Wi-Fi 6E Explained: What It Could Mean for iPhone 13 and Beyond

The iPhone 13 is widely expected to come with Wi-Fi 6E capabilities, and while it may seem rather nuanced to the average consumer, with only improved speeds and being "up to date" in the realm of Wi-Fi technology, it's actually a fairly significant improvement, laying the groundwork for much of what we know the future holds.

iPhone 13 Wi Fi 6E feature update
To truly understand Wi-Fi 6E, MacRumors sat down for an exclusive interview with Kevin Robinson, senior vice president of marketing for the Wi-Fi Alliance, to discuss the new generation of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi's relationship with 5G, and what new experiences it will enable. The Wi-Fi Alliance is a group few have probably heard of, but as Kevin describes it, it's a crucial part of the Wi-Fi puzzle, consisting of a "who's who" in the connectivity space.

All of these companies come together with this common vision of connecting everyone in everything, everywhere. As I said, it really is the who's who in the connectivity space. And it includes everyone on the beat, from the core technology developers such as Qualcomm, Broadcom, Intel, etc. to the end product vendors such as Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, LG, and even service providers like Comcast, Charter, British Telecom, all find a home in Wi-Fi Alliance.

Wi-Fi is a technology that's present in the majority of technology products consumers buy and is one of the very few technologies itself that's universal. That universality means that all Wi-Fi devices must work together, even if from another brand or purchased in a completely different part of the world. That's where the Wi-Fi Alliance comes in with a program it calls Wi-Fi Certified. This program certifies devices for use with Wi-Fi, ensuring interoperability. In simpler words, the next time you go shopping for a router or other Wi-Fi-centric device and see a "Wi-Fi Certified" label, thank the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Traditionally, the name of every new release of a device, product, or technology includes a sequential increase in number, with the highest number being the latest and greatest. With Wi-Fi, that's only recently been the case. Before "Wi-Fi 6," Wi-Fi technologies were given names like 802.11b, n, or ax. The change to a sequential naming structure, according to Kevin, all boils down to making it easier for consumers to make the right decisions for their Wi-Fi needs.

Coming up with a generational naming approach was very critical in that it's very accessible and understandable to the average person who needs to know what is the latest Wi-Fi and for the industry to communicate what are the benefits associated with any given generation of Wi-Fi. There are characteristics, I think, that go along with each generation, and by having a very simple name, people are more likely to be able to associate those benefits with a given generation and ultimately make the best decision for them.

Knowing that, Wi-Fi 6 is still a fairly new technology. Released in 2019, it promises to offer users a more consistent, robust, and reliable Wi-Fi experience that works across a range of devices. Wi-Fi 6E, which on the surface is simply Wi-Fi 6 expanded into the 6-GHz range, was announced more recently in January of 2020.

Wi-Fi 6E builds on Wi-Fi 6, which includes a flexible approach to consumer Wi-Fi needs that ensures every device in a home, whether a smart TV streaming 4K content from Netflix or a small HomeKit-enabled sensor, gets the Wi-Fi performance that's right for that specific device.

Wi-Fi 6 is more deterministic, meaning you're getting a more consistent experience that works really well in dense environments. Because it's more efficient, it works well with multiple types of devices, all accessing the network at the same time and providing the level of service those devices need.

The biggest things are going to be high performance with multi-gigabit speeds that allow you to do things like stream high definition video, UHD video, mail with large file transfers, things like that. It delivers extremely low latency, which is something that's critical for gaming, where whether or not you have low latency determines whether it's maybe you losing the game or somebody else losing the game. But also critical for things like voice communications or VR where latency really feeds into the user experience and how you perceive VR.

Over the past year, Wi-Fi has skyrocketed in importance, with billions of people using it to live, work, and learn during the global health crisis. That increased reliance presented a challenge to Wi-Fi capacity, especially in densely populated areas. Wi-Fi 6E is designed specifically for this, where, thanks to the expansion into the 6-GHz range, the capacity of networks and routers has increased, along with performance.

Those additional benefits are an incredible increase in capacity. At a very high level, you have significantly more spectrum to operate with thanks to Wi-Fi 6E. You're going from one to maybe two 160 megahertz channels, and these are ultra-wide channels that allow very, very high performance. You get one or two of those in the five gigahertz band, depending on where you are. And you get up to seven of these super-wide channels in the 6-GHz band. It's critical when you're in, let's say, multi-dwelling units. Think of New York, Chicago and with high rise buildings around the planet; think of stadiums; that's where it becomes essential to have that additional capacity.

The bedrock of Wi-Fi 6E's creation is the realization that under previous technologies, there would not have been enough capacity for users. This similar realization is also a reason behind the rapid adoption of 5G, specifically 5G mmWave, which aims to deliver high performance in densely populated areas.

We were simply approaching a scenario where there would not have been enough spectrum and capacity for people to do everything they wanted to do, and what we envision happening over Wi-Fi. You would have been contending with your neighbor's network; even in a suburban setting, I see three, four, or five networks around me. Now, you take that into a dense city area and it becomes a much bigger problem. So it was essential for maintaining the experience over the long term of what you're gonna get from Wi-Fi 6E.

Even with the increased reliance on Wi-Fi, the significant jump in capacity presented by Wi-Fi 6E seems, to the average consumer, almost overkill. I asked Kevin why, let's say, a family of four would need to take advantage of Wi-Fi 6E when it may be excessive for their needs.

I think what often gets overlooked is that as people are in increasingly dense environments, even suburbia, you have smaller land plots between single-family homes, and as people are increasingly moving into more urbanized areas, it's not just about the performance, let's say, that your family of four needs. But also because you are sharing [Wi-Fi] on this unlicensed spectrum with those that are around you. By adding this additional spectrum of Wi-Fi 6E, it means that, if I'm in an apartment complex, I have people on all four sides of me, and I have similar people above and below me kind of on all four sides, all using a shared resource. So again, it's important to understand that you still benefit by having more spectrum capacity and that you are going to get the performance that the technology can support without contending as much with those around you.

The technologies inside of routers and supported products only write half the story, the other half comes from internet service providers. I asked Kevin where ISPs fall into this grander scheme of our Wi-Fi world. Specifically, why should users invest in Wi-Fi 6E compatible devices if their ISPs cannot take advantage of them?

Kevin tells me that ISPs play a "very active" role in the Wi-Fi Alliance and that service providers who are on the "leading edge" wanting to deliver the best possible experience for their customers will take advantage of Wi-Fi 6E and all it has to offer.

I ended our conversation with a rounded question about the thinking behind Wi-Fi as a whole. Current measurement metrics for an average user include whether a TV show buffers or how long it takes to download a movie. My curiosity resides in where that mentality will be in 10 to 15 years; what arbitrary unit of measurement will we use to classify Wi-Fi speeds in the future?

The answer is that many things will be the same; content streaming and so forth will stay around. However, Kevin's main point is that consumers won't be as concerned over speeds as they're concerned over experiences, specifically virtual reality. Kevin believes that we're heading towards a future where Wi-Fi plays a more integral role in the immersion of VR experiences, rather than a focus on purely offering users high-speeds.

"Oh, well, that I [downloaded] all my contents and all my files in a matter of seconds stuff. That's amazing, right?" But then it's also going to be in experiences that are not so much like, "Oh, this happened in a few seconds," but rather, this VR experience is completely immersive; it is as close to reality as I can imagine, it's responsive, even though the person I'm interacting with is on the other end of the country, or, I'm using a game and I again, just cannot distinguish it from reality. And all of those experiences are going to rely on very high-performance Wi-Fi.

To me, Wi-Fi 6E is fundamental long-term in two ways. More and more people are using smart home devices, and in the Apple world, HomeKit-enabled devices. In a bubble, a single home has smart home products with laptops, smartphones, and more. Wi-Fi 6, and more so Wi-Fi 6E, is future-proofing Wi-Fi for a wide range of current and future devices.

Secondly, Wi-Fi 6E and how it plays a role in VR and AR seems to be one of the clearest reasons Apple could bring it to the ‌iPhone 13‌ later this fall. Apple builds on technologies it places into its products, and as the company continues its development on "Apple Glasses," the inclusion of Wi-Fi 6E and all of the benefits of high-speed, optimized, high-load Wi-Fi seems like a clear step in enabling future VR/AR experiences.

Tag: WiFi 6E

Top Rated Comments

Jayson A Avatar
13 months ago
I'm 6E and I know it!
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Analog Kid Avatar
13 months ago

Before "Wi-Fi 6," Wi-Fi technologies were given names like 802.11b, n, or ax. The change to a sequential naming structure, according to Kevin, all boils down to making it easier for consumers to make the right decisions for their Wi-Fi needs.
Now they’re given names like 6, or 6E… Much more clear. E is obviously the first letter in a naming sequence.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
justperry Avatar
13 months ago

I'm 6E and I know it!
You win the internet today.?

As for the article, TLDR

Just say faster and less latency, that's about the whole story.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
827538 Avatar
13 months ago

I care much more about range than I do speed (as I'm typing this from my back porch).

So far, nothing is better for my needs than 802.11n, which is the standard from 2009, providing speeds of up to 600Mbps (The rating of internet speed in bits is an absurd way for ISPs to market that is FAR, FAR past its due date... You must divide any given rate by 8 to determine what its actual speed in megabytes is).

(So really we are talking about 600/8 or 75 MBps speeds)

Anyway, if you are living in an apartment, you might need the 5Ghz or 6Ghz frequencies, but if you live in a suburban or rural home, then "N" is superior as its giving you all the speed you need at range up to double that of the 5Ghz (the lower frequencies have superior range and handle obstacles better and N is 2.4 Ghz).

If you are on a mobile device and need more than 75MBps, I frankly don't see how that's possible on a 5" screen, but the interference issue I think is the bigger benefit. Otherwise, I'm sticking with "N".
As someone with a degree in EEE and having spent years doing network engineering this is wrong on multiple levels.

1. 802.11n is in every way inferior to .ac and .ax.
2. 802.11n DOES also work on the 5GHz spectrum.
3. .ax works in the 2.4GHz and demonstrates ('https://www.smallnetbuilder.com/wireless/wireless-reviews/33220-wi-fi-6-performance-roundup-five-routers-tested?showall=&start=1') considerable bandwidth improvements over 802.11n.
4. 2.4GHz 802.11n will never see 600Mb/s in real world use, even with 40MHz wide channels, maybe half off that if you are lucky.
5. "the lower frequencies have superior range and handle obstacles better and N is 2.4 Ghz" 802.11n on the 2.4GHz might have range but it does not handle obstacles as well, phased arrays (beam forming) only became part of the standard with 802.11ac, also the higher frequencies actually perform better at bouncing signals.

If 75MB/s is all you need then more power to you. But don't spread totally incorrect information.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheYayAreaLiving ? Avatar
13 months ago
Great interview! Aren’t we going to be needing WIFI 6E router?
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
reallynotnick Avatar
13 months ago
6E really will be a godsend for people who live in apartments. I remember when 5Ghz came out and I was one of the first to have it in my apartment and it was amazing.

The fact that 6Ghz requires all devices to be WiFi 6 means no concerns of less efficient protocols using the spectrum or causing interference, it also has slightly shorter range which is a win in apartments and just the sheer amount of spectrum available is a quantum leap in it of itself.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

iphone 12 5g

iPhone 14 Could Have Better Battery Life Thanks to New 5G Chip

Tuesday February 22, 2022 5:25 am PST by
The iPhone 14 could offer better battery life and feature Wi-Fi 6E connectivity thanks to a new 5G chip, supply chain sources claim. Taiwan's Economic Daily News reports that TSMC has obtained all of Apple's orders for its 5G radio frequency (RF) chips for the iPhone 14 lineup, taking over from Samsung. The chips, likely related to Apple's selection of Qualcomm's Snapdragon X65 modem, are...
iPad Pro Deals Feature Yellow

Deals: Record Low Prices Hit 12.9-Inch iPad Pro (Up to $199 Off) and 10.2-Inch iPad ($50 Off)

Thursday March 24, 2022 5:43 am PDT by
A few iPad deals have emerged online today, focusing on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and 10.2-inch iPad. These are both 2021 models of the iPad, and Amazon is offering up to $199 off select devices, with all-time low prices on numerous tablets. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us ...
iPad Pro Feature Orange

Deals: Get Up to $149 Off Apple's 2021 iPad Pro Tablets, Starting at $999 for 12.9-Inch

Tuesday February 8, 2022 6:28 am PST by
Today we're tracking a collection of iPad Pro discounts from Amazon and B&H Photo, offering up to $100 off 11-inch and 12.9-inch models. One of the most notable discounts is on the 128GB Wi-Fi 12.9-inch iPad Pro, available for $999.00, down from $1,099.00. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small...
linksysvelop

Apple Adds New Products to Online Store, Including Linksys Velop Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Routers With HomeKit Support

Monday July 19, 2021 9:26 am PDT by
Apple recently added several new products and accessories to its online store, including the Linksys Velop AX4200 mesh Wi-Fi 6 system, with one node priced at $249.95, a two-pack priced at $399.95, and a three-pack priced at $499.95. Mesh technology offers whole home Wi-Fi coverage that is easily expandable by adding additional nodes, with Wi-Fi 6 offering faster speeds with lower latency...
Apple Logo Cash Feature Yellow

Apple's $1.1 Billion Patent Dispute With Caltech Granted New Damages Trial

Friday February 4, 2022 7:27 am PST by
Apple and its supplier Broadcom today convinced a U.S. appeals court to reject a jury verdict that required them to pay $1.1 billion for infringing on Wi-Fi patents that belong to the California Institute of Technology (via Reuters). In 2016, Caltech accused Apple and Broadcom of infringing on its patents related to the Wi-Fi technology used in many Apple devices. Caltech's patents, granted...
ipad air arrive feature

Deals: Fourth Gen iPad Air Discounted by $99, Starting at $499.99 for 64GB

Monday March 14, 2022 7:39 am PDT by
Following the announcement of the fifth generation iPad Air last week, we're now starting to see a return of low prices on the fourth generation models. Particularly focusing on the 64GB Wi-Fi iPad Air, Amazon has these 2020 models for $499.99 in select colors, down from $599.00. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we...
apple releases ios 14 7

Alert: Update to iOS 14.7 Now to Protect Against Dangerous Wi-Fi Bug

Wednesday July 21, 2021 4:13 am PDT by
iPhone users should upgrade to iOS 14.7 immediately to avoid a dangerous bug that disabled the device's Wi-Fi, sometimes irreversibly. Before iOS 14.7, if a user connected to a Wi-Fi network with the name "%p%s%s%s%s%n," a bug completely disabled the device's ability to connect to Wi-Fi. According to user reports, doing so would "permanently disable" an iPhone's Wi-Fi functionality, making...
ipad pro holiday

Deals: Amazon Discounts Every Model of the 2021 12.9-Inch iPad Pro (Up to $150 Off)

Friday November 19, 2021 8:06 am PST by
Amazon is offering numerous all-time low prices on Apple's 12.9-inch iPad Pro from 2021, starting at $999.00 for the 128GB Wi-Fi tablet. These sales measure up to $150 off, and all models are in stock and ready to ship from Amazon today. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us...

Popular Stories

cook sept 2020 event

Gurman: Apple Preparing Pre-Recorded iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8 Event

Sunday August 7, 2022 6:13 am PDT by
Apple has "started to record" its virtual September event, where it's expected to announce the upcoming iPhone 14 lineup, the Apple Watch Series 8, and a new "rugged" Apple Watch model, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Writing in his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman says the event, which is expected to take place in the early part of September, is already under production, implying...
Apple Watch Series 7 Starlight Midnight

Standard Apple Watch Series 8 Rumored to Feature Same Design as Series 7

Friday August 5, 2022 7:46 am PDT by
The standard 41mm and 45mm models of the Apple Watch Series 8 will feature the same design as the Apple Watch Series 7, according to Twitter user @ShrimpApplePro, who was first to reveal that iPhone 14 Pro models would feature a new pill-and-hole display. Titanium will not be an option for the standard Apple Watch Series 8 models either, according to @ShrimpApplePro, but Bloomberg's Mark...
iPhone 14 Lineup Feature Purple

Color Options for All iPhone 14 Models: Everything We Know

Monday August 8, 2022 3:59 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models are rumored to be available in a refreshed range of color options, including an all-new purple color. Most expectations about the iPhone 14 lineup's color options come from an unverified post on Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this year. Overall, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro's selection of color options could look fairly similar to those of the ...
ios 16 beta 5 battery percent

iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage Now Displayed in iPhone Status Bar

Monday August 8, 2022 10:43 am PDT by
With the fifth beta of iOS 16, Apple has updated the battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the specific battery percentage rather than just a visual representation of battery level. The new battery indicator is available on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models, with the exception of the 5.4-inch iPhone 12/13 mini. It is also available on the iPhone X and the iPhone XS. Battery percent...
iphone 14 pro max camera bump compared lipilipsi 16 9

Bigger iPhone 14 Pro Max Camera Bump Shown Alongside iPhone 13 Pro Max

Monday August 8, 2022 4:33 am PDT by
The camera bump on the upcoming iPhone 14 Pro Max is expected to be the largest rear lens housing Apple has ever installed on its flagship smartphones, and a new photo offers a rare glimpse at just how prominent it is compared to Apple's predecessor device. iPhone 14 Pro Max dummy (left) vs iPhone 13 Pro Max All iPhone 14 models are expected to see upgrades to the Ultra Wide camera on the...
ipad pro magic keyboard white

Rumor Claims Next iPad Pro to Feature New Four-Pin Smart Connector

Sunday August 7, 2022 11:57 am PDT by
A new rumor claims that the next-generation 12.9-inch and 11-inch iPad Pro will feature a new four-pin Smart Connector, an update from the current three-pin connector in the iPad Pro. The rumor from Mac Otakara, citing "reliable sources," says that the next iPad Pro, expected to debut possibly as soon as this fall, will feature a new Smart Connector that has four-pins rather than three. The...