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Wi-Fi 6E Adoption Hampered by Shortages, Will Speed Wi-Fi 7 Uptake

Wi-Fi
(Image credit: Wi-Fi Alliance)

While Wi-Fi 6 was adopted fairly quickly because numerous vendors had released draft-802.11ax routers and adapters, the adoption of Wi-Fi 6E is slow because it has been hampered by a crushing shortage of components and new regulations around the 6 GHz spectrum. As a result, many business clients may skip 6E and go straight to Wi-Fi 7 in 2023, according to a new report from Dell'Oro.  

"Although manufacturers launched Wi-Fi 6E products in mid-2021, products are either not available, or they are in very limited supply," said Tam Dell'Oro, Founder, CEO, and Wireless LAN Analyst. 

Wi-Fi 6 allows 867 Mbps over a 160MHz band at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies, but with three bands (the so-called 3x3 configuration), it goes all the way up to 2.54 Gbps. Wi-Fi 6E adds formally unregulated 6 GHz+ frequencies to get even more throughput when/where possible, but that adds both components and regulatory constraints. 

The 6 GHz frequency support adds an appropriate radio frequency front end (RFFE) module, with all of its typical chipset support like a power management IC and an appropriate physical radio. Unfortunately, the assembly of components required to enable Wi-Fi 6E both on client and host devices is significant, which has slowed down Wi-Fi 6E adoption by both types of devices.  

"Supply constraints have prompted manufacturers to focus on enabling the availability of popular models by re-designing these models with components that are more readily available," said Dell'Oro. "Our interviews with systems integrators reveal users are asking for Wi-Fi 6, not 6E. Therefore, if companies have to prioritize their production, Wi-Fi 6 will be the priority." 

Wi-Fi 7 (also known as IEEE 802.be and dubbed as Extremely High Throughput (EHT)) adds loads of features over 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz frequencies targeting even higher throughput than Wi-Fi 6E does. Meanwhile, ratification of the standard is expected in early 2024 at best, which essentially might mean an adoption pattern similar to Wi-Fi 6 (draft, then full). In fact, Dell'Oro expects first Wi-Fi 7-enabled products next year. 

"With Wi-Fi 7 products shipping as early as 2023, we predict users will bypass 6E," said Dell'Oro.

Anton Shilov
Anton Shilov

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.