Co-Author Anuj Dharap, Software Engineer

Wi-Fi 6 Release 1 brought a host of technologies (DL/UL OFDMA, DL HE MU-MIMO, 1024-QAM, HE TX Beamforming, and Target Wake Time) which enabled greater throughputs, lower latency, and greater reliability and spectral efficiency in the existing 2.4/5 GHz networks.

With Wi-Fi 6E, Wi-Fi entered a new era – expanding the use of Wi-Fi 6 into the clean 6 GHz band – opening 1200 MHz of spectrum unbridled by legacy devices and constraints. This untapped spectrum offers up to fourteen 80 MHz channels or seven 160 MHz channels in 6 GHz for bandwidth-intensive applications.

This 1200 Mhz being greenfield spectrum meant that devices do not have to contend with legacy devices for airtime – thus realizing greater spectral efficiency and network reliability, even in very dense and congested environments. Simultaneously, the mandatory utilization of only the most secure WPA3 Security in the 6 GHz domain has meant that not only do devices operating in this band experience better performance and reliability but that they have a safer, more secure network they can rely on.

This extension of Wi-Fi 6 into the 6 GHz band has been the most consequential upgrade Wi-Fi has seen in the past 15 years and it’s expected to generate economic growth of up to 4.6 trillion, per WFA alliance, in the next 3 years.

With Wi-Fi 6 Release 2 in early 2022, the Wi-Fi Alliance has unleashed a plethora of new features and optimizations, aimed at meeting the ever-increasing demands from today’s wireless environments.

Cisco has been working with the WFA alliance and other eco-system players to ensure the 6 GHz Wi-Fi experience is optimized.

Cisco Catalyst 9136 is industries First (and only current) Enterprise Class Access Point to certify Wi-Fi6 release 2:

Cisco Catalyst 9136
Fig #1: Cisco Catalyst 9136

Notable features of release 2

  • UL Multi-User MIMO:  Improving upload speeds by 90%, thus enabling hybrid work experiences (WebEx Video, Whiteboard), and other high bandwidth applications to scale without any impact on experience and performance.
  • UL Extended Range: a range extension feature, allowing for client devices to maintain connectivity farther from the access point than ever before – meaning fewer over the web calls from mobile devices being dropped or connectivity lost.
  • Multi-BSSID Control Frame Optimizing numbers of control frames and freeing up airtime for data transmittal and receival. This translates to an end user’s improved network performance and quality – especially in a crowded, dense enterprise environment where Multiple BSSIDs are ever prevalent.
  • Target Wake Time Information Frames & Extended Sleep Time, extends its benefits to IoT devices, by allowing the STA to suspend or/and resume an existing TWT agreement, allowing more flexible updates and optimizations of this agreement. This means that even when in low power mode, a client device can quickly ramp up its performance as and when needed – ensuring seamless experiences while saving precious battery life.
  •  UL Multi-user control/data disable: allows devices to continue to participate in UL MU transmissions using UL OFDMA acknowledgments and sounding feedback via the introduction of a “data disable” only mode, Resulting in greater DL throughputs and lower network overheads due to DL Frame acknowledgments.

The combination of the 6 GHz clean spectrum and WiFi6 R2 latest published standard baseline will enable the Wi-Fi ecosystem to enable METAVERSE use cases on Wi-Fi. We expect other ecosystem players to follow suit and adopt 6E with release 2.