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.