The Wi-Fi Alliance announced Wi-Fi 6 in 2018. The devices with their support have already appeared on the market. And now we try to understand what this Wi-Fi 6 is.

To make the differences between each standard clearer, look at the table below.

NameStandardFrequencySpeedYear
Wi-Fi 6802.11ax2.4 and 5 GHz600.4 Mbits/sec (with 80 MHz, 1 SS);
9.6078 Gbits/sec (with 160 MHz, 8 SS)
2019
Wi-Fi 5802.11ac5 GHz433 Mbits/sec(with 80 MHz and 1 Spatial Streams(SS) );
6.933 Gbits/sec (with 160MHz, 8 SS)
2014
Wi-Fi 4802.11n2.4 and 5 GHzMaximum up to 150 Mbps2009

Wi-Fi Version Numbers

The Wi-Fi alliance decided to rename old confusing Wi-Fi standard names like “802.11n” to names like “Wi-Fi 6.” That is much clearer and user-friendly.

Samples of Wi-Fi version numbers
Samples of Wi-Fi version numbers

The Wi-Fi Alliance wants that these numbers are displayed as user interface icons to show the Wi-Fi standard the device is connected to. So, you will recognize which Wi-Fi network is newer and faster on your device while connecting to a particular network.
Older versions of Wi-Fi aren’t officially being branded because now they are hardly used and have become history. But they’d be called:

· Wi-Fi 1 – 802.11b (1999).
· Wi-Fi 2 – 802.11a (1999).
· Wi-Fi 3 – 802.11g (2003).

How Is Wi-Fi 6 Different?

Wi-Fi 6 is a significant upgrade over previous Wi-Fi versions. Wi-Fi 6 routers have some new technologies that allow for potentially delivering almost 10Gbps throughput compared to max speeds of about 3Gbps for 802.11ac

Faster Speeds

Wi-Fi 6 offers faster upload and download speeds. As the sizes of the transferred files tend to constantly increase, along with streaming high-quality video and heavy online gaming demands faster speeds, this increased bandwidth is getting highly significant.

To be more precise, 9.6 Gbps is the maximum throughput of Wi-Fi 6 if devices use each channel. These are hypothetical maximums; networks could not meet this top speed in real-world circumstances. However, through that maximum is shared across many devices, they can experience significantly higher speeds even without reaching the top ones.

W-Fi 6 speeds are faster than Wi-Fi 5 speeds. More powerful processors provide more efficient data encoding and use of the wireless band, which lets Wi-Fi 6 achieve higher data transfer speeds.

This new standard can reduce latency by up to 75 percent by handling network traffic more efficiently. Gamers can download games faster. Streaming gameplay can be uploaded faster too.

The speeds become equal with the wired network. That frees users from the constraints of being hardwired to their router or modem. Making the shift to Wi-Fi 6, they will be able to take advantage of the flexibility that is provided by wireless networking. Wi-Fi 6 makes the difference between wired and wireless connectivity smaller.

Longer Battery Life

A new “target wake time” (TWT) feature will allow your devices to have longer battery life.
When the router or access point is communicating to a device, it can send information to the device when it should put its Wi-Fi radio to sleep, and when to wake it up.

This will save power by making the Wi-Fi radio spend more time in sleep mode. So, this feature will ensure longer battery life.

Better Performance in Crowded Areas

While using a lot of Wi-Fi devices in a crowded place, a network is experiencing congestion. You may already be familiar with the situation – when many people use their Wi-Fi devices in a busy hotel, mall, or office, you couldn’t sign into the Wi-Fi network, or you had very slow speeds.

The new Wi-Fi 6 will help us in such an environment by incorporating new technologies. According to Intel, it will increase speeds by at least four times in crowded areas with plenty of connected devices. This might refer to your home with a lot of Wi-Fi devices.

Stronger Security

The Wi-Fi Alliance announced WPA3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access). It is a new Wi-Fi security standard replacing WPA2. It uses passwords for encryption. WPA is required when you try to sign in to a Wi-Fi network.

The main improvement is increased password security through the Dragonfly Key Exchange system (SAE or Simultaneous Authentication of Equals.) It uses more sophisticated authentication methods that make passwords harder to crack. It means that your network will be even more secure.

What Makes Wi-Fi 6 Faster?

Wi-Fi 6 features
Key capabilities and benefits (Image via www.wi-fi.org )

Multiple In/Multiple Out (MIMO)

The new WI-FI 6 protocol has improved MIMO—Multiple In/Multiple Out as well. Multiple antennas allow the access point or router to talk to multiple devices simultaneously. When using the Wi-Fi 5 standard, the router could transmit information to devices at once, but those devices couldn’t reply at the same time. With Wi-Fi 6, the new version of MU-MIMO lets devices respond to the wireless router simultaneously.

Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA)

Besides, Wi-Fi 6 has Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA). To put it simply, this is the ability to divide a wireless channel into a lot of subchannels, that allow serving multiple devices at the same time. This subchannel can carry data intended for multiple different devices at once. This results in a single transmission. The devices don’t need to wait their turn to transmit data.

Overlapping Basic Service Sets (OBSS)

Overlapping Basic Service Sets (OBSS) is another technology designed to improve network congestion.

With Wi-Fi 5 and below, any device has to decode any signal that it received. No matter what network the signal came from— its network, a different network, or even from a baby monitor. This results in a great decrease in device performance if other networks and devices operating in the same range are located nearby.


After fully decrypting the packet and finding out that it is intended for another network, the router rejects it. OBSS puts a simple digital signature the device can read without fully decrypting the whole packet. The signals in each network are “colored”, so the router can identify the network immediately and ignore irrelevant packets.


OFDMA and OBSS ensure more effective communication on congested networks.

Beamforming

Beamforming is a useful feature: focusing a Wi-Fi signal in a particular direction.
This technique is really simple. Instead of broadcasting data in all directions, after detecting the location of the device, the router transmits a more localized data stream in its direction.
Beamforming was in Wi-Fi 5, but Wi-Fi 6 improved this technology.

What Is Wi-Fi 6E?

Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi of previous generations use only the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. The Wi-Fi 6E devices have the ability to utilize the 6 GHz frequency band.
According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, Wi-Fi 6E allows for 14 additional 80 MHz channels and 7 additional 160 MHz channels.” These channels will not overlap with each other, which will help reduce congestion, especially in crowded areas.


Not every Wi-Fi 6 enabled device will support Wi-Fi 6E. So, check your devices before updating.

Is it Time to Upgrade Your Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi 6 offers many revolutionary changes. We hope, they will make the problems of low speeds a thing of the past.
Unfortunately, most of the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 only work if all devices on the network support this protocol. But Wi-Fi 6 is backward compatible with all previous standards, so a router with support for the new standard can be purchased today, and the switch to Wi-Fi 6 will happen quickly and successfully.

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