WiFi 6 ?

Wi-Fi 6 ?
Get ready for the next generation of wifi (Wireless) technology: Wi-fi 6 is going to be appearing on devices starting in 2019. But, should you replace your old router and get a new one? And is this going to make your Internet run faster? Here’s what you should know !
The history of wifi
Those of you of a certain age will remember when home internet access was only wired—and only one computer could get online, a single MP3 took half an hour to download. Then WIfi came along and changed everything. The first wifi protocol appeared in 1997, offering 2Mbit/s link speeds, but it was only with the arrival of 802.11b and 11Mbit/s speeds in 1999 that people seriously started thinking about home wifi.
Wifi standards, as well as a whole host of other electronics standards, are managed by the IEEE: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Specifically, IEEE 802 refers to local area network standards, and 802.11 focuses on wireless LAN. In the 20 years since 802.11b arrived, we’ve seen numerous new standards of all sorts come out, though not all of them apply to home networking.
The introduction of 802.11g in 2003 (54Mbit/s) and 802.11n in 2009 (a whopping 600Mbit/s) were both significant moments in the history of wifi. Another significant step forward was the introduction of dual-band routers with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, tied to the arrival of 802.11n, which could offer faster speeds at shorter ranges.
Today, with 802.11ac in place, that 5GHz band can push speeds of 1,300Mbit/s, so we’re talking speeds that are more than 600 times faster than they were in 1997. Wi-Fi 6 takes that another step forward, but it’s not just speed that’s improving.
Explaining wifi technology can get quite technical. A lot of recent improvements, including those arriving with Wi-Fi 6, involve some clever engineering to squeeze more bandwidth out of the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz your router already employs. The end result is more capacity on the same channels, with less interference between them, as well as faster data transfer speeds.
Turning wifi up to six
In the past, Wi-Fi versions were identified by a letter or a pair of letters that referred to a wireless standard. The current version is 802.11ac, but before that, we had 802.11n, 802.11g, 802.11a, and 802.11b. It was not comprehensible, so the Wi-Fi Alliance — the group that stewards the implementation of Wi-Fi — is changing it.
All of those convoluted codenames are being changed. So instead of the current Wi-Fi being called 802.11ac, it’ll be called Wi-Fi 5 (because it’s the fifth version). It’ll probably make more sense this way, starting with the first version of Wi-Fi, 802.11b:
Wi-Fi 1: 802.11b (1999)
Wi-Fi 2: 802.11a (1999)
Wi-Fi 3: 802.11g (2003)
Wi-Fi 4: 802.11n (2009)
Wi-Fi 5: 802.11ac (2014)
Now, instead of wondering whether “ac” is better than “n” or if the two versions even work together, you’ll just look at the number. Wi-Fi 5 is higher than Wi-Fi 4, so obviously it’s better. And since Wi-Fi networks have always worked together, it’s somewhat clearer that Wi-Fi 5 devices should be able to connect with Wi-Fi 4 devices, too. (Technically, Wi-Fi 1, Wi-Fi 2, and Wi-Fi 3 aren’t being branded because they aren’t widely in use, but I’ve labeled how it would look above for clarity.)
The Wi-Fi Alliance even wants to see this branding go beyond hardware. So in the future when you connect to a Wi-Fi network on your phone or laptop, your device will tell you what Wi-Fi version you’re connected to. That way, if two networks are available — one showing “4” and the other showing “5” — you’d be able to choose the newer, faster option.
Now that the retroactive renaming is done, it’s time for the future. If you’ve been closely following router developments over the past year (no judgments here), you’ll know that the next generation of Wi-Fi is on the horizon, with the promise of faster speeds and better performance when handling a multitude of devices. It was supposed to be called 802.11ax, but now it’ll go by a simpler name: Wi-Fi 6.
One of the most important changes Wi-Fi 6 brings with it is, of course, the new naming system: Using a simple succession of numbers is going to make it a lot easier for consumers to keep track of standards and make sure they’ve got compatible kit set up. The more technical term for Wi-Fi 6 is 802.11ax, if you prefer the old naming.
Expect to see the new Wi-Fi 6 name on hardware products and inside software menus from 2019, as well as funky little logos not unlike the one Google uses for its Chromecast devices.
As always, the improvements with this latest generation of wifi are in two key areas: Raw speed and throughput (if wifi was a highway, we’d be talking about a higher maximum speed limit for vehicles, as well as more lanes to handle more vehicles at once). Wi-Fi 6 will support 8K video streaming, provided your internet supplier is going to give you access to sufficient download speeds in the first place.
In practice that means support for transfer rates of 1.1Gbit/s over the 2.4GHz band (with four streams available) and 4.8Gbit/s over the 5GHz band (with eight streams available), though the technology is still being refined ahead of its full launch next year—those speeds may, in fact, go up (it’s been hitting 10Gbit/s in the lab). Roughly speaking, you can look forward to 4x to 10x speed increasesin your wifi.
Another improvement Wi-Fi 6 will bring is improved efficiency, which means a lower power draw, which means less of a strain on battery life (or lower figures on your electricity bill). It’s hard to quantify the difference exactly, especially as Wi-Fi 6 has yet to be finalized, but it’s another step in the right direction for wifi standards—it shouldn’t suck the life out of your phone or always-on laptop quite as quickly.
What will you have to do?
Not a lot. As is usually the case, Wi-Fi 6 is going to be backwards compatible with all the existing wifi gear out there, so if you bring something home from the gadget shop that supports the new standard, it will work fine with your current setup—you just won’t be able to get the fastest speeds until everything is Wi-Fi 6 enabled.
How long that takes is going to depend on hardware manufacturers, software developers, internet service providers, and everyone else in the industry. You might just have to sit tight until your broadband provider of choice deems the time is right to upgrade the hardware it supplies to you (though you could just upgrade the router yourself).
When you’re out and about in the wider world you might start to see certain networks advertising faster speeds, using the new terminology, but this rebrand is brand new: We’ll just have to wait and see how these new names and logos get used in practice. Would you swap coffee shops for Wi-Fi 6?
Bear in mind that it’s also going to take a while for this to roll out properly. When we say 2019, that’s the very earliest that fully approved Wi-Fi 6 devices are going to start appearing on the scene, so it might be months or years before everyone catches up. Some early devices making use of the draft technology have already appeared on the scene.
Even if you have no problems with download and upload speeds right now, Wi-Fi 6 is intended to fix some of the pain points that still exist: Trying to get decent wifi in a crowded space, for example, or trying to connect 20 different devices to the same home router without the wireless performance falling off a cliff.
The Wi-Fi Alliance even wants to see this branding go beyond hardware. So in the future when you connect to a Wi-Fi network on your phone or laptop, your device will tell you what Wi-Fi version you’re connected to. That way, if two networks are available — one showing “4” and the other showing “5” — you’d be able to choose the newer, faster option.
Now that the retroactive renaming is done, it’s time for the future. If you’ve been closely following router developments over the past year (no judgments here), you’ll know that the next generation of Wi-Fi is on the horizon, with the promise of faster speeds and better performance when handling a multitude of devices. It was supposed to be called 802.11ax, but now it’ll go by a simpler name: Wi-Fi 6.
The Wi-Fi Alliance says that it expects companies to adopt this numerical advertising in place of the classic lettered versions. It also expects to see earlier versions of Wi-Fi start to be referred to by their updated numbered names as well.
Because the Wi-Fi Alliance represents just about every major company that makes any kind of product with Wi-Fi in it, its actions usually reflect what the industry wants. So presumably, tech companies are on board with the branding change and will start to advertise it this way.

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