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
25 weeks ago
I'm 6E and I know it!
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Analog Kid Avatar
25 weeks 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
25 weeks 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
25 weeks 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
25 weeks ago
Great interview! Aren’t we going to be needing WIFI 6E router?
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
reallynotnick Avatar
25 weeks 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

wi fi 7

MediaTek Demos Next-Gen Wi-Fi 7 Standard Boasting Near Thunderbolt 3 Speeds

Monday January 24, 2022 3:54 am PST by
MediaTek has conducted the world's first live demo of Wi-Fi 7 for "key customers and industry collaborators," paving the way for the wireless network technology to enter mainstream consumer hardware as early as next year, according to the company. Taiwan-based MediaTek said the demos demonstrated the ability of Wi-Fi 7 to achieve the maximum speed defined by IEEE 802.11be, the official name...
iPhone 14 Mock Feature Pruple 2

Kuo: iPhone 14 and Mixed Reality Headset to Feature Wi-Fi 6E

Wednesday November 17, 2021 7:49 am PST by
Apple's iPhone 14 and rumored mixed reality headset will feature Wi-Fi 6E connectivity, according to reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In an investor note obtained by MacRumors, TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that new Apple products, including the iPhone 14 and a head-mounted display device, will accelerate a broader industry upgrade to the Wi-Fi 6E specification. Motivated by the...
iPhone 13 Wi Fi 6E greener2

iPhone 13 Models Again Rumored to Support Faster Wi-Fi 6E

Tuesday January 26, 2021 10:50 am PST by
Apple plans to release its first iPhones with Wi-Fi 6E support in 2021, according to Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis and Thomas O'Malley. In a research note shared with MacRumors today, the analysts wrote that investor sentiment surrounding Apple supplier Skyworks has become "too negative" given that the semiconductor company will apparently be supplying various components for this year's...
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...
apple view concept right corner

Kuo: Apple's 2022 AR/VR Headset to Support Faster Wi-Fi 6E

Monday November 1, 2021 3:23 am PDT by
Apple plans to release its first mixed reality headset with Wi-Fi 6E support in 2022, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a note sent out to investors. Concept render by Antonio De Rosa based on recent reports Apple is rumored to be working on at least two AR projects that include an augmented reality headset set to be released in late 2022, followed by a sleeker pair of augmented...
ios wifi settings

Latest iOS 14.7 Beta Patches Bug That Disables iPhone's Ability to Connect to Wi-Fi

Friday July 9, 2021 9:32 am PDT by
The latest beta for iOS and iPadOS 14.7, released to developers this week, patches a bug that disabled an iPhone's ability to connect to Wi-Fi if a user connected to a specific Wi-Fi network with the name "%p%s%s%s%s%n." In his latest video rounding up the latest changes in the beta, YouTuber Zollotech found that the update has silently patched the bug that caused an iPhone to become unable...
sengled tv light strip

CES 2022: Sengled Debuts New Smart TV Light Strips and Outdoor String Lights

Monday January 3, 2022 8:02 am PST by
Lighting company Sengled today announced the launch of several new smart lighting products, including Wi-Fi Video-Sync TV Light Strips, Wi-Fi Outdoor String Lights, and the Wi-Fi Portable Lamp. The WiFi TV Light Strips are designed to extend what's showing on the television set to the wall behind it for a more immersive entertainment experience. The lights are designed to react to content...
ios wifi settings

iOS Bug Causes Specific Network Name to Disable Wi-Fi on iPhones

Sunday June 20, 2021 4:15 am PDT by
A wireless network naming bug has been discovered in iOS that effectively disables an iPhone's ability to connect to Wi-Fi. Security researcher Carl Schou found that after joining a Wi-Fi network with the name "%p%s%s%s%s%n" his iPhone's Wi-Fi functionality was left "permanently disabled." Changing a hotspot's SSID did nothing to correct the problem, with even a reboot failing to make a...

Popular Stories

airpodsinear 1

AirPods Save Woman's Life With Feature Everyone Should Know

Friday January 21, 2022 2:13 am PST by
Apple's AirPods have been credited with saving a woman's life after a potentially fatal fall, People reports. When a 60-year-old florist in New Jersey tripped and hit her head in her studio, she lost consciousness and awoke heavily bleeding. With nobody around to call for help, she realized she had her AirPods in, and used a "Hey Siri" command to call 911. An operator was able to stay on the ...
Upcoming Products 2022 Feature

Gurman: Apple Preparing 'Widest Array of New Hardware Products in Its History' for Fall

Sunday January 23, 2022 10:32 am PST by
Apple is working on a number of new products that are set to launch this fall, and Bloomberg's Mark Gurman says that it will be "the widest array" of new devices that Apple has introduced in its history. In his latest "Power On" newsletter, Gurman explains that Apple is working on four new flagship iPhones (iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Max, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max), an updated low-end Ma...
Questionable Design Decisions

Apple's Most Questionable Design Decisions in Recent Memory

Sunday January 23, 2022 2:59 am PST by
Apple has always emphasized the depth of thought that goes into the design of its products. In the foreword to Designed by Apple in California, a photo book released by the company in 2016, Jony Ive explains how Apple strives "to define objects that appear effortless" and "so simple, coherent and inevitable that there could be no rational alternative." But every once in a while even Apple...
top stories 2022jan22

Top Stories: Spring Apple Event Rumors, Apple Opposes Sideloading, and More

Saturday January 22, 2022 6:00 am PST by
As we roll into the latter half of January, we're starting to hear more about a potential spring Apple event, which is likely to take place in March or April. There are a number of potential announcements on deck, so an event would be a good opportunity for Apple to get them all out there. We've also been going back and forth on some iPhone 14 rumors, and we've taken a look at a number of...
att gigabit internet

AT&T Bringing $180/Month 5-Gigabit Internet to 70 Cities

Monday January 24, 2022 9:20 am PST by
AT&T today announced the launch of upgraded AT&T Fiber plans, which support speeds of up to 5 Gigabits for some customers. There are two separate plans, one "2 GIG" plan and one "5 GIG" plan, available to new and existing AT&T Fiber subscribers. According to AT&T, the new plans are available to nearly 5.2 million customers across 70 metro areas including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, San...
macbook pro 14 16 2021

Three Months After Launch, Apple Still Struggling to Meet Demand for Redesigned 14-Inch and 16-Inch MacBook Pro

Monday January 24, 2022 7:12 am PST by
Three months after their launch, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros continue to experience high demand and seemingly short supply, with shipping dates for both models stretching into multiple weeks in several of Apple's key markets. In the United States, the baseline 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro chip is estimated to ship in three to four weeks, promising an arrival by at least...
peloton tv workout cardio

Apple Floated as Potential Buyer of Peloton

Friday January 21, 2022 6:11 am PST by
Following months of bleak news about Peloton's "precarious state," including the revelation that it has halted production of its bikes and treadmills, Apple is being floated as a potential buyer of Peloton's troubled fitness business. Yesterday, CNBC reported that Peloton will temporarily stop production of its connected fitness products due to a "significant reduction" in consumer demand, a ...
Spring 2022 Apple Products Feature

New iPad Air, Macs, and iPhone SE With 5G Likely to Be Announced at Apple Event This Spring

Thursday January 20, 2022 8:32 am PST by
Earlier this week, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman tweeted that Apple "will be holding a spring event" to announce a new iPhone SE and other hardware. In a recent edition of his newsletter, Gurman said the event is likely to occur in March or April. Gurman did not elaborate on what "other hardware" will be announced at Apple's purported spring event, but rumors suggest at least four products are...