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All About WiFi 6: Features, Holdbacks, And Compatible Devices

It’s time to discuss the next iteration of the mobile internet. I’m talking WiFi 6.

WiFi 6 and 5G are popular topics these days, for good reason.

If you’ve stayed ahead of tech news for the last decade, you’ll remember that with each new version of mobile internet always comes a diverse whirlwind of internet-based industries. Notice I said industries, not just products.

Uber, Airbnb, and IoT aren’t simply services that got their start thanks to 4G and WiFi 5. They represent entire new industries that were impossible — and hardly imaginable — under prior iterations.

How will VR and AR be effected?

Will social media foundationally change?

How will everyday communication keep up?

The truth is, we can dream all day. But we won’t know the true possibilities until they begin to unfold before our eyes. But here are the features we know you can look forward to with WiFi 6:

Characteristics of WiFi 6

Faster overall WiFi speeds (obviously)

Let’s start with the obvious. Speed is by no means the most talked-about benefit of WiFi 6. But it’s still important and almost goes without saying. Some reports expect WiFi speeds to improve about 30 per cent

Better performance in crowded areas 

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Tired of slow internet in crowded spaces? WiFi 6 improves internet performance for crowded areas like offices, sports stadiums, or hotels. It achieves this by increasing network capacity (thanks to higher throughput and transmit beamforming), as well by improving simultaneous communication between access points and multiple end-points.

Here’s some of the technology that makes that possible:

  • OFDMA (Orthoganal Frequency Divisional Multiple Access): OFDMA gives access points the ability to divide channels into many sub-channels. This means access points can simultaneously communicate with multiple devices at a lower data rate.
  • MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple-Input-and-Multiple-Output) capabilities – WiFi 5 was already using MU-MIMO for downlinks. WiFi 6 utilizes it for uplinks too, enabling access points to receive communication from multiple clients at the same time.

The combination of OFDMA and MU-MIMO creates more efficient networks while reducing overall network latency.

Make connected homes even more connected 

Internet of Things (IoT) is another incredible industry made possible through WiFi 5. WiFi 6 is expected to take IoT possibilities to a whole new level, enabling homeowners to connect and control many more devices.

It will also make it simpler to save energy. WiFi 6 supports a feature called “Target Wake Time.” This lets the access point put a device’s WiFi functionality to sleep for a defined period of time before it “wakes up” again to connect. The feature could significantly reduce the power usage of individual devices.

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When will WiFi 6 become mainstream? 

Admittedly, WiFi 6 has had a tumultuous start.

Standards committees turned it down twice. This put access point vendors into an unusual predicament: in a bid to be first-to-market, they were forced to manufacture and commercialize their devices without knowing the approved standards.

WiFi 6 access points are already commercialized. But the reason most of us haven’t used WiFi 6 yet is because of devices. Most devices on the market don’t support WiFi 6 yet.

Here are a few exceptions:

  • The new Samsung Galaxy S10, released in March 2019, is the first WiFi 6 phone
  • Intel’s new 9th generation chips have (expensive) WiFi 6 capability
  • Intel’s WiFi 6 adapters, released in April 2019, is already comprehensive, with major players like NetGear and Cisco already offering devices

WiFi Alliance announced that a WiFi 6 certification program will begin in Q3 of 2019.

While that’s not too far off, the date suggests we shouldn’t expect a flood of WiFi 6 devices in the near future.

If you do decide to start implementing WiFi 6 routers and access points now, you won’t see a return on investment for quite a while. Even though we’re starting to see some compatible now, we probably shouldn’t expect widespread WiFi 6 devices until late 2020.

Source: e27

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