Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, is the newest version of the 802.11 standard for Wi-Fi technology from the Wi-Fi Alliance. It is the successor of IEEE 802.11ac, now known as Wi-Fi 5. Wi-Fi 6 was released in 2019 and is designed to improve speed, increase efficiency, and reduce congestion in heavy bandwidth usage scenarios.
Wi-Fi 6 was created in response to the increase in connected devices being used, such as virtual reality and smart home devices. The new version features speeds approximately 4 times faster than Wi-Fi 5, better power-control methods to minimize Wi-Fi conflicts with neighbors, orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA), higher-order 1024-QAM, and enhancements of power consumption and security protocols such as Target Wake Time and WPA3.
It’s commonly thought Wi-Fi stands for “wireless fidelity,” but the term Wi-Fi does not stand for anything. Rather, it is simply a trademarked phrase that means IEEE 802.11x.
How to use Wi-Fi 6
Wi-Fi generations rely on new hardware and not software updates. That means you’ll need to buy new devices to use Wi-Fi 6. If you buy a laptop or phone that supports Wi-Fi 6, the benefits cannot be reaped until a router supporting the system is installed. Brands such as Cisco, Netgear, Asus, and Ubiquiti have released Wi-Fi 6 routers. It’s worth noting that your older devices will still work with a Wi-Fi 6 router, though it will not make them faster.
Wi-Fi 6 benefits
While Multi-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO) is already used in existing routers and devices, Wi-Fi 6 enhances it. MU-MIMO involves multiple antennas, letting the access point talk to multiple devices at the same time. Wi-Fi 5 allowed the access point to talk to the devices simultaneously, but they could not all respond at once. With Wi-Fi 6, multiple devices can respond to the wireless access point at once. Up to eight devices can communicate with routers using Wi-Fi 6.
As previously mentioned, OFDMA allows one transmission to deliver data to multiple devices at the same time. This is used to maximize every transmission carrying a Wi-Fi connection from router to device.
Wi-Fi 6 can also improve battery life due to devices being able to plan out communication with a router. This reduces the time devices need to keep antennas powered to search for and transmit signals, thus improving battery life.