shopping with.
In addition, networking is a HUGE consideration. Access Points are increasingly power-hungry needing PoE+ or even PoE++ to operate at full capacity. Not to mention that the 6Ghz spectrum does not travel that far so a more considered Access Point layout will be needed if you want to take full advantage of 6Ghz, that may mean more APs, more data points, more cable runs and even more port capacity.
As great as it sounds to move data at 46 Gbps, it’s not something that’s useful in 99.9 percent of Wi-Fi applications.
To give you an idea, check out this website that has a table of possible data rates: https://mcsindex.net/. That’s a lot of variables across the top and down the side just to get to 9.6 Gbps. If those variables were to shift, your speed would shift, too. Now, imagine what that table would look like for a speed five times faster.
“Do I buy Wi-Fi 6, 6E or wait for Wi-Fi 7?”
The decision of whether to move to the latest and greatest technology hinges on two questions: ” What is your available budget?” and “What’s your organisation’s goal?”
If you are one of those who love to remain on the “bleeding edge” of the technology without any budget constraints then, by all means, go ahead and upgrade to Wi-Fi 6E now and two years later, embrace Wi-Fi 7.
However, if you are among the vast majority who try to optimise their IT budget then ask yourself this question – “Where are you in the budget cycle?”
If 2022 is the year to upgrade the Wi-Fi network—and your organisation enjoys being a technology leader and has the budget to back that up—then Wi-Fi 6E is the answer. If you crave a little more stability and want to maximise your budget, opt for the current Wi-Fi 6 technology.
If you can afford to wait and your turn for budget allocation isn’t for another couple of years, then wait for Wi-Fi 7.
While Wi-Fi 6E is enticing, it has a few bugs that need to be ironed out. The industry expects those growing pains to be felt with Wi-Fi 6E so that, when Wi-Fi 7 is expected to hit the market in 2024, it will be primed and ready to go.
We started this section with the question “Do I buy Wi-Fi 6, 6E or wait for Wi-Fi 7?”
Unfortunately, only one person can answer that question, you.