This Netgear USB adapter adds plug-and-play Wi-Fi 6E to PCs

Daniel Sims

Posts: 586   +21
Staff
The big picture: Widespread adoption of Wi-Fi 7 is probably over a year away. In the meantime, Netgear has a new solution designed to make Wi-Fi 6E more accessible. The new adapter could help mitigate the strong headwinds the standard has faced since its introduction.

Netgear recently introduced a USB adapter that makes Windows PCs compatible with Wi-Fi 6E networks. The attachment could significantly boost bandwidth and connection reliability while everybody waits for Wi-Fi 7, which tech companies have only recently started demonstrating.

The Netgear Nighthawk AXE3000 is a USB 3.0 (USB-A) dongle that can reach speeds beyond 1Gbps, depending on network bandwidth. When paired with a Wi-Fi 6E router like the RBKE960 mesh router system Netgear released last year, the AXE3000 can hit 3Gbps. The dongle can also connect to Wi-Fi 6 if a 6E signal is unavailable.

The AXE3000 has two modes. For more compact operation, it can plug directly into a USB port. It also has a cradle that connects to the computer with a cable. While in the cradle, the dongle folds out for better antenna coverage.

Wi-Fi 6E is essentially Wi-Fi 6 with added access to the new 6GHz spectrum for increased bandwidth. Unfortunately, interest in Wi-Fi 6E has been lukewarm for several reasons.

The main problem is that the standard launched just in time for pandemic supply chain shocks, making Wi-Fi 6E hardware challenging to manufacture. Furthermore, the IEEE hasn't completely finalized 6GHz standards. Most device makers are sticking with the reliable Wi-Fi 6 until Wi-Fi 7 is ready.

Final IEEE approval of Wi-Fi 7 specifications could happen in 2024, which is also the earliest Intel expects to have Wi-Fi 7 desktops and laptops on the market. MediaTek performed one of the first Wi-Fi 7 demos at CES in January. Intel and Broadcom demonstrated cross-vendor compatibility of the upcoming spec earlier this month, reaching speeds of up to 5Gbps. Wi-Fi 7 should hit 5.8Gbps while maintaining more stable simultaneous connections across higher numbers of devices than Wi-Fi 6.

Netgear hasn't provided a price or release date, so those interested in the AXE3000 can sign up for notifications on its store page.

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Nanochip

Posts: 92   +127
From the tech specs page:
New 6GHz AX: 2x2 (Tx/Rx) 1024/256-QAM 20/40/80, up to 1200Mbps


So this thing only supports 80 MHz channels, not the full 160 MHz channels that would give you up to 2.4 GHz of bandwidth.

The whole point of Wi-Fi 6E and 6 GHz is to have clean spectrum that allows 160 MHz channels (or wider) for fast communications.

The problem with the 5 GHz band is that part of it is shared with radar including weather radar. Traditional routers have only two 160 MHz channels to choose from whereas 6 GHz band includes several 160 MHz channels. Both of the 2 160 MHz channels in the 5GHz band include a portion of the spectrum that’s radar sensitive. So if you use 160 MHz in the 5G spectrum, the router must operate in DFS mode, meaning that if and when it senses radar, it must vacate the channel immediately. Which means in practice that if you live close to an airport or in environment where radar signals are prevalent, you likely won’t be able to use 160 MHz in the 5 GHz band for very long. You’ll be stuck with 80 MHz max, as a portion of the spectrum will be “out of service” due to radar detection.

The 6 GHz spectrum isn’t shared with radar so there’s no DFS requirement. So 160 MHz channels can operate all day at the full bandwidth. No questions asked.

But if this thing doesn’t do 160 MHz, then in my view, it defeats the whole purpose of opting for wifi 6E in the first place. This is weird because usb3.0 supports 5 Gbps, usb3.1 supports 10 gbps which are both greater than the 2.4 GHz max speed of current Wi-Fi 6/6E 160 MHz channels. So why is it limited to only 80 MHz channels?

So hard pass for me. But good to see netgear try.