Wifi 6 (Wi-Fi 802.11ax) is going to be increasingly present in homes and businesses. But what are its features and how does it differ from the previous version? Let’s take a look:
What is Wi-Fi 6?
Wifi 6 is the new wireless transmission standard that boasts improved features compared to its predecessor, Wifi 5. In 2019, the Wi-Fi Alliance changed the name of the different wireless standards. The aim of this new numbering was to make it easier for users to recognise and use them. Thus, Wifi 6 is now called Wifi 6 instead of its previous name Wi-Fi 802.11ax, and its predecessor, known as Wi-Fi 802.11ax, can now be simply called Wifi 5.
To enjoy the benefits of this new technology, both the transmitting router and the receiving device must be compatible with Wifi 6, as they are for example with the iPhone 11. Devices that are not equipped for Wifi 6 will be able to connect to the network, as it is a retro-compatible standard that allows connection with older versions, but they will not be able to take advantage of the full benefits of using the new standard.
Advantages of Wifi 6
If we compare Wifi 6 with its previous version, we can see that it will bring several notable advantages, the most important of which are higher speed, better performance when connecting many devices to the network at once and lower energy consumption.
Higher network speed.
The increase in data transmission speed is one of the main improvements expected with each new transmission protocol. Wifi 6 offers a theoretical maximum transmission speed of 9.6 Gbps compared to 6.9 Gbps for Wifi 5, an improvement of 40%. This is made possible by 1024-QAM modulation, which allows more information to be sent for the same bandwidth than previous Wi-Fi protocols.
Although the increase in transmission speed is impressive, one of the most outstanding benefits offered by this new modulation is performance improvement in networks with a high volume of connected devices, a scenario that will become increasingly common in both homes and the workplace with the development of IoT. More on this below.
In addition to all of the above, latency will be improved and reduced by around 75% compared to Wifi 5.
Wifi 6 operates at both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz frequencies, the latter of which was not supported by the previous standard and can offer a greater range (at the expense of slower speed). Wifi 6 is also expected to support the 6 GHz band, which would enable faster speeds over short distances, e.g. between devices in close proximity to each other. This could be interesting for virtual reality applications or for high quality streaming playback.
More devices connected at the same time
As mentioned previously, an improvement in transmission speed is always positive, but in the case of Wifi 6, the most notable benefit is the improved connection in environments with a high volume of devices.
This will undoubtedly become a daily occurrence both at work and in the home. It is no longer just our mobile phones or tablets that are connected to the internet. With the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), TVs, household appliances, toys, loudspeakers and all kinds of sensors etc. are now also on the list. The improvements in Wifi 6 are aimed at achieving better performance in this multi-device scenario.
These improvements are the result of 3 technologies: OFDMA, MU-MIMO and BSS Colouring.
OFDMA stands for Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access, a system that improves on the previous OFDM of previous Wifi versions.
The previous OFDM system meant that sending data from a router took up the entire bandwidth, regardless of the type or amount of data transmitted. With today’s OFDMA technology, channels can be subdivided to send data to different devices at the same time without each of them consuming all the bandwidth. This reduces latency and improves performance when many devices are connected at once (e.g. station networks, airports, etc.).
The new Wifi 6 has upgraded its previous SU-MIMO (single user MIMO) system to the new MU-MIMO (multi-user MIMO). This allows the router to maintain the data flow simultaneously with several devices, whereas before it did so individually.
In other words, MU-MIMO-enabled routers will be able to send and receive data simultaneously with multiple devices instead of to one device at a time, reducing latency as there is no ‘queuing’ of devices.
This system is intended to reduce interference in environments where different networks coexist, and its name is not accidental. BSS Colouring is a spatial reuse technique that uses a colour marker to identify each network. This allows access points to check the BSS colour bit when making decisions, reducing interference when different networks use the same channel.
Lower battery consumption
Many of the devices that typically connect to wireless networks are powered by battery power, as is any smartphone. The new WiFi 6 protocol comprises an improvement aimed at reducing the power consumption of connected devices, thus increasing their autonomy. The technology responsible for this is called Target Wake Time (TWT).
In previous WiFi versions, the devices in the network were connected to the access point at fixed intervals in case new data transmissions were required. This intermittent connection requires power consumption by the device. With today’s TWT technology, connection times are defined based on the expected network activity. In this way, the device’s connection times can be optimised and the rest of the time it can be idle, saving energy.
Increased network security
The Wi-Fi Alliance requires devices to have WPA3 security protocol in order to be recognised as compatible with WiFi 6. In previous versions, WPA3 was an option, but was not mandatory.
This means that all devices connected to a WiFi 6 network will have 192-bit data encryption (instead of the 128-bit WPA2). This provides increased security on all types of networks, including public networks.
Centum Communications Solutions
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