What’s the fuss about with WiFi 6?

If you read tech news, you may have seen a lot of talk about WiFi 6. It’s the next generation of WiFi standard announced by the powers that be. But what happened to WiFi 1 to 5? What does it mean and what is all the fuss about? Dave’s Computers in New Jersey is here to help.

Usually when discussing WiFi, we use confusing terms like 802.11a/c/n to describe the generation of network. This has now been simplified to a number. While there is no WiFi 1, there is a WiFi 4, 5 and 6. It is these that you will need to know when setting up a wireless network in the future.

WiFi 4 is the old 802.11n, WiFi 5 is the current 802.11ac and WiFi 6 is the upcoming 802.11ax.

WiFi standards

Back when wireless networks were being developed, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) came up with the naming standard based on their committee name, 802. The .11 part is a mystery but if it follows normal technology development, it could be version 11 of the 802 standard. That’s a guess though.

The original 802.11 was released in 1997 and was capable of just 2Mbps and had a range of only 66 feet indoors. The current 802.11ac standard is capable of up to 800Mbps and has a range of up to 115ft. The next generation, 802.11ax, or now WiFi 6 has a top speed of up to 10.53Gbps and a range that is currently unknown.

WiFi 6 changes things up a lot. It uses smart encoding to expand transfer speeds exponentially. The jump from 800Mbps up to 10.53Gbps is huge and something that is going to revolutionize WiFi.

It isn’t all about speed either. WiFi 6 is also smarter. It will tell your mobile device that it can put the WiFi chip to sleep and automatically wake it when needed to extend battery life. It will also divide each WiFi channel into individual subchannels with one subchannel per connected device. This is how multiplexing works and ensures each device gets a fair portion of the wireless network when it needs it. It will also reduce congestion and data loss through collisions.

As usual, if you want to take advantage of WiFi 6 when it is released, you will need a new router. Fortunately, rather than having to look for the old 802.11 stickers, they will be clearly marked ‘WiFi 6 compatible’ or ‘WiFi 6 certified’. That should making buying new hardware much simpler.

WiFi 6 is due in early 2019 so there is no need to worry about anything yet. You don’t have to rush out and buy a new router or do anything either now, or immediately after release. Not unless you want to be an early adopter anyway.

If you need help with home networking, we can help. The computer repair guys at Dave’s Computers in New Jersey can assist with any computer or networking issue you may have. Bring your computer to our store and we will see what we can do!