Technology

What is Wi-Fi 6 actually?

The new faster and more stable Wi-Fi is now here. Constantly, we have the need to demand faster internet connection with no lagging, as we use more bandwidth apps and games with our laptops and phones.

The new WiFi 6 is here, but not only faster. We’ll see its impact more and more over the time as its benefits release.

This new technology is not a one-time thing, it’s more of a future-facing upgrade, designed to bring speeds that don’t grind with our needs of internet stability. Wi-Fi 6 is just starting to unroll its great features this year and there’s a big chance you’ll see it on your own phone or laptop. Here’s what you need to know.

Definition

Wi-Fi 6 is the next generation of Wi-Fi. It’ll still do the same basic thing — connect you to the internet — just with a bunch of additional technologies to make that happen more efficiently, speeding up connections in the process.

How fast is it?

Wi-Fi 6 supports 9.6Gbps of internet, that’s higher than Wi-Fi 5’s 3.5Gbps, but it’s not maybe the actual number as we speak theoretically. The real answer is that, these are just theoretical numbers at their maximum speed, which are almost impossible to achieve in a real-world connection. Even if someone achieved those speeds, it would be unnecessary, because the main, basic download speed in the U.S is 72Mbps, less than 1 percent of the maximum Wi-Fi 6 speed.

This is not, though, something to be down about, because the new Wi-Fi 6 upcoming maximum speed (9.6 Gbps) is still important compared to its
predecessor Wi-Fi 5. The amount of 9.6Gbps can be split into other devices, which means that many other can have the same speed of internet connection, which creates a new network of devices. This means more potential speed for each device.

Until recently, Wi-Fi generations were referred to by an arcane naming scheme that required you to understand whether 802.11n was faster than 802.11ac, and whether 802.11ac was faster than 802.11af, and whether any of those names were just made up nonsense. (Answer: sort of.)
To fix that, the Wi-Fi Alliance decided to rename Wi-Fi generations with simple version numbers. So the current generation of Wi-Fi, 802.11ac, turned into Wi-Fi 5. This new generation, previously called 802.11ax, is now Wi-Fi 6.
You probably won’t hear the Wi-Fi 5 name used very much since it’s been around for five years and just got that name in October 2018. For Wi-Fi 6, you might see the 802.11ax name here and there, but companies largely seem to be on board with using the simplified naming scheme.

Main Purpose

Instead of improving the speed on the internet, Wi-Fi 6 is designed to make a faster network of devices when they’re all connected. This is important when thinking that, when Wi-Fi 5 came out, the basic household had 5 devices connected to it. Now, the basic household has 9 devices and companies are predicted to have 50 devices in several years.

So, these devices pay their “debts” to the router of your house or company. As many devices request connection from your router, the worst the internet speed will get. Wi-Fi 6 is made to stop the problem of connected devices to a router. It lets routers communicate with more devices at once, lets routers send data to multiple devices in the same broadcast, and lets Wi-Fi devices schedule check-ins with the router. Together, those features should keep connections strong even as more and more devices start demanding data.

How fast is each device?

At first, answering this question is not so easy. A Wi-Fi 6 laptop connected to a Wi-Fi 6 router may be a little faster than a Wi-Fi 5 laptop connected to a Wi-Fi 5 router. Wi-Fi 6 purpose is, as said above, not the speed, but the network stability.

The problem starts when your router begins to receive multple requests from devices who want to have Data connection from your router. That time is your Wi-Fi trying to achieve stability between the many devices demanding fast internet and stable connection. Wi-Fi 6 routers, are designed to effectively keep those devices up to date with the data they need.

So, the Wi-Fi 6 devices may not be able to achieve these speeds as Wi-Fi 5 does, but it will be able to reach a high-guality network and maintain the best download quality and speed better than Wi-Fi 5 does. This can be seen on a household, where one person is streaming a movie, the other playing a game and a bunch of home sensors, such as door locks, temperatures and other signals. It will be much easier.

The top speeds of those devices won’t necessarily be boosted, but the speeds you see in typical, daily use likely will get an upgrade.

Exactly how fast that upgrade is, though, will depend on how many devices are on your network and just how demanding those devices are.

How to get Wi-Fi 6?

Clearly, the person willing to connect to Wi-Fi 6 has to buy a new device. Internet connection relies on hardware updates, not software updates, so you’ll need to buy a new phone or laptop to connect.

YOU’LL NEED TO HAVE A WI-FI 6 ROUTER

At first you’ll need to look for those devices supporting Wi-Fi 6, but within the next 5 years you’ll bring home a new laptop, phone or console with an inserted Wi-Fi 6 chip and that’ll do.

There’s also a thing you must know. If you’re willing to upgrade your home’s internet with the lastest Wi-Fi 6 connection, you will most importantly need a Wi-Fi 6 router. No matter how many Wi-Fi 6 devices you buy, they will not have an impact if you don’t buy a router supporting this version.

This is not, though something to rush about, cause it’s in its early version yet. Although, if you have a smart-home and rely on those stability, after some time the connection might be a little slaggy, you’ll need to buy the new Wi-Fi 6 router and devices.

What makes it faster?

There are two key technologies speeding up Wi-Fi 6 connections: MU-MIMO and OFDMA.

MU-MIMO, which stands for “multi-user, multiple input, multiple output,” is already in use in modern routers and devices, but Wi-Fi 6 upgrades it.

The technology allows a router to communicate with multiple devices at the same time, rather than broadcasting to one device, and then the next, and the next. Right now, MU-MIMO allows routers to communicate with four devices at a time. Wi-Fi 6 will allow devices to communicate with up to eight.

You can think of adding MU-MIMO connections like adding delivery trucks to a fleet, says Kevin Robinson, marketing leader for the Wi-Fi Alliance, an internationally backed tech-industry group that oversees the implementation of Wi-Fi. “You can send each of those trucks in different directions to different customers,” Robinson says. “Before, you had four trucks to fill with goods and send to four customers. With Wi-Fi 6, you now have eight trucks.”

The other new technology, OFDMA, which stands for “orthogonal frequency division multiple access,” allows one transmission to deliver data to multiple devices at once.

Extending the truck metaphor, Robinson says that OFDMA essentially allows one truck to carry goods to be delivered to multiple locations. “With OFDMA, the network can look at a truck, see ‘I’m only allocating 75 percent of that truck and this other customer is kind of on the way,’” and then fill up that remaining space with a delivery for the second customer, he says.

In practice, this is all used to get more out of every transmission that carries a Wi-Fi signal from a router to your device.

WI-FI 6 CAN ALSO IMPROVE BATTERY LIFE

Another new technology in Wi-Fi 6 allows devices to plan out communications with a router, reducing the amount of time they need to keep their antennas powered on to transmit and search for signals. That means less drain on batteries and improved battery life in turn.

This is all possible because of a feature called Target Wake Time, which lets routers schedule check-in times with devices.

It isn’t going to be helpful across the board, though. Your laptop needs constant internet access, so it’s unlikely to make heavy use of this feature (except, perhaps, when it moves into a sleep state).

Instead, this feature is meant more for smaller, already low-power Wi-Fi devices that just need to update their status every now and then. (Think small sensors placed around a home to monitor things like leaks or smart home devices that sit unused most of the day.)

WI-FI 6 ALSO MEANS BETTER SECURITY

Last year, Wi-Fi started getting its biggest security update in a decade, with a new security protocol called WPA3. WPA3 makes it harder for hackers to crack passwords by constantly guessing them, and it makes some data less useful even if hackers manage to obtain it.

Current devices and routers can support WPA3, but it’s optional. For Wi-Fi 6, WPA3 is required, so Wi-Fi 6 devices are guaranteed to be more secure.

WI-FI 6 IS JUST GETTING STARTED

Devices supporting Wi-Fi 6 are just starting to trickle out. You can already buy Wi-Fi 6 routers, but so far, they’re expensive high-end devices. A handful of laptops include the new generation of Wi-Fi, too, but it’s not widespread just yet.

Wi-Fi 6 will start arriving on high-end phones this year, though. Qualcomm’s latest flagship processor, the Snapdragon 855, includes support for Wi-Fi 6, and it’s destined for the next wave of top-of-the-line phones. The Snapdragon 855’s inclusion doesn’t guarantee that a phone will have Wi-Fi 6, but it’s a good sign: Samsung’s Galaxy S10 is one of the first phones with the new processor, and it supports the newest generation of Wi-Fi.

The inclusion of Wi-Fi 6 is likely to become even more common next year. The Wi-Fi Alliance will launch its Wi-Fi 6 certification program this fall, which guarantees compatibility across Wi-Fi devices. Devices don’t need to pass that certification, but its launch will signify that the industry is ready for Wi-Fi 6’s arrival.

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