The newest generation of Wi-Fi is called Wi-Fi 6. It is a wireless networking standard established by the Wi-Fi Alliance (a non profit organisation that promotes Wi-Fi technology and provides the certification and classification of Wi-Fi devices) who campaigned for a unifying Wi-Fi classification standard - from Wi-Fi 1 (first generation) to Wi-Fi 6 (sixth generation), to make understanding Wi-Fi simpler. In 2019 the first Wi-Fi 6 devices began to emerge on the market. This article will explain this new technology and how it differs from previous generations of Wi-Fi.
On the specs of your Wi-Fi router you may have seen 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) or 802.11n (Wi-Fi 4), or even a,b,g if your device is several years old. This refers to the IEEE 802.11 protocol.
Wi-Fi 6 is theoretically capable of achieving speeds of up to 9.6Gbps (9600Mbps), this compares to the Wi-Fi 5 speeds of 433Mbps to 1.7Gbps. However the average Internet speed in the UK is 22Mbps (in 2019), and the US is 33Mbps.
Being able to achieve the theoretical speeds of Wi-Fi 6 in 2020 is not currently possible and will ultimately be limited by your ISP. For example if you only have an ADSL (24Mbps) instead of Fiber Optics (10Gbps), then you will not be able to achieve the max download speed.
Improved battery life for connected devices. As it is more efficient, mobile devices will last longer.
Improved performance when multiple devices are connected. You will be able to stream Netflix in one room and play online games in another with no loss of performance.
When you are purchasing a new mobile device, or router, look for 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) in the specs. There should also be a Wi-Fi 6 certified logo on devices that have been certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance.
Like all recent Wi-Fi upgrades, Wi-Fi 6 will be backwards compatible with devices still using the previous generation of technology. Wi-Fi 6 should also be able to improve the efficiency of older devices.
Most current devices are still using Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5, it is only in the last year that manufacturers have been able to release products with Wi-Fi 6 capabilities. For example Dell’s new XPS laptops incorporated Wi-Fi 6.
Not all companies are up to speed. Apple is yet to incorporate Wi-Fi 6 technology into its Mac (iMac, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air) devices. It has however released the latest iPhone with Wi-Fi 6 technology, with this upgrade being eagerly anticipated in the near future for new Mac devices.
To profit from the improvements of Wi-Fi 6 you will need to buy new devices (mobile, TV, laptop etc). You cannot just buy a new Wi-Fi 6 router and expect to have improved Wi-Fi quality if all of your connected devices are still using Wi-Fi 4, or Wi-Fi 5 technology.
There are two schools of thought. You can either wait a little while for the amount of devices to have Wi-Fi 6 capabilities, or future proof any purchase that you make by adopting the new technology before it becomes fully integrated into all of your devices. The downside with the latter option is that Wi-Fi 6 devices are currently more expensive than Wi-Fi 5 devices.
Most users today won’t be able to profit from a Wi-Fi 6 router at the moment if their device is not Wi-Fi 6 capable. It may take several years for Wi-Fi 6 to become commonplace. However, whilst this may be the case, even if you have one Wi-Fi 6 device, for example the router, your Wi-Fi 5 devices will still be able to connect as it is backwards compatible.
Early adoption of any new technology comes at a price, and you will not be able to fully appreciate all that Wi-Fi 6 is capable of immediately. You will be able to happily use your Wi-Fi 5 devices for the foreseeable future. You should also be able to find some good discounts in the next few years on Wi-Fi 5 devices.
Ultimately if your internet connection is not capable of achieving the theoretical speeds of Wi-Fi 6, then you do not need to upgrade your right now. That said, Wi-Fi 6 is the future (or at least until Wi-Fi 7 is released)!
Photo: Unsplash, 123rf.com, Intel