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As I am developing my next digital content on Wi-Fi 6E, I wanted to upgrade my home lab to Wi-Fi 6E. Before going into details of my lab upgrade, quick clarification on Wi-Fi 6 & Wi-Fi 6E as you may not be very clear on what are the differences. In the past, there are two frequency bands (2.4GHz & 5GHz) used in mainstream Wi-Fi and IEEE developed amendments along the way to improve WiFi performance on those band (eg 802.11n, 802.11ac,802.11ax). Wi-Fi Alliance branded its certification program for these amendments, named Wi-Fi 4, Wi-Fi 5 & Wi-Fi 6 respectively. Since the year 2020, FCC allocated 3rd frequency band 6GHz for Wi-Fi and it only works with 802.11ax. When the Wi-Fi alliance branded its certification program for 801.11ax products in 6GHz they used Wi-Fi 6E as a brand name. The below diagram shows an overview of 802.11 development over the years.

Even though USA regulatory (FCC) is ahead in 6GHz spectrum allocation rest of the world following the trend in allocating spectrum for 6GHz. You can get an accurate view of how each country progresses using this Wi-Fi alliance page.

In Australia, ACMA allocated the first 500MHz spectrum in 6GHz for WiFi in early 2022. For testing Wi-Fi 6E, I tried to get Cisco Wi-Fi 6E AP in the Australian regulatory for some time and could not able to get one in time. During my recent WLPC, I met Harsha Nagaraju from Netgear and got to know about their Wi-Fi 6E products. He introduced me to his Australian team and when I checked with them they already had stocks of their Wi-Fi 6E APs.

I bought two Netgear WAX630E APs from them. I wanted to test simple mesh connectivity at my home using 6GHz. I also bought two Netgear Nightwalk AXE3000 USB adapters while I was in the US for WLPC. Also ended up buying a new Macbook Pro (M2) , first Mac supporting 6GHz band (for easy PCAP). During WLPC, I went for WlanPi deep-dive & got WlanPi M4 too (had a Pro unit from a previous WLPC as well). With all those new additions, here is what my home Lab looks like (click on the image for an enlarged version).

I have done quick performance testing to see what I am getting in speedtest. I used my windows laptop (Lenovo T14S) connect to the wire first and did speedtest (with WlanPi connect to the wire on the same switch) got close to 1Gbps ( 938 download/ 830 Mbps upload) which is the baseline performance.

I had Cisco 9130 – Wi-Fi 6 and not 6E (In FlexConnect mode & 80MHz channel width in 5GHz) and tested using the same laptop (with inbuilt Intel AX201 and Netgear A8000 USB adapter) and Pixel 6a phone. I got 800+ Mbps download speeds and 700+ Mbps upload speeds on average. Intel AX201 had slightly better performance compared to Netgear USB Adapter. Even though performance is slightly lower than wire speeds it is very close to those baseline values.

I have only enabled the 6GHz band in Netgear APs (2.4 & 5.0 GHz disabled – not ideal if you want 6GHz SSID discovery using out-of-band methods, eg Apple devices use out of band-discovery) & configured a new SSID (mrn6e with WPA3 personal security). With Wi-Fi 6E, you cannot enable WPA2 or mixed mode (WPA2+ WPA3) or any Open SSIDs, hence it is uplifted security in that band. I have set the channel width to 80MHz to be comparable with Wi-Fi 6 in 5GHz performance (9130 AP). The same laptop with a Netgear USB adapter connected to “mrn6e” SSID near the root AP, I got 700+ Mbps download & ~ 600 Mbps upload performance. With Pixel6a client ~700 Mbps download & ~500 Mbps upload speeds. Though this performance is slightly less than Cisco AP’s performance (It was not a surprise) I am very happy with what I got with my Netgear AP.

Then I performed the same testing with my mesh node AP at the other end of my house. Node AP backhaul to root AP (very easy to set up using Netgear Insight) I got ~300+ Mbps download & ~250 Mbps upload speeds.

I will use this setup for my Wi-Fi 6E development and do a series of blog posts along the way as well. Keen to add Cisco 9164 or 9166 to this setup in the future. Stay tuned to know about my Wi-Fi 6E journey in future posts.

Here are some basic PCAPs taken in my home lab
1. 5GHz-CH132.pcapng : Packet Capture where “mrn-cciew” SSID configured
2. 6GHz -CH37.pcapng :Packet Capture where “mrn6e” & “mrn6e-1X” are configured. mrn6e with WPA3 security and mrn6e-1X with OWE (for testing without a RADIUS server)

1. Netgear WAX630E Review
2. Wi-Fi 6E – Cisco White Paper