Every WIRED reader is familiar with that constant question: Wait for new technology, or buy now? No matter how good a gadget is, there will almost certainly be something better arriving soon. Manufacturers work out the kinks and prices fall. Figuring out which new technologies are worth the early adopter tax, and which to pass on until they improve, is a real challenge.
Even shopping for something as utilitarian as a Wi-Fi router is a minefield. Wi-Fi 6 is an easy minimum recommendation for most folks right now. But perhaps you are eyeing the enhanced speed and performance of the newly opened 6-GHz band. You may be considering a Wi-Fi 6E system, but with Wi-Fi 7 on the horizon, should you wait?
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The Trouble With Wi-Fi 6E
If you need a better understanding of the differences, we have guides on Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E, and Wi-Fi 7 that dig into the details. But for our purposes here, we are looking at the opening up of the 6-GHz band. Until Wi-Fi 6E came along, we relied upon the 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands for all our Wi-Fi needs. Wi-Fi 6E opened up the 6-GHz spectrum for the first time, but there are restrictions in place that limit its performance.
We spoke to Kevin Robinson, CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance, to find out more. When the FCC gave permission to use the unlicensed 6-GHz band for Wi-Fi, it had concerns about potential interference for current license holders. Utilities and emergency services rely on microwave links and other wireless connections on the 6-GHz band for things like power grid operations. It is also used for satellite link communications, wireless backhaul for carriers, and by some broadcasters. To mitigate those concerns, the FCC specified that Wi-Fi 6E systems would be limited to low-power indoor operation. (Note that these rules vary from country to country, depending on the body in charge.)
By restricting p...