When it comes to internet connectivity, most people tend to gloss over how fast their gateway actually is. As long as it connects, they tend to say, it’s good enough for them.
Or, for many people, as long as their laptop or tablet will connect to Facebook while they’re lounging around the house, they’re good to go.
But if you’re paying attention, perhaps you’ve noticed that wireless internet in some locations isn’t as good as it could be. That’s part of the reason it’s getting a massive update in the near future in the form of Wi-Fi 6.
What, exactly, is Wi-Fi 6?
You probably had no idea there were five iterations before this one. Put simply, it’s just the latest iteration of wireless internet. It’s more than a bump in speed though. It’s an improvement in the entire infrastructure of wireless internet access as we know it.
With more of our day-to-day life shifting to the internet, more demand for streaming content, and digital purchases, we need more bandwidth and speed for everyone sharing the same internet. Wi-Fi 6 is going to help improve the situation, so it’s certainly something you’re going to want.
Wi-Fi 6 is set to start rolling out this year, and you might be seeing the benefits of it soon enough if you purchase a new phone or laptop at some point. Some obvious benefits, if you’re confused, are faster speeds to the tune of 9.6 Gbps, which is much higher than Wi-Fi 5’s speeds of 3.5 Gbps.
While you won’t be guaranteed to get that type of speed consistently or at all times, the fact that it’s higher overall means more speed and bandwidth for additional “room,” as it were, for others on the internet. What does that mean in layman’s terms? Wi-Fi should be more functionally sound, and that’s good news for everyone.
Two technologies: MU-MIMO and OFDMA make it possible for Wi-Fi 6 to be a much faster option for browsing the internet. Wi-Fi 6 brings an update for MU-MIMO, which is pretty self-explanatory when spelled out: “multi-user, multiple input, multiple output.”
A router is able to communicate with more than one device at once instead of essentially broadcasting in a chain. OFDMA stands for “orthogonal frequency division multiple access” that allows one Wi-Fi transmission to send data to more than one device at once. Basically, things get simpler and faster because there are multiple methods of delivery.
What else Wi-Fi 6 can deliver
But it’s not all just about making the internet faster or increasing performance. Beyond faster speeds and making the internet more stable when using it on wireless devices, Wi-Fi 6 also means you’ll get better security protocols.
Alongside Wi-Fi 6, a new version of protection called WPA3 will make its debut. Basically, it will make it more difficult for hackers to “brute force” passwords or continue to guess them over and over.
Now, Wi-Fi 6 will still require updated devices, just as if you were upgrading your smartphone from 4G to 5G. Don’t run out to the store and try to replace everything so you can get Wi-Fi 6 right away. It doesn’t work like that.
At first, you’ll have to replace your router, but it isn’t time to do that just yet. Once you do that, any upgraded devices you get (preferably as part of the natural cycle of things) will have support for Wi-Fi 6 baked directly into them.
You could go ahead and buy Wi-Fi 6 routers capable of delivering the upgraded performance, but it’s not going to start rolling out in full force until next year. The official Wi-Fi Alliance is planning to launch its Wi-Fi 6 certification program in fall 2019. That means it still needs a bit more time in the oven.
But don’t get too comfortable now that you’ve gotten to know a bit more about Wi-Fi 6 – it turns out that Wi-Fi 7 is already on its way out. It’s already got an official name as well: 802.11be, which will likely be called simply “Wi-Fi 7” in the near future, but right now it’s so early in the evolutionary life cycle that there just aren’t many details about it floating around.
This iteration of wireless internet will be more about boosting speeds, where Wi-Fi 6 was more about “efficiency and quality,” according to Carol Ansley, Senior Counsel at CommScope (previously known as Arris).
It’s going to support 320 MHz channels and will be much more efficient at operating on multiple bands at once. But that’s still quite a ways away, and likely won’t be available to test until at least 2021 – which means it’s pretty far away from consumer use.
Wi-Fi is changing faster than you likely realized – are you ready to experience its evolution?
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