WiFi 6 : A Massive Upgrade
We use WiFi all the time, but only a few of us are well-versed with its naming convention. For, there are too many versions of WiFi, and the naming scheme is utter technical jargon that is hard to understand and remember for those who are not closely involved with technology. However, that is about to change soon.
Apparently, with WiFi Alliance (an organization that promotes WiFi technology and certifies WiFi products) adopting a new naming convention, it would be much easier for common people (with a limited understanding of technology) to comprehend and differentiate the different WiFi versions and help themselves make an informed decision when shopping for a networking device.
Until now, the WiFi naming convention has been based on the 802.11 protocol – a family of specifications for wireless local area networks (WLANs) developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and therefore, the standards 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, and 802.11ac.
Based on this current naming convention, the next generation of WiFi should have ideally been 802.11ax. However, instead of denoting the new WiFi standard as 802.11ax, the WiFi Alliance has decided to call it WiFi 6, to avoid confusion and make it easier for common people to understand. With the new number-based naming convention, the previous two standards, namely the 802.11n and 802.11ac, will now be denoted as WiFi 4 and WiFi 5. Although, this naming convention does not extend further back to the earlier standards, but to make some sense, here’s how the entire line-up looks like under the new naming convention.
WiFi 4 and WiFi 5. Although, this naming convention does not extend further back to the earlier standards, but to make some sense, here’s how the entire line-up looks like under the new naming convention.
802.11a – Wi-Fi 1
802.11b – Wi-Fi 2
802.11g – Wi-Fi 3
802.11n – Wi-Fi 4
802.11ac – Wi-Fi 5
802.11ax – Wi-Fi 6
What is WiFi 6 (802.11ax)?
WiFi 6 is the sixth-generation of WiFi standard, and for the most part, unlike any other previous generations of WiFi supposed to make WiFi networks faster, more reliable, and more energy efficient. The highlighting factor about this new standard is that beginning this generation, WiFi Alliance has decided to keep things simpler and give up on the existing alphanumeric naming convention to a much simpler numeric scheme. And therefore, denoting the sixth-generation as WiFi 6 and not 802.11ax.
Apart from just a change in the naming convention, WiFi 6 also comes with an increase in network capacity, providing higher transfer rates, and improvements in power efficiency. These changes and improvements come together to create a network experience that promises to be consistent and dependable enough to provide a seamless experience for demand-heavy products and services.
How is WiFi 6 different from older standards?
Unlike older standards, WiFi 6 is designed to operate under different spectrum bands, ranging from 1GHz to 7GHz. Not to mention, the commonly used 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrum bands. With WiFi 6, users can also expect up to 4x higher throughput speeds and up to 75% less latency than the 802.11ac (WiFi 5/current) standard.
WiFi 6 Tech
To accomplish this, WiFi 6 uses technologies like MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output) and OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access). Which means that, even if there are a lot of devices on your network, you will still retain faster speeds with comparatively much less latency. In a nutshell, you will have a much better experience with WiFi 6, irrespective of the number of connected devices, as compared to older generations.
As per the Wi-Fi Alliance, a WiFi 6 access point will be capable of handling a large number of devices at the same time with the MU-MIMO and OFDMA technology. Using MU-MIMO, a router will be able to serve a large number of users while allowing them to transfer more data at a time, simultaneously. However, WiFi 6 is not the first version to use MU-MIMO. In the past, other Wi-Fi standards have also leveraged this technology to serve multiple users with high-speed data transfer. But, with WiFi 6, the technology has got some significant improvements, which are pretty apparent as per the claims.
On the other hand, the OFDMA technology is an improvement over the Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) technology, used with older standards. As the name suggests, this technology offers multiple access with simultaneous data transmission from several users at once. However, one drawback with OFDM technology is that it can cause some serious latency issues. To eradicate this problem, OFDMA comes into the picture, which allows an AP (Access Point) to schedule data transmission and further divide frequencies in order to transmit data to/from multiple clients at the same time. In a way, this allows more devices to operate on a channel by reducing the latency, and in turn, increasing efficiency.
WiFi 6 Security
In addition to subduing latency, WiFi 6 also offers improved security with support for WPA3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 3). For the uninitiated, WPA3 is the third-generation standard for secure wireless computer networks. It uses 128-bit encryption in WPA3-Personal and 192-bit in WPA3-Enterprise mode and replaces the PSK (Pre-Shared Key) exchange with a more secure initial key exchange. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, the WPA3 standard will alleviate security issues caused due to weak passwords and also help in simplifying the process of setting up devices.
When will WiFi 6 devices be available?
Currently, there are not a lot of devices out there that come with support for WiFi 6. But with the WiFi Alliance beginning to offer WiFi 6 certification for devices in the third quarter of 2019, we can expect to see compatible devices hitting the market somewhere around the same timeframe.
As the current scenario stands, D-Link and Asus have already announced their WiFi 6 compatible routers at CES earlier this year. Not to mention, Net gear, which also introduced their WiFi 6 routers a couple of month’s back that is already available for people to purchase.
Coming to smartphones, WiFi 6 is currently only supported by Samsung’s Galaxy S10 line-up, which was announced a few months back and is available for purchase. The S10 comes with the all-new Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, which is the current top-of-the-line chipset for upcoming smartphones and comes with support for Wi-Fi 6.
As for smartphones from other manufacturers, there might still be some time, and it might stretch to probably somewhere towards the end of the year before we get to see more smartphones with support for WiFi 6. Not to mention, the need for a WiFi 6 compatible AP (access point) to be able to utilize the advantages of WiFi 6 to its prime, which eventually boils down to having compatible devices all-around.
So, That’s all for now. I hope you guys have found this article knowledgeable and rich in Information.
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