WiFi 6: Ready or not?

The pace of technological innovation is mind-boggling, and it won’t be long before you have an advanced wireless system that can stream content for you at a much faster speed. Welcome to WiFi 6 — the next-generation of wireless networking that is expected to offer significant improvements in performance and reliability. It is technically known as 802.11ax, but it’s easier to just call it WiFi 6 because this is the sixth time that IEEE (the organization responsible for setting the standards in the telecom industry) has improved on the existing WLAN technology and has upgraded the standard for the same. And while this technology is still in its infancy and far from being the standard, there are already some routers available that say they are WiFi 6-ready.

So, what is WiFi 6 and should you make the switch to a new router now? Let’s find out.

What is WiFi 6?

First off, know that WiFi works by broadcasting information through airwaves, and this means it is available for everyone. But when you set passwords, obviously a person needs to enter it for access. This is the fundamental difference between a secured and an unsecured wireless connection.

That said, today, the Internet works over two bands, namely, 2.4GHz and 5 GHz. In WiFi 6, a third band, 6GHz, is added. As a result, you’re going to have large bandwidth available for the Internet, so you can expect higher speeds, even if you connect a ton of devices to the Internet at the same time.

Now, let’s drill down to the specifications of WiFi 6.

  • Channel bandwidth: 160MHz @5GHz, 20MHz/[email protected]
  • Subcarrier space: 78.125kHz.
  • OFDM: 12.8 bus.
  • Highest modulation: 1024-QAM.
  • Data rates: 600Mb/s.
  • Channel configuration: Multiuser MIMO and OFDMA.

At the heart of it all is the introduction of a third band, which is the 6GHz. The other two are 2.4GHz and 5GHz, where 2.4GHz is a slow band, but can penetrate through solid objects like a wall. On the other hand, 5GHz provides faster speeds at shorter distances.

This introduction of 6GHz means that a larger band of airwaves is available for your Internet connectivity. This not only boosts faster speeds at short distances but also enhances the speed of the 2.4GHz band, so you can get faster speeds at longer distances. This is really what makes this next-gen WiFi so exciting for users.

Benefits of WiFi 6

wifi 6

Looking at the above specs, you might wonder what in the world do these mean to you. Well, we saw a bit earlier that WiFi6 provides faster connectivity over longer distances, but that’s not all. Here are some more benefits that come with WiFi 6.

  • Industry analysts estimate that it will be 30 percent faster than your current WiFi 5 standard.
  • More bandwidth for every user, so your ultra-HD streaming will be continuous, even if you have to share the bandwidth with others.
  • The available spectrum is divided into different bands, so there are more routes for communication. This is sure to reduce bandwidth congestions.
  • Networks can handle more data packets, so faster speeds in every device.
  • More robust, even in cluttered environments.
  • Extremely high efficiency in data delivery.
  • Improves the battery life of devices as you can schedule when the devices have to connect to the network.

Should you upgrade to WiFi 6?

The benefits are exciting and undoubtedly, WiFi 6 is geared for the future. But do you really need it when it becomes widely available? Should you upgrade? The answer depends on how much Internet you use today and the chances for it to increase. Let’s run through some common situations and use-cases.

Office space

Undoubtedly, WiFi 6 can make a huge difference to an office space where employees are increasingly using more than one device to connect. Today, it is estimated that every employee has about four devices that connect to the network — smartphone, wearable devices, laptop, and tablet/desktop.

As more devices connect to the network, WiFi 6 divides the available spectrum into smaller bands, so the speed is likely to be fast and consistent, regardless of the number of devices used. So, WiFi 6 is definitely a great addition to office spaces.

AR and VR-based devices

WiFi 6 is likely to boost the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) devices. Though both are currently at a nascent stage of development, WiFi 6 lays the foundation for its explosive growth and usage in the near future because one of the current limiting factors of AR is the lack of bandwidth to support intense data streaming.

With WiFi 6, these limitations no longer exist, so it opens up opportunities for the emergence of these technologies in a big way.

Gaming industry

WiFi 6

WiFi 6 has the power to transform the gaming industry. It can open up opportunities to create games with better visual effects and possibly even those based on location tracking as bandwidth will no longer be an issue. It is sure to offer a ton of flexibility for serious gamers, and the gaming industry as a whole.

IoT connectivity

The Internet of Things (IoT) is penetrating slowly and steadily into our society, and WiFi 6 can give it a big impetus. Today, one of the limiting aspects of the widespread use of IoT is the available bandwidth, and WiFi 6 will remove this impediment. So, this is another industry that is sure to see exponential growth soon.

Crowded places

Another major beneficiary of WiFi 6 is sports stadiums, concert halls, shopping malls, and other crowded places where many people are likely to connect to the Internet at the same time. With WiFi 6, there will be no throttling or bandwidth issues, so users can access the Internet quickly.

These are some of the possible use-cases of WiFi 6, and there is no doubt that it will open up new opportunities across many industries like machine-to-machine interaction, AI, mobility, and more.

Should you switch to WiFi 6?

So far, we have seen what WiFi 6 is, its benefits, and use-cases. Now comes the big question. Should you shift to this new piece of technology?

Well, in a nutshell, WiFi 6 is the future, and there is no doubt about that. So, the question should be when you should shift to it and not if you should switch.

Already, the routers of many leading brands like Netgear and Asus are compatible with WiFi 6. However, it doesn’t mean you can shop for a WiFi 6 router and start reaping the benefits as soon as you set it up at home, and this is because WiFi works as an ecosystem.

In other words, if the speeds provided by your Internet service provider (ISP) are slow, a WiFi 6 router won’t help. Likewise, if the devices you use are not geared for such speeds, a WiFi 6 router can’t provide the speed you want.

In short, for most practical purposes, a WiFi 6 router won’t provide top-notch speeds now simply because the global adoption of the technology has yet to happen. We need higher-end devices that can make the most of these speeds and ISPs that can handle them, to truly leverage its power. For now, though, it is watch-and-wait time, so you know what to expect, and based on your needs, you can jump in when the time is right.

Undoubtedly, exciting times are ahead! What’s your take?

Featured image: Shutterstock

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