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Wi-Fi 6 will improve speed, but it’s going to be a while before it’s here

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Q: What is Wi-Fi 6 and do I need it?

A: The use of the term “Wi-Fi 6” is an attempt by the Wi-Fi Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes and certifies Wi-Fi technology, to simplify the alphabet soup that Wi-Fi has become.

Wi-Fi 1 is 802.11b, Wi-Fi 2 is 802.11a, Wi-Fi 3 is 802.11g, Wi-Fi 4 is 802.11n, Wi-Fi 5 is 802.11ac and the sixth-generation of Wi-Fi technology is 802.11ax.

In the future, you could start seeing reference to the generation number within the Wi-Fi connection icon on your smartphone and computer to better inform you about your connection.

What Wi-Fi 6 does better

Data transfer speeds are testing out up to 40% faster on Wi-Fi 6 over Wi-Fi 5, which is great for those that work with huge video files across a local network, but means little for internet access.

Wi-Fi 5 is already faster than most internet connections, so Wi-Fi 6 won’t provide any real speed difference unless you have a 1Gbps or faster pipe to the internet.

Your current connection is likely to be 100Mbps or less.

While improved speed is generally a hallmark of each new generation, there’s a lot more to Wi-Fi 6, especially in commercial settings.

Allowing more devices to connect and transmit data at the same time with a lower latency, much like the focused improvements in cellular 5G networks, is another benefit in Wi-Fi 6.

Unless you have over 50 devices wirelessly connected to your home or business network, the volume advantage it offers won’t be noticeable.

The lower latency makes gamers a primary target for Wi-Fi 6 router manufacturers, with features such as a separate dedicated band for gaming along with packet prioritization to place the emphasis on gaming traffic.

Wi-Fi 6 is also designed to use less power, which is very important to battery-operated wireless sensors that are being developed for just about every conceivable use.

The most likely place that you’ll first notice the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 is in places like airports and stadiums that try to provide Wi-Fi to large numbers of people, but only if you have Wi-Fi 6 device.

The first trial is available at John Wayne International Airport in Orange County, California.

Who’s offering Wi-Fi 6?

Any mobile device manufacturer that’s including Wi-Fi 6 capability is doing so to “future proof” their devices, since it’s going to be a while before Wi-Fi 6 is ubiquitous.

Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S10 series of smartphones was the first to include Wi-Fi 6, with Apple recently announcing that all of the new iPhone 11 models would have Wi-Fi 6 built into them.

It’s rumored that the Google Pixel 4 that is set to be unveiled in October will also feature Wi-Fi 6 capability.

Laptop manufacturers that focus on gaming including Dell, Asus, MSI and Alienware are offering models with Wi-Fi 6 hardware.

Router manufacturers, including Asus, TP-Link and Netgear have already released products that will have the Wi-Fi 6 stickers on the box.

Standards are still being finalized and costs will come down, so unless you have a specific need for this early adopter technology, no need to worry about it just yet.

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