Wi-Fi 6 – what is it and how does it benefit us?

Wi-Fi 6 is the latest standard in Wi-Fi and was released already in 2018. But how does Wi-Fi 6 differ from other versions and how do users benefit from the latest technology?

We intend to answer that here.

Difficult nomenclature on Wi-Fi standards

The name of Wi-Fi 6 is really 802.11ax. Wi-Fi has long had a rather complicated way of naming its various standards. The technology has since its launch had the term 802.11 as the standard term. After the standard name there have been letters, that seemed to come in a random fashion. The first Wi-Fi standard was called 802.11b, the one that came out after it was called 802.11a. Then came g, n and ac. Last out was 802.11ax. Not quite logical for us ordinary mortals.

So to simplify it all, the Wi-Fi Alliance, the body that regulates Wi-Fi, decided to number the different standards instead. Since there are six different versions of Wi-Fi released, the latest version is, quite simply, Wi-Fi 6.

Wi-Fi 6 standards

5 new main features of Wi-Fi 6

New standards are developed when new needs arise around Wi-Fi. When the new features are determined, it must also be listed what manufacturers must adhere to in order for the units they create to have in order to use the new standard. Wi-Fi 6 lists thousands of things in the standard, something we obviously won’t go into in this blog. To keep it short, we instead thought to sum it into five main functions.

Higher speed

This may not come as a shock. Yes, of course, Wi-Fi 6 is also faster than its predecessors. The maximum theoretical speed for Wi-Fi 5 was about 850 Mb/s. Wi-Fi 6 now gives us a maximum speed of about 1200 Mb / S. This may seem to be a rather small increase when you consider that the speed was six times higher between Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5. With that upgrade, speeds went from 150 Mb/s to 850 Mb/s.

The thing is that the theoretical maximum speed is rarely correct. Capacity can vary significantly depending on a variety of things such as distance, things in the road, the quality of your router and other signals in the air.

What has been done with Wi-Fi 6 is to work on the efficiency and thus be able to deliver higher “real” speeds, and not a theoretical maximum. This is mainly through MU-MIMO and OFDMA.

MU-MIMO

MU-MIMO stands for Multiple User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output. To put it simply, it is a protocol that allows multiple devices to receive and send data at the same time. Wi-Fi 6 will be able to handle up to 8 devices at the same time. Imagine a road, which instead of one lane, Wi-Fi 6 has 8 lanes.

This does not mean that only 8 devices can communicate with the router in total, it means that the packets of information that the Wi-Fi sends out (many times per second) can be received by 8 devices simultaneously. With that in mind, the number of devices that can communicate with the router increases a lot. In the past, with older versions of Wi-Fi, devices had to wait for their turn to communicate more the router. But now many more can get information at the same time.

Wi-Fi 6 MU-MIMO

OFDMA

OFDMA is short for Orthagonal frequency-division multiple access (try saying it ten times fast). What OFDMA does is that it can divide the data from the router into smaller parts.

So if MU-MIMO makes it an eight-lane road, OFDMA means that every truck that is driven out can split its load on several different recipients and leave it on the way. This allows up to 30 different devices to communicate with the router at the same time. Although this sub-channel becomes smaller than the main channel, the access point becomes more flexible and can thus allocate bandwidth to different units based on their data needs.

Wi-Fi 6 OFDMA

Target Wakeup Time

Target Wakeup Time is a new feature that is very good for battery powered devices. It allows devices to negotiate how often and for how long they need to send or receive data. This allows the Wi-Fi signal to “sleep” when no information is required. Something that can help save that, oh so, precious battery life in your phone.

BSS Color

No, Wi-Fi 6 will not radiate lots of colors. BSS Color is an identifier, together with each pata packet that is sent out, to indicate which wireless network it came from.

In the past, an access point, usually a router, had to wait to send out a data packet if there was already a packet flying through the air. However, with BSS Color, an access point can determine whether such a packet comes from another access point, which means that the Wi-Fi no longer waits for the signal to have passed to send its own data. Something that diminishes the realm of slowing the Wi-Fi if several signals are running at the same time.

Together, these changes make Wi-Fi 6 not only faster, but also more efficient in the data it actually broadcasts. A faster Wi-Fi together with 5G will allow us to experience high internet speeds everywhere. A good step forward in the world of Wi-Fi and internet.

By Elin Gunnarsson
Content Manager
In a time of "it must happen now" it is of the utmost importance to have the right communication solutions.

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