Everything You Need to Know About WiFi 6
You may already have WiFi 6 running in your home. Find out what it is, the features and benefits it offers, and when to expect the next generation of WiFi.
When WiFi was first released in 1999, the designations were more complex — the first being “802.11b.” Today, each successive update of technology is referred to as a numbered generation with WiFi 1 in 1999 up to our current standard of WiFi 6, released in 2019.
We’ll explain what that means, what each new generation offers, and when to expect WiFi 7.
What is WiFi 6?
WiFi 6, also known as 802.11ax, is the latest wireless communication protocol that uses new technology to give you a stronger, faster, more reliable Internet connection.
If you’re using a modern WiFi router at home, you may already be running WiFi 6 on your smartphones, laptops, and other connected devices.
In its most basic form, WiFi 6 will do what WiFi has always done: connect you to the Internet. But with the improved technology, that connection is now faster, more secure, and can support more devices.
WiFi 6 vs. WiFi 6E
WiFi 6 arrived alongside another, slightly improved version of the technology known as WiFi 6E. This improved version may not be available for every device, but it broadly increases the bandwidth available to users.
Previous versions of WiFi were limited by either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequency bands, but WiFi 6E is able to use the 6GHz bands for the first time, meaning 1,200 MHz of bandwidth, allowing devices to deliver high amounts of data short distances. The service provides all the advantages of WiFi 6 with additional capabilities for high data-volume devices.
Not every device that supports WiFi 6 will support WiFi 6E, so be sure to check the compatibility of your hardware before upgrading to WiFi 6E.
Benefits of WiFi 6: How is it Different?
The differences between WiFi 6 and its previous generations may not be immediately apparent to the average user. How and why is the new service different from WiFi 4 and 5, and what advantages does it provide?
You may be curious to know: how fast is Wi-Fi 6? The short answer is 9.6 Gbps, up from 3.5 Gbps on WiFi 5.
This high speed, however, is only part of the answer to the question. The real advantages of the next generation may be found in applying that speed to multiple devices at once, allowing for faster simultaneous usage than previously possible with WiFi 5 and its predecessors.
As described above, the most advantageous part of WiFi 6 is not the speed boost it provides to individual devices, but rather the larger improvement it brings to an entire network of devices.
According to a 2022 Deloitte survey, the average U.S. household has 22 connected devices — that’s far more than when WiFi 5 was released in 2014. However, despite all that growth, network speeds have not always kept up. Using many devices simultaneously with an older router may strain network speeds and lead to slower Internet access overall.
WiFi 6 introduced the ability for routers to communicate with and send data to more devices at one time. With WiFi 6, more devices will be easily accommodated, matching our growing technological habits.
Higher Security Standards
WiFi 6 also improves security standards as well as increasing speed for devices and networks. These security improvements are made possible by WPA3, the newest generation of WiFi Protected Access, a common security protocol for WiFi networks, which requires passwords for encryption.
The previous standard for WiFi Protected Access was WPA2, but a new generation has been developed alongside WiFi 6. WPA3 will make passwords even more secure than ever via a system known as the Dragonfly Key Exchange, or as the Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE). SAE implements stronger passwords and develops a sophisticated new method of establishing a connection with the WiFi network.
These security improvements are available with every WiFi 6 supported device and make it harder for hackers and other cybersecurity threats to access your data.
Increased Battery Life
Another of the significant benefits offered by WiFi 6 is the addition of a new system known as Target Wake Time, or TWT, which actually increases battery life on some devices.
The technology eases communications between devices and routers, allowing devices to know when to “sleep” or “wake” according to whether or not they need to search for a wireless network. This may increase battery life for some devices, especially those not in constant use, such as smart home devices which are only used a few times per day, as opposed to laptops or phones which require continuous connectivity.
You may be left with further questions about the new technology. How does it affect you specifically? Do you need it for your home? Here are some FAQs about the latest generation of WiFi.
What are Some Pros and Cons of WiFi 6?
When compared to its predecessor of WiFi 5, this current generation offers the following benefits and potential disadvantages:
- Faster speeds
- Higher network connectivity
- Higher security standards
- If you have older devices or an older router, they may not support WiFi 6. That means you would have to purchase new devices and/or a new router in order to get the most out of your Internet connection.
Which Devices Support WiFi 6?
The most important piece of technology required to make the full switch to WiFi 6 is a compatible router. Since WiFi 6 has been available since 2019, most, if not all, manufacturers already offer devices with WiFi 6 capabilities.
WiFi 6 is backwards compatible with WiFi 5, but in order to access its full benefits, you will likely need a WiFi 6 compatible device. Most modern devices already support it, but if you are using an older generation of smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device, you may need to upgrade to access those benefits.
Do I Need Wi-Fi 6?
WiFi 6 is a significant step forward for wireless technology when compared to previous generations. You may already be running WiFi 6 in your home. But if not, upgrading will give your household multi-user access to top speeds. The more WiFi-enabled devices your household uses, the more this technology will help you.
Will There Be WiFi 7?
Yes, there will be a seventh generation of WiFi, though its exact release date is unknown. It is expected to release in 2024 or possibly early 2025.
WiFi 7 will significantly improve transfer speeds, lower latency even more, and offer another increase to network capacity.
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