Five key facts about Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 or 802.11 ax, is big news at the moment; we see it as a real game-changer for wireless technology. Designed to be more reliable, increase speed and cope with increasing bandwidth, it’s a revolution in Wi-Fi. So, what do you need to know? Our senior wireless engineer, Phil Murphy, has pulled together a simple guide, FAQ: Five Key Facts About Wi-Fi 6 help you understand what’s happening.

1. What is Wi-Fi 6?
802.11ax, or Wi-Fi 6 as it’s known, is the sixth generation of Wi-Fi. What makes it such a huge leap forward? Well, there are some major innovations under the hood, making a significant difference to the way Wi-Fi is delivered.

OFDMA or Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access is the headline news. How does it work? By assigning sub-channels to individual users and dividing the sub-channels into resource units (RUs). This means the Wi-Fi 6-enabled access point (AP) can transmit to multiple client devices at the same time, a huge difference to all previous versions.

In a high-density environment, such as schools, warehouses and retail, the AP must cope with a huge number of devices constantly transmitting data. This is especially true of IOT devices. Target Wake Time, new with Wi-Fi 6, allows the AP to set a sleep/wake schedule. This essentially tells the device to turn off it’s radio and come back in a specified time. Not only does this clean up the airwaves of unnecessary data, it also saves power on the devices.

BSS Colouring will address the issue of APs listening to other APs, by adding a unique colour to each transmitting channel. The AP can easily recognise its own ‘colour’, so can ignore any activity from neighbouring APs.

2. Why is Wi-Fi 6 happening?
The explosion of the number of devices demanding access, consumer devices, wearables and IOT devices; combined with the increasing adoption of virtual and augmented reality and 4k video has placed huge demands on the wireless network.  Wi-Fi 6 was designed to support a large number of devices in high-density environments.  When you consider that high-density typically refers to anything upwards of 30 devices, you can see how Wi-Fi 6 will improve service, efficiency, connectivity and user experience.

  • 3. What’s the difference?
  • More reliable Wi-Fi: It’s a more consistent and dependable network connection so provides an improved experience for devices
  • Increase your network capacity: Wi-Fi 6 handles more data than previous Wi-Fi standards. It also handles more active clients per access point
  • Boost speed and bandwidth: Wi-Fi 6 achieves speeds up to 4 times faster than previous Wi-Fi standards, improving the user experience and performance of bandwidth-hungry apps like voice, video, and collaboration.

4. When will the change to Wi-Fi 6 happen?
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Wi-Fi Alliance will ratify the new standard towards the end of 2019. However, you don’t have to wait that long to get on-onboard as technology vendors are already shipping Wi-Fi 6 access points.

5. What does it mean for you?
As with previous generations, all Wi-Fi 6 access points must be backwards compatible with previous standards. But, as at summer 2019, there are only a small number of Wi-Fi 6 client devices out on the market. So you don’t need to do anything immediately. Though, of course, technology vendors are scrambling to catch up so expect this to change rapidly.

However, you do need to consider if your existing network can cope with increased number of connections as well as the bandwidth required to offer a seamless user experience.

If you’re considering replacing or refreshing your network, then the obvious choice is Wi-Fi 6.