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