Wi-Fi 6: More than just really fast

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Is it time to switch to Wi-Fi 6 yet? Yes, yes, and yes.

Let’s imagine a world without Wi-Fi. I bet you can’t. While in the past Wi-Fi was mostly used just for smartphones or laptops, these days almost every device we can think of is connected wirelessly. For example speakers, TVs, air conditioners, washing machines, cameras, air cleaners, and even lights can be controlled by Wi-Fi. Now, rather than connecting one single device, each of us has multiple devices that are connected at the same time.

Wi-Fi has been evolving continuously with the development of technology, and with each new generation, the specification has been changed accordingly. Until recently, these naming schemes were hard to understand and confused many users. We have all heard of 802.11a or g or ac, but no one really knew which one was the faster or better generation. In an effort to make it easier for users to understand, the Wi-Fi Alliance® changed the naming scheme to simple numbers. Taking the latest Wi-Fi generation as an example, Wi-Fi 6 was previously known as 802.11ax, Wi-Fi 5 was known as 802.11ac, and so on.

802.11bWi-Fi 1
802.11aWi-Fi 2
802.11gWi-Fi 3
802.11nWi-Fi 4
802.11acWi-Fi 5
802.11axWi-Fi 6
Development of Wi-Fi over time. Clearly the new naming scheme is easier to understand

Is Wi-Fi 6 really faster than Wi-Fi 5?

Wi-Fi 6’s maximum speed is 9.6Gbps, which is is about 2.8 times faster than Wi-Fi 5. Of course, this is a theoretical value, so you’ll rarely ever reach the actual maximum speed in the real world. Same goes for Wi-Fi 5. So while Wi-Fi 6 is a lot faster, a single device only will not be benefiting from the increased bandwidth. It rather means that various devices in a network can be utilize a much higher speed than before, resulting in more stable connection overall.

Wi-Fi 6 can also handle large amounts of network traffic efficiently, thanks to a technology called OFDMA. Usually, when a router sends a Wi-Fi signal to many devices, each device sends and receives signals one after another. However, OFDMA allows routers to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously in just one transmission. Therefore, each device can receive data through Wi-Fi quickly without waiting for its turn.

I also want to mention MU-MIMO here, which, although existed before, can now be utilized better. It stands for Multi-User, Multi-Input, Multi-Output and describes the ability routers to be able to communicate with up to four devices at the same time, while Wi-Fi 6 now allows communication with upt to eight.

Both OFDMA and MU-MIMO are multiuser technologies for bidirectional communication between routers and devices, and both enhance the speed significantly.

Improved security

Additionally, and this is probably the most important point for business users, Wi-Fi 6 brings an improved security level by using new protocol called WPA3 (instead of WPA2, which was the standard for Wi-Fi networks for almost two decades). Pre-shared keys (PSKs), which were a security drawback to WPA2, have been replaced by SAE, Simultaneous Authentication of Equals. It makes decryption more difficult to be hack, and also provides robust data security, especially across public networks.

Target Wake Time can increase battery life

While not so relevant to laptop users, the new technology Target Wake Time can save battery life for smaller devices which only have to communicate with a router every so often. Wi-Fi 6 allows for scheduling exactly when a device will send and receive data from the router, making it interesting for low-power devices, like sensors for example.

How to get started with Wi-Fi 6

Using Wi-Fi 6 is only possible when all involved hardware in a network supports it. If your smartphone speaks Wi-Fi 6 but the AP you’re connecting to doesn’t, there is no benefit. We expect that Wi-Fi 6 will take a bit more time until it is widely available. If you go out to buy a new smartphone today, it will most likely support Wi-Fi 6, but not all routers in cafés, at work, libraries, and so on support it yet.

As for the rugged world however, not many devices seem to use Wi-Fi 6 yet. Point Mobile’s first Wi-Fi 6 ready device will be PM75. And in order to follow industry-agreed standards and compliances, we recently joined the Wi-Fi Alliance as a contributor member, ensuring our devices will be making the most out wireless connections.

Learn more about the Wi-Fi Alliance  ➜ 

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