Now if only there were access points —
Qualcomm’s flagship SoC gets a midcycle upgrade with the latest Wi-Fi standard.
Qualcomm is announcing its midcycle chip upgrade today: the Snapdragon 865 Plus. Like always, these “Plus” chips are higher-clocked versions of the major designs that were released earlier in the year, but new for the 865 Plus specifically is Wi-Fi 6E compatibility.
First, the speed increases: Qualcomm is promising a 10-percent faster CPU and GPU, thanks to faster clock rates. The CPU is officially up to 3.1Ghz now, and since the GPU on the Snapdragon 865 runs at 600MHz, the Plus version should be up around 660MHz.
The big news, though, is the addition of Qualcomm’s “FastConnect 6900” connectivity chip, which, along with peak speeds of up to 3.6 Gbps, will bring Wi-Fi 6E to smartphones. Currently, Wi-Fi works in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, but 6E will extend Wi-Fi into the 6GHz spectrum. Theoretical top speeds won’t increase, but the extra spectrum will help Wi-Fi work better in crowded areas. You can only fit so many bits into the current 2.4GHz and 5GHz airways, and if you and all your neighbors are filling the airwaves and causing a traffic jam, everyone will have to slow down. Six gigahertz Wi-Fi will add more lanes for traffic.
In the United States, Wi-Fi 6E will actually support a lot more lanes of traffic. The FCC allocated 70MHz of total spectrum for 2.4GHz and 500MHz of spectrum for 5GHz Wi-Fi. The new 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E is approved for an additional 1.2GHz of spectrum, so in total, Wi-Fi 6E users will have access to three times the available spectrum that exists today. Users who upgrade to 6E will have much more spectrum, and users who don’t upgrade will face less competition for the older 2.4 and 5GHz spectrum.
You need a new Wi-Fi 6E access point and a Wi-Fi 6E device in order to use Wi-Fi 6E. In the US, the new standard was only ratified by the FCC in April, so there are no consumer 6E access points yet. We’ve got to start somewhere, though, and it looks like smartphones will make the jump first. Qualcomm’s press release mentions that one of the first phones to launch with the Snapdragon 865 Plus (and presumably Wi-Fi 6E) will be the Asus ROG Phone 3, which will be unveiled July 22.