The newest Wi-Fi standard
What is Wi-Fi 6?
Wi-Fi 6 is the marketing name given to the 802.11ax technology from the IEEE. It’s the newest generation of Wi-Fi that is optimized for mobile devices, capacity, and IoT (internet of Things).
802.11ac brought immense speed increases to our Wi-Fi networks. For the first time, we were getting wired networking type speeds over Wi-Fi. It has served us extremely well. I can’t remember the last time I actually plugged into a wired ethernet connection. A well designed 802.11ac network blew away anything that 802.11n could offer.
However, 802.11ac was conceived before the rapid growth of mobile devices. While it worked very well with smartphones and tablets, there was a lot still to be done, and Wi-Fi 6 will address some key issues with the wireless technology.
Wi-Fi 6 addresses some key problems with Wi-Fi connections. One of the main ones is increasing capacity for dense environments. Setting up a Wi-Fi connection in your home is relatively easy. Unless you live in a multi-dwelling unit, it’s really one thing you can’t really screw up.
Designing Wi-Fi for the enterprise is entirely another process. You have to be concerned with co-channel interference, roaming, and other complicated issues. One of the biggest challenges at the moment is designing for capacity. As I write this article, I am at a hotel with my family. Between all five of us, we have eight Wi-Fi enabled devices. If you multiply this out by every guest in a hotel, you get a picture of capacity concerns. So how does Wi-Fi 6 address capacity?
OFDMA is one of the key pieces of technology in Wi-Fi 6. A 20 MHz channel can be partitioned into as many as nine smaller channels in Wi-Fi 6. Using OFDMA, an access point could simultaneously transmit small frames to nine 802.11ax enabled clients. One thing to remember as well is that Wi-Fi 6 brings back 2.4 GHz support. 802.11ac was 5 GHz only. While I do prefer the 5 GHz band (a minimum of 19 non-overlapping channels vs 3 for 2.4 GHz), 2.4 GHz is still popular due to its low cost and battery life.
What Apple products support Wi-Fi 6?
Currently, all iPhone 11 and new iPhones support it. The iPad Air and iPad Pro also do. The only Mac computers that support it are the Apple Silicon Macs.
What are the best Wi-Fi 6 routers for the home?
9to5Mac has reviewed a number of 802.11ax routers. While they all have their benefits and weaknesses, AmpliFi Alien and Linksys Velop are the best ones on the market at the moment. Routers from Eero and Google/Nest do not support it currently. Your Wi-Fi 6 devices will work with them perfectly fine, though.