What is WiFi 6? How Will It Change The Internet As We Know It?

WiFi 6

The stadium is packed with red and gold, overflowing with fans screaming just as the Chiefs make their way into Arrowhead Stadium. Amid the chaos, you check your phone, noticing an urgent business email you need to attend to.

At that moment, you realize your neighbor is checking his phone, along with a thousand other fans in the audience. The WiFi lag you experience is excruciatingly slow and completely blocks you from tending to your business. Does this sound familiar?

802.11ax, also known as WiFi 6, is here to change that narrative. As the global pandemic has forced people online more than they’ve ever been to stay informed, work, and connect with family and friends, there’s a demand for faster WiFi.

The Evolution of WiFi

To understand where we’re going, we need to consider where we’ve been regarding WiFi.

In 1985, the United States Federal Communications Commission announced ISM bands, frequencies of around 2.4GHz. These frequencies are what powers our microwaves.

In 1997 WiFi was born and released to shoppers, but it wasn’t until 1999 that it was used in homes. The criteria for acknowledging WiFi communication became known as wireless local area networks or WLAN.

It wasn’t until 2009 that multiple inputs were created, allowing for more connectivity. To solve the ever-growing use of technology, bands were 2.4GHz bands, and 5GHz bands were united.

Technical experts have hypothesized that by 2022 the bulk of Internet traffic will be higher than the last 32 years. With that, the creation of WiFi 6, more efficient connectivity in densely populated areas.

What is WiFi 6?

The company called WiFi Alliance, or originally called Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, is responsible for six generations of WiFi. Starting with WiFi 1, 802.11b, in September of 1999, and now with the innovative creation of WiFi 6 having received certification in September of last year.

Edgar Figueroa, CEO of WiFi Alliance states, “WiFi 6 will be used more broadly to describe which version of the WiFi network you’re connected to. WiFi Certified 6 will refer to the certification program that device makers will go through.”

Early this year, the WiFi Alliance announced WiFi 6E that is compatible with the new 6Hz frequency band.

According to the WiFi Alliance, there are now higher than 15 billion WiFi products used worldwide. So what exactly is WiFi 6? What makes it better than previous generations of WiFi, and how will it improve the future of the internet? We’ve cultivated what you’ll need to know and what you should be mindful of for the near future.

Key Features of WiFi 6

  • Data rates are higher
  • Decreases battery usage
  • Greater connectivity
  • Bandwidth splitting

Higher Data Rates

A data rate, meaning the time in which it takes to transmit speed. To get a better picture of the increased data rate of WiFi 6 let’s take a look at our current situation. As reported by Get Internet, 35.36 Mbps is the average internet speed across the United States.

When we look at worldwide internet speed data, from June 2020, Speedtest Global Index gathers the following:

  • #1 -Singapore 208.16 Mbps
  • #2- Hong Kong (SAR) 192.09 Mbps
  • #3- Thailand 171.26 Mbps
  • #4- Switzerland 164.32 Mbps
  • #5- Romania 163.54 Mbps

Comparing the WiFi 5 vs. WiFi 6, data rates can be up to 40% higher. In 2009, 802.11n or WiFi 4 offered 54Mb/s to 600Mb/s and then in 2013 433Mb/s was available with 802.11ac or WiFi 5. Now, 802.11ax or WiFi6 offers 600Mb/s and eight spatial streams.

A feature called Beamforming will also expand data rates. Beamforming prevailed in WiFi 5; however, now it will support eight antennas instead of only four. The eight antenna configuration allows eight to send and eight to receive. Previously, signals were sent in every way possible, but now it directs signals towards individual clients to optimize the WiFi range.

Decreases Battery Usage

We all know how our heart sinks when we see that 1% red signal on the top of our phone screen. Well, with the new WiFi 6, the battery will last longer, which is a great feature.

Scheduled check-ins called ‘target wake-up times’ allow devices to check in less frequently with the access points and, therefore, save battery. This feature can be comparable to how Telsas automatically shut down its engine at a stoplight and then quickly start back up when you’ve put your foot on the pedal.

It’s longer sleep cycles will lengthen its battery life. The uplink resource schedule will ensure better battery management, decreasing the amount of data needing to fight to upload.

Furthermore, WiFi 6’s Network Allocation Vector or NAV has two. One is for the network it applies to, and one is for it’s surrounding systems. Therefore this will cut down the consumption of energy because of the decrease in carrier sensing. Battery consumption will save up to 67%.

Greater Connectivity

Earlier, we mentioned the need for efficient WiFi in environments like football stadiums. With WiFi 6, there will be a much better WiFi experience in places like football stadiums, airports, shopping malls, and even while on break at work. Let’s dig into that.

Previously devices weren’t able to adequately communicate with each other and therefore clogged up the channels. Now, however, a technique called Basic Service Set Coloring or BSS color codes specific access points in return, sending a signal to others that it’s available or not.

More doors are open by allowing additional access points to create a more significant flow.

WiFi 6 opens up new doors by providing more access points to create a bigger flow allowing more data to come in. Even at 100 feet away, the WiFi still works perfectly fine.

This feature assists in especially crowded areas to help the network to work more precisely.

Lastly, it allows routers to be in touch with more devices at once, and it lets routers send data to numerous devices.

If you live in an apartment where you’re close to neighbors, you can say good-bye to interference between your networks. No extra work necessary!

Bandwidth Splitting

WiFi 6’s most notable feature is called bandwidth splitting. WiFi 6 can split into more sub-channels allowing more clients to communicate with access points more efficiently.

Each band 20, 40, up to 150 Megahertz can be split up into 78 different subchannels to be exact. In addition, this reduces latency because augmented reality systems support the merger.

This feature might also be called Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access or OFDMA. In layman’s terms, multi-user, multiple-input, and multiple-output technology.

Future Expectations and Purchasing Decisions for WiFi 6

Unless your devices are WiFi 6 compatible, the answer is probably no. Devices created earlier than the summer of 2019 likely won’t reap the full benefits of WiFi 6.

WiFi 6 hardware won’t be fully available until late this year, but devices are already trickling out, such as the Samsung Galaxy s10, s10 Plus, and s10E.

You can also purchase WiFi 6 routers from Amazon, like the NETGEAR 4- Stream WiFi 6 Router (RAX15). Customers have already been beta testing this product with feedback like no WiFi drops, handles 20 streaming clients without any issues, no dead spots, and gets up to 940Mbps.

In contrast, the cons are the price (at $239.00), and considering the router will require compatible clients to function at its capacity fully.

On another note, while most people assume WiFi 6 will be much quicker, the Internet speed has a hand to play in this role. With that said, the increased rate of WiFi 6 is only helpful locally, within your office or home.

Once all devices align with WiFi 6, you’ll be able to print, browse the web, and stream movies on Netflix much faster. These devices can expect full integration around 2021.

Looking forward, 4k and even 8k videos are stretching the bandwidth limits, and this is expected to grow to 22% come 2022. Not to mention, virtual reality applications will increase consuming somewhere from 600 Mbps to 1 Gbps of the network’s traffic.

Ultimately the worldwide growth of WiFi connectivity speeds is inevitable and will be forced to escalate twice as much between now and 2022.

The Takeaway

With higher data rates, better battery lives, more excellent connectivity, and bandwidth splitting, there is no argument that the future of WiFi 6 is changing the way we live.

However, don’t throw your WiFi 5 just yet. Ride the wave, and wait until more integrations pop-up and then make a decision to upgrade altogether.

It will improve the excessively slow connection at music concerts and football games, work breaks, and airport lounges. It’ll allow us to quickly stream our favorite shows that make us laugh on Netflix or to enjoy gaming activities better.

As technology changes and we evolve, let us remember the real reason for faster WiFi- to stay more efficiently connected with our loved ones.

Vivian Choi

Vivian lives in Brooklyn. She went to school at Stony Brook University, where she studied Computer Science and English. She’s created apps, designed websites, and even published a few short stories. When she’s not coding or writing, she likes walking with her husky named Roscoe.