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What the new Wi-Fi 6 standard brings to wireless networking

  Picture via Wi-Fi Alliance

Picture via Wi-Fi Alliance

This is the third in a series of articles we run this month covering networks (especially Wi-Fi) and security. The previous articles discussed Domain Name System (DNS) and how it works, as well as details about Wi-Fi Security. Today we look forward to the upcoming Wi-Fi 6 standard and what it means to users in terms of speed and safety.

Getting rid of alphabet soup

To begin with, it's a pretty simple change that the Wi-Fi Alliance – the standard group promoting Wi-Fi technology and certifying Wi-Fi products – does. Wi-Fi 6 will not be marketed with the long 802.11a / b / g / n / ac alphabet soup. Instead, it should be referred to as Wi-Fi 6 instead of 802.11ax. Ever wonder what 802.11 things mean? It is a specification standard of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineers ( IEEE ) for wireless LANs in the 2.4, 5 and 60 GHz frequency bands.

By the way, it is really not necessary to remember all 802.11 suffixes. The current crop of Wi-Fi products is now known as Wi-Fi 5 and the new faster and safer devices are Wi-Fi 6.

  Wi-Fi 6 certified logo with Wi-Fi Alliance

Wi-Fi 6 Certified Logo with Wi-Fi Alliance

What is Wi-Fi 6 and when it comes?

Wi-Fi 6 can be considered High Efficiency Wireless and consists of devices certified to follow IEEE 802.11ax and 802.11ay specification standards. You won't see much about 802.11ay, but it's part of Wi-Fi 6. It uses the 60 GHz frequency band, which has trouble penetrating walls. As a result, we will focus on the rest of this article on the 802.11ax specification, which uses the more well-known 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands. Wi-Fi 6 also supports operation in other frequency bands between 1 and 7 GHz, which will soon become available.

Wi-Fi 6 products are expected to come in abundance by the end of 2019. Consumer electronics manufacturers have already started rolling out products supporting Wi-Fi 6 – one of the first smartphones with Wi-Fi 6 support is Samsung Galaxy S10, released in March. It is possible that Apple products released at the end of 2019, such as this year's iPhone, may include Wi-Fi 6 chipsets. The big rush of Wi-Fi 6 is expected by 2020.

Several manufacturers have already launched Wi-Fi 6 routers:

Asus – with RT-AX88U Dual Band 802.11ax Wi-Fi Router , ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Tri-band Wi-Fi Gaming Router, AiMesh AX6100 Wi-Fi System (RT-AX92U 2 Pack)

D-Link – has AX11000 Ultra Wi-Fi Router DIR- X9000

Netgear – brought the first consumer Wi-Fi 6 router to the market, Nighthawk AX8 (RAX80). They also produce Nighthawk AX12 (RAX120) and the network network Orbi with Wi-Fi 6

TP-Link – Archer AX6000, Archer AX11000 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Gaming Router, Deco X10 Mesh Wi-Fi System

Of course, your devices must support Wi-Fi 6 to take advantage of the new features. Meanwhile, any device that works on the current Wi-Fi 5 networks also works with the new Wi-Fi 6 routes, as the equipment is backward compatible.

  Image Availability of Intel

Image courtesy of Intel

What Is Wi-Fi 6 Possible?

Speed, security and better handling of multiple devices are the major new features of Wi-Fi 6. Theoretically, Wi-Fi 6 can provide speeds up to 9.6 Gbps (about 10 Gigabit per second) compared to with 3.5 Gbps on Wi-Fi 5. On crowded networks, the throughput rate is about four times those existing on existing Wi-Fi 5 networks. Latency – the amount of time required for data to travel between the sender and receiver on the network – is about a quarter of that on Wi-Fi 5 networks, making it less visible.

Most homes in America won & # 39; I see a big difference in their internet speeds, as very few ISPs live up to 1 Gbps level. Where the biggest improvement comes from is moving data from place to place on an Internet network, say from one Mac to another, or from a future iPhone to a Mac.

Remember our discussion of WPA3 last week's network security article? WPA3 is a new security protocol that makes it harder for hackers to crack network passwords through brute force methods, making data less useful if hackers succeed in getting it. Well, WPA3 is required in Wi-Fi 6 devices, which means every Wi-Fi 6 network benefits from stronger security.

Wi-Fi 6 is more than just about speed and security, but it enhances the network as much of Wi-Fi devices are connected. As multiple devices are connected to a Wi-Fi network, the entire network goes down. Back when Wi-Fi 5 first came, the average American household had about five Wi-Fi units in it; Now, American homes have an average of nine Wi-Fi devices (this author has 30 units in his home!). In 2022, the figure is expected to be close to 50 units per home. New technologies in Wi-Fi 6 allow routers to communicate with multiple devices at once, allowing routers to send data to multiple devices simultaneously, and even allow devices that do not constantly transmit and receive (such as a home thermostat or smart door lock, For example, check in with the network.

The latest feature is called Target Wake Time, which means that low-power Wi-Fi devices that only need to update status every time can be smaller and have much better battery life.

What you see when Wi-Fi 6 support becomes more widespread is that your network works faster, just because it can handle multiple devices at once – even though average speeds per device are not necessarily required. be faster.

What technologies are accelerating Wi-Fi 6?

The faster connections in Wi-Fi 6 networks are due to a couple of key technologies: MU-MIMO and OFDMA .

MU-MIMO means "multi-user, multiply e-input, multiple output", and allows routers to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously, rather than broadcast to one device at a time. MU-MIMO lets current routers talk to up to four devices at a time, while deploying in Wi-Fi 6 increases the size of the chat group to eight devices.

Adding more MU-MIMO connections is analogous to adding multiple trucks to a fleet – each truck is moving in a different direction to another customer with a load of data. With Wi-Fi 5 you had four trucks in your fleet; With Wi-Fi 6, the fleet size up to eight.

OFDMA stands for "Orthogonal Frequency Sharing Multiple Access", and it allows one transmission to deliver data to multiple devices simultaneously. Using the truck's metaphor, OFDMA allows a truck to transport goods to multiple locations. The network can look at a truck (in fact, a series of packets of data), see that a customer (a network device) only needs a certain percentage of the truck's payload, and fill up the truck with a delivery for another customer. Each transmission from one router to a device is used more efficiently.

Do I need to buy all new equipment?

To take advantage of the new features and features of Wi-Fi 6, all devices on the network must be Wi-Fi 6 certified. Most of us don't have the money to replace all of our equipment, and most devices don't even support Wi-Fi 6 yet. A good strategy for many consumers is simply to start buying Wi-Fi 6 devices as they become widely available and affordable, and then upgrade to a Wi-Fi 6 router when there are a good number of devices on the network and things begins to feel slow.

What's next?

Believe it or not, the Wi-Fi Alliance is already working on Wi-Fi 7 plans, which are expected to appear in 2023. There is no detail on what that specification standard will entail.

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