What is WiFi 6?

The next wave in Wi-Fi advancement is here. It promises more advanced capabilities and performance. Many new devices are already Wi-Fi 6 compatible, like the iPhone 11 series, Samsung s10 series, and Samsung Note 10 series.  So, what improvements will we see as Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax, begins to take over? We’ve broken down some of the changes, benefits, and drawbacks below!

What’s Changed?

Wi-Fi 6 is the next step toward high capacity designs. It optimizes what we’ve used in the past to an incredible performance level. This new standard, once implemented, will change the way the world works. Although coverage per AP will remain relatively similar, the number of devices per AP, performance, and data rates are drastically improved. Essentially, Wi-Fi 6 will allow the user to stay connected even in crowded networks. Additionally, once completely deployed, it will be capable of high bandwidth and low latency, meaning inevitable improvements to the efficiency of your essential programs.

Benefits and Capabilities

Of the many benefits Wi-Fi 6 brings to us, there are two that rise to the top of creating a better experience for anyone using the wireless technology, they include:

Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA)

OFDMA effectively shares channels to increase network efficiency and lower the latency for both uplink and downlink traffic. It allows for simultaneous low-data-rate transmission for multiple users. As an example, thinking about the front door of your house, Wi-Fi 5 and earlier technologies only allowed one box of any size to move through the door at any moment in time.  Lots of boxes would be lined up outside the door waiting to pass through, one at a time, regardless of size. Wi-fi 6 is smart enough to realize that only one big box (a couch for example) can go through the door at one time, but if I have 10 small shoeboxes, I can bring all ten of those boxes though at the same time. This is how the benefits of lower latency and increased network efficiency are realized. 

Target Wake Time  (TWT)

TWT will improve a device’s battery life as well as the network’s efficiency. It will have specific benefits with the battery life of mobile devices and IoT devices that may only need to transmit once a day or once per week for example. Unlike Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6 is optimized to support connected client devices with radios that are very low cost and designed to support low bandwidth applications which are commonly used in IoT devices.  TWT eliminates unnecessary network traffic by only communicating with a client device at a specified time interval ranging from hours to days. Between those communication intervals, the client device can enter a low power mode to conserve battery.

Other benefits of Wi-Fi 6 include:

  • Multiple User – Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU-MIMO)
  • Transmit Beamforming
  • 160 Mhz Channel Utilization
  • 1024 -QAM

These other benefits, combined with OFDMA and TWT, result in Wi-Fi 6 being the most significant improvement to Wi-Fi in the 10 years since Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n) was published. 

Drawbacks

Implementation of Wi-Fi 6 will be slow, as both the AP and user devices like laptops and smartphones, must be 802.11ax capable. Although Wi-Fi 6 supports Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5 clients, realizing the advantages of Wi-Fi 6 increases as the percentage of Wi-Fi 6 capable clients increases in the network. The more Wi-Fi 6 clients, the better the network performs. We can expect minor performance improvements to Wi-Fi 6 technology as early as 2022 and then again in 2024. These improvements, already in development, will likely require new Wireless Access Points.   

Interested in learning more about Wi-Fi 6 and future-proofing your technology-focused business? Let CC&N know today!

Source: https://www.wi-fi.org/discover-wi-fi/wi-fi-certified-6