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Unleash the Power of Wi-Fi 6 with the ESP32-C6 Module

Updated: Mar 20, 2023


Header image of ESP32-C6 low energy secure Wi-Fi 6 module
The new Wi-Fi 6 compatible ESP32 C6 module

Introduction

With the pace of change in technology and the number of devices which are IoT (Internet of Things) capable, rising near exponentially, it is clear that the infrastructure and equipment that we need to be able to keep everything 'on-line' and running at a useable speed needs to adapt to cope with demand.


There is no definitive answer to how many devices are actually connected to the internet but according to research conducted by Cisco systems, in 2021 there were an estimated 25 billion devices connected to the internet globally. This is estimated to increase to 75 billion by 2025 and an eye watering 200 billion by 2030.


For future systems to be able to cope with this pace of change, the next generation wi-fi protocol Wi-Fi 6 has been developed to address many of the issues involved in supporting multiple concurrent connections. And, in turn, wi-fi modules that connect the world's devices to the internet need to support the new framework. So, here is Ineltek's deep dive into Wi-Fi 6 and how Espressif's new module family can help you maximise Wi-Fi 6's performance capabilities.

Image of Wi-Fi 6 logo

What is Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 (otherwise known as 802.11ax) brings faster throughput speeds, better battery life, and less bandwidth congestion than previous protocols. It specifically introduces several new technologies (and lots of lovely acronyms) to help mitigate the issues that come with putting dozens of Wi-Fi devices on a single network. Its main features include OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) for effectively sharing channels to increase network efficiency, MU-MIMO (Multiple-User, Multiple-In, Multiple-Out) and Transmit Beamforming for a better signal. There are also improvements in speed, increased range, reliability, energy efficiency and, perhaps most importantly, security. Wi-Fi 6 is sensibly backwards compatible with older Wi-Fi versions.


Brief Summary of Wi-Fi 6 features:


Benefits of Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 provides numerous benefits compared to previous Wi-Fi versions. The most notable benefit is its increased bandwidth, which allows for faster data transfer speeds. Wi-Fi 6 users can enjoy faster downloads, smoother streaming and an improved gaming experience. With its MU-MIMO technology, Wi-Fi 6 is capable of handling far more devices simultaneously which means your IoT devices aren't squeezed out of their share of the bandwidth when the rest of the household is hoovering up data on Netflix. Of course, these benefits extend even more to public wi-fi infrastructure where access in airports, restaurants and shopping centres will become safer, faster and more reliable.


In our existential drive towards more eco-friendly, efficient use of energy resources, Wi-Fi 6's Target Wake Time (TWT) could reduce power consumption by up to 67% according to Qualcomm which means longer battery life and hence, reduced energy costs.


As always, with so many connected devices, robust security is paramount. With the full implementation of WPA3, Wi-Fi 6 offers improved security protocols, with the latest encryption standards, making it far more secure than previous Wi-Fi versions.


Introduction to the ESP32-C6 Module

The ESP32-C6 module is a powerful IoT solution for networking applications. It is based on the ESP32-S2 chip that is built with a dual-core processor, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi 6 support, making it capable of future proofing your design.


The ESP32-C6 module is an ideal choice for networking applications due to its low power consumption and robust performance. It is also cost-effective, making it an attractive option for developers and manufacturers. The module is easy to use and integrate into existing infrastructure and products, making it an ideal choice for those looking to quickly deploy a solution.

Image showing an overview of the ESP32-C6 key features

Features of the ESP32-C6 Module

  • 32bit RISC-V core running up to 160MHz.

  • 384kB ROM and 400kB SRAM integrated

  • 22 GPIOs

  • ADC, SPI, UART, I2C, I2S, RMT, TWAI and PWM

  • 2.4 GHz radio supports WiFi 6 (802.11ax)

  • WiFi 6 (802.11ax 1×1)

  • BLE 5 inkl. Long-Range Support BT Mesh 1.0.1

  • 802.15.4-2015 (Thread 1.1, ZigBee 3.0)


Wi-Fi 6 Support

ESP32-C6 has integrated 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) radio, and also supports the 802.11b/g/n standard for backward compatibility. ESP32-C6 supports the OFDMA mechanism for both uplink and downlink communications, while also supporting MU-MIMO for downlink traffic. Both of these techniques allow working with high efficiency and low latency, even in congested wireless environments. Additionally, the Target Wake Time (TWT) feature of the 802.11ax standard enables ESP32-C6 customers to build battery-operated connected devices that can last for years, while staying connected throughout.

Image of ESP32-C6 connectivity capabilities

Enhanced Connectivity

ESP32-C6 combines 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n/ax), Bluetooth 5 (LE), and IEEE 802.15.4 radio connectivity, which is vital for making the Thread and Zigbee protocols available for a variety of applications. ESP32-C6 supports a 20 MHz bandwidth for the 802.11ax mode and a 20/40 MHz bandwidth for the 802.11b/g/n mode. It brings in Wi-Fi 6 features, such as transmission efficiency and low power consumption, which provide concrete benefits for IoT devices. Additionally, Bluetooth 5 (LE) supports long-range operation through advertising extensions and coded PHY. It also supports 2 Mbps of high throughput PHY.


Enabling Matter

ESP32-C6’s support for IEEE 802.15.4 and Wi-Fi radios, along with Bluetooth 5 (LE) connectivity, enable customers to build Matter-compliant Wi-Fi end-point devices and Thread end-point devices, thus achieving interoperability in smart-home devices from multiple brands. ESP32-C6 combined with another Espressif SoC can be used to develop various other Matter-ecosystem solutions, such as Matter Gateways, Thread Border Routers or Zigbee Matter Bridges.


Security

ESP32-C6 comes with RSA-3072-based secure boot, AES-128/256-XTS-based flash encryption, digital signature and an HMAC peripheral for identity protection, as well as cryptographic accelerators for improved performance. The Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) enables privilege separation when accessing different chip features and, therefore, provides a secure software separation. These features ensure the desired level of security for devices built with ESP32-C6.


How to Get Started with the ESP32-C6 Module

Getting started with the ESP32-C6 module is easy. The module is designed to be used with the Espressif IoT Development Framework (ESP-IDF), which provides users with all the tools and resources necessary to build their own applications. So engineers and developers can benefit from familiarity with a robust, trusted platform that already drives millions of connected devices. For customers who would like to use ESP32-C6 as a communications co-processor with an external host, ESP-Hosted and ESP-AT firmware is also available. ESP32-C6 is supported through ESP RainMaker®, a complete system for building AIoT products.


The ESP32-C6 module also enjoys compatibility with a variety of third-party development environments and tools, such as the Arduino IDE, and the PlatformIO IDE. This makes it easy for users to build their own applications and integrate the module into their existing infrastructure and products.


Finally, the ESP32-C6 module is cost-effective and easy to use, making it an attractive option for engineers, designers and manufacturers. When you buy Espressif through Ineltek, you automatically have access to our in-house team of FAEs who have considerable expertise in Espressif system implementation. We can also fast track direct support from Espressif engineers themselves so you can design in Espressif with Ineltek safe in the knowledge that that our solution oriented approach can make your ideas a reality.


Applications of the ESP32-C6 Module

Some of the applications of the ESP32-C6 module include building automation, smart home systems, industrial automation, and more. It is also ideal for use in public places such as airports, restaurants, and more.

Image depicting security capability of Espressif ESP32-C6

Conclusion

It is clear that Wi-Fi 6 infrastructure is an absolutely essential development to future proof network infrastructure to cope with the exponential demand for keeping internet capable devices safe, secure and functioning at peak performance. The ESP32-C6 module is an ideal choice for maximising the full benefits of Wi-Fi 6 networking due to its cost effectiveness, low power consumption, extensive feature set, unrivalled support and blistering performance.


The Espressif IoT Development Framework (ESP-IDF) offers a reliable platform to implement your vision, backed by Ineltek's engineering experience and Espressif's comprehensive support to ensure your success.


For more information or to arrange samples of the ESP32-C6 module, contact Ineltek Ltd. With its low power consumption and robust performance, the ESP32-C6 module is an ideal choice for those looking to quickly deploy a solution and take advantage of the benefits of Wi-Fi 6. We have a provisional data sheet available and also information about the ESP32-C6's younger brother, the ESP32-C5 which will be released in Q2 2023.


For applications which don't require Wi-Fi connectivity, you could consider Espressif's ESP32-H2 which is based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, offering BLE, Thread and Zigbee. This module will also support the new Matter protocol which ensures interoperability for next generation smart home devices.


For the latest Data Sheet on the new wi-fi 6 capable Espressif module family, the ESP32-C6-WROOM-1 series data sheet is on this link, or you can view all of Espressif's technical documents here.

 

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

1) MU-MIMO - Multiuser, Multi-Input / Multi-Output

What is it?

MU-MIMO allows one AP to communicate with multiple clients simultaneously, fully utilising available resources and improving wireless throughput.

What it means:

MU-MIMO can better meet the requirements of video, audio, and other applications that require high bandwidth and low latency.

What it means for IoT applications:

It helps provide more stable connections even in congested network conditions, with reduced latency.

2) OFDMA - Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access

What is it?

OFDMA enables an 802.11ax access point to simultaneously communicate with multiple devices by dividing each Wi-Fi channel into smaller sub-channels and choosing how best to allocate these resources.

What it means:

Multiple devices receive more consistent attention. This reduces the use of the contention methodology that preceded 802.11ax.

What it means for IoT applications:

It accommodates a higher density of simultaneous device connections, again with lower latency.

3) TWT - Target Wake Time

What is it?

TWT is a new Wi-Fi 6 feature that enables devices to schedule when they will communicate with the wireless network.

What it means:

You can activate your device’s radio interface to communicate with the network according to a schedule which is appropriate to the application. Devices can remain in a low power state for a greater amount of time.

What it means for IoT applications:

Reduced power consumption enables means periodic sensors or applications which don’t require an always on connection can potentially be battery powered opening up potential for more reliable remote deployment.

4) BSS COLOURING - Basic Service Set Colouring

What is it?

In BSS colouring, each BSS (effectively AP or access point) is assigned a different unique colour defined in 6 bits, carried by signal preamble or SIG field.

What it means:

BSS colouring concept eliminates interference from other APs and improves co-existence within multiple APs.

What it means for IoT applications:

It helps provide better communication between device and AP even in dense environments and can improve network range.

5) WPA3 - Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 protocol

What is it?

It is the 3rd iteration of the Wireless encryption. WPA3 compatibility is already available in devices and routers, but is optional for WiFi5 and earlier. The Wi-Fi Alliance now requires WPA3 to be certified by Wi-Fi 6 devices.

What it means:

In order to have the device certified, all Wi-Fi 6 devices must have the more robust WPA3 encryption.

What it means for IoT applications:

Higher security for Wi-Fi networks, whilst enabling easy-Connect using a simple QR code.

6) QAM - Quadrature Amplitude Modulation

What is it?

QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) is a method of combining two amplitude modulation (AM) signals into a single channel. 802.11ax has a higher modulation scheme, moving from 256 QAM to 1024 QAM.

What it means:

1024-QAM enables a 25% data rate increase in Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) APs and devices. It achieves this by varying both the phase and the amplitude of the radio waves, improving spectral efficiency by incorporating more data into each transmission.

What it means for IoT applications:

Bandwidth is always available even for the lowest priority connections.

7) 160 MHz Band & 8SS – 160MHz and 8 Special Streams

What is it?

Wi-Fi6 provides mandatory support for 160MHz channel bandwidth for AP as well as support for up to 8 special streams.

What it means:

Effectively the WiFi-6 AP can support up to 4.8Gbps throughput using an 80MHz channel with 8SS or a 160MHz channel with 4SS.

What it means for IoT applications:

Such high data rates are typically not required for IoT applications but it would provide available bandwidth even during high traffic periods from other connections.

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