More, Faster, Safer: The Promise of Wi-Fi 6

February 18, 2021

Wi-Fi 6 (or 802.11ax) is the latest generation of Wi-Fi, although Wi-Fi 7 is hot on its heels. Wi-Fi 6 offers faster speeds, increased throughput, multiple device support and improved security.

Performance Advantages of Wi-Fi 6

As more consumer and business devices rely on wireless internet connections, Wi-Fi 6 is designed to handle multiple devices more efficiently. Improved Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO) allows up to eight devices to connect to a router without noticeable bandwidth decreases. Wi-Fi 5 only supported up to four.

Enhanced Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) increases efficiency by allowing a Wi-Fi 6 router to send signals to multiple devices in the same transmission window. With previous Wi-Fi generations, each transmission sends signals only to individual devices, leading to possible congestion.

Wi-Fi 6 continues relieving network congestion through Overlapping Basic Service Sets (OBSS). With previous Wi-Fi generations, signals from other networks could cause interference with transmissions. OBSS uses a color scheme to identify signals from the correct network and ignore other signals.

Wi-Fi 6 uses beamforming to allow routers to identify the location of and to transmit data directly at devices. Previous generations broadcast signals in all directions to eventually reach the intended device.

Wi-Fi 6 is also equipped with Target Wake Time (TWT), which allows devices to communicate sleep and wake-up times to the router. Routers will schedule check-in times with devices for updates and data transmission, rather than requiring devices to be always connected. This can improve device battery life.

Security Advantages of Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 is the first generation to use WPA3. Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) was released in 2003, quickly followed by WPA2, which became a Wi-Fi security standard.

WPA3 was introduced in 2018 and offers more robust security than previous integrations. WPA3 includes enhanced encryption to protect again brute force attacks where hackers break through passwords by repeated guessing. WPA3 also offers individualized data encryption to make public Wi-Fi connections more secure. Furthermore, WPA3 encryption protects devices without passwords or with weak passwords that cannot be changed.

What is Wi-Fi 6E?

Wi-Fi 6 uses 5 GHz radio bands. Wi-Fi 6E is a slight upgrade to the new generation that incorporates all previously mentioned features but on 6 GHz. This allows for the usage of additional channels which reduces congestion even further. Due to regulations, Wi-Fi standards were unable to use 6 GHz until the Federal Communications Commission voted in April 2020 to open the band for unlicensed use. This allowed the developed of Wi-Fi 6E in the United States.

This doesn’t make Wi-Fi 6 obsolete. Wi-Fi 6E is only a small upgrade in speed and efficiency from Wi-Fi 6 and would be ideal in applications handling especially high amounts of data. Many networks are expected to run efficiently on Wi-Fi 6.