WiFi 6 is gradually becoming the standard for wireless connections. But what exactly does this designation correspond to? What differences with other generations of WiFi? What is WiFi 6 really for? Let’s see it all together.
Routers, smartphones, computers…As you may have noticed, more and more devices are compatible with the new WiFi 6 certified. But what does this mean in concrete terms, and what consequences for the everyday user?
What is WiFi 6?
WiFi 6 is the latest wireless network standard certified by WiFi-Alliance, the consortium in charge of setting up technical standards for WiFi technology.
If you hear regularly speak WiFi 6 as you have never seen mention WiFi 5 or less, it is quite normal. In essence, there are a few months, has WiFi Alliance announced a change in strategy for the trade name of the different generations of this technology. WiFi 5 in fact corresponds to WiFi 802.11 ac, WiFi 4 to WiFi 802.11 n, WiFi 3 to WiFi 802.11 g, WiFi 2 to WiFi 802.11 a and finally WiFi 1 to WiFi 802.11 b. As for WiFi 6, it initially presented as WiFi 802.11 ax. It is simply a way of simplifying the terminology and helping the consumer to navigate it.
The Advantages of WiFi 6
One of the main advantages of WiFi 6 over its predecessors is speed. It is estimated that about 40% of the gain allowed by this new technology in this regard. The maximum theoretical speed allowed by WiFi 6 is 10 Gb / s. In practice, no one will benefit from such performance, but the average speed of connections will boost with this standard. Besides, WiFi 6 brings the 2.4 GHz frequency band up to date with better rates. As a reminder, it offers a much better range and crosses obstacles better than the 5 GHz band.
WiFi 6 will make a considerable difference in high-density public places (airports, stations, open space, shopping centers, etc.), where dozens or even hundreds of users use the connection at the same time—the promise: up to four times more throughput now in these kinds of situations. In private homes, the beneficial effects also exist: this will boost performance if you equipped with many connected objects or if there are a large number of you sharing the same connection.
To achieve such a feat, WiFi 6 based on two protocols. The OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) is used to carry out a division of a channel during simultaneous communication with multiple devices, thus avoiding the congestion of the strips. In parallel, Mu-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple-Output) has also improved, allowing all devices connected to the WiFi network to communicate with the router simultaneously. In theory, WiFi 5 already provided this functionality. But if routers could send information to multiple devices at the same time, they couldn’t receive all of the responses at the same time. This is where WiFi 6 comes into play.
The interest of WiFi 6 does not stop there since it also benefit from a better autonomy on its devices. Thanks to TWT (Target Wake Time), the battery of our smartphones, tablets, or laptops should run out less quickly. WiFi router six can transmit to devices when they need to go to sleep and when they need to wake up. Our tools thus spend less time in “WiFi alert,” which is an energy-consuming function.
Devices already compatible with WiFi 6
Gradually, manufacturers are putting on the market high-end products that support WiFi 6 standards. We first think of the latest generation routers made available by ISPs (Internet Service Providers). The first in France is SFR with its Box 8. In January 2020, Bouygues followed suit with its new WiFi 6 fiber Bbox, which we tested immediately on the market. However, Orange, which presented its Livebox 5 in October 2019, still does not take this standard into account
Otherwise, router manufacturers like Netgear, Asus, or TP-Link have already shown compatible solutions. Netgear has even formalized the first WiFi 6 repeater, the Nighthawk Mesh AX8, at the IFA Berlin 2019.
On the other hand, it can be understood that the receivers are also WiFi 6 compatible with taking advantage of all the benefits provided by the technology described above. There are still a few on the market, but brands are starting to start the movement. The Galaxy Note 10 are, for example, the first smartphones to be officially certified WiFi 6 by the WiFi Alliance. But before them, Samsung already announced that its S10 is compatible with the standard. It is therefore not surprising that the Galaxy S20, S20 +, and S20 Ultra also support WiFi6. The Xiaomi 10 also supports WiFi 6, and we can expect the next high-end mobile models to follow the trend.
Finally, for its part, Huawei is already working on improving WiFi 6: WiFi 6+. Huawei announces a speed of up to 9.6 Gbps. If a first router of the brand already has such connectivity, it will probably be necessary to wait for the release of the P40 and P40 Pro to benefit. It also remains to be seen whether WiFi 6+ will benefit from compatibility with WiFi 6, or whether it will be a standard entirely reserved for Huawei devices.
A few years ago, we were touted WiFi 802.11 ad (frequency band 60 GHz), also called WiGig for Wireless Gigabit, and its exceptional speeds. This standard was never able to impose itself because it suffers from a significant drawback: a small scope. With WiFi 6, we will have access to speed as dazzling as with WiGig, but with better management of the multiplicity of devices, a much longer transmission distance, and with functionality helping to preserve battery life. In short, at all good for users.