The 6th is coming: Latest generation of Wi-Fi promises improved connectivity for all

Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) is indispensable to the modern world. It is in our homes, schools, workplaces and even our churches. It enables millions of people to learn, work and communicate. But have you ever been in a situation where you must connect to the internet but the Wi-Fi was molasses-slow? Perhaps you were at a conference or in an airport. Chances are, there were too many people hogging the Wi-Fi bandwidth. Wi-Fi 6 promises to help solve that issue and more with what is perhaps the biggest upgrade to Wi-Fi since its inception.

But first, a little history.

  • Late 1990s, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) established the 802.11 (WiFi) standards. 802.11a and 802.11b were released.
  • (2003) 802.11g was released with faster speeds and better coverage
  • (2009) 802.11n brought more speed benefits and reliability
  • (Early 2010s) 802.11ac introduced Multi-user MIMO (Multiple Input/Multiple Output)

Every subsequent generation of Wi-Fi was coupled with promises of increased theoretical peak performance (top speed). Wi-Fi 6 promises not only higher speeds but increased capacity on a network with many devices.

( Photo: NetGear)

With the latest generation of Wi-Fi, the powers that be chose to revise the Wi-Fi naming scheme, to help avoid confusion. So, the latest standard, 802.11ax will simply be called Wi-Fi 6 for consumer products.

(Photo: Wi-Fi Alliance)

Wi-Fi 6 marks a fundamental shift in the technologies used to create the standard. This new generation is designed to address the unique needs of a growing technological world with more device density and simultaneous wireless internet access needs.

What are some of the purported benefits of Wi-Fi 6?

Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA)

This is one of the big new features in Wi-Fi 6. It essentially allows for better efficiency on a network by allowing multiple devices to communicate with the router simultaneously. Instead of one data stream per device at a time, OFDMA splits the signal and allocates resources according to each device’s needs.

So, a 4K TV streaming “Breaking Bad” on Netflix would get more resources than a Phillips Hue smart light bulb. This is good for spaces with many devices.

Target Wake Time

This technology schedules when devices communicate on a network. So instead of a smaller device with less need for connectivity constantly checking with the router, it can go to sleep and check less frequently. This will improve battery life.

BSS Colouring

Basic Service Set Colouring is a way to eliminate interference from other routers nearby, using the same frequency. Each Wi-Fi 6 router colours/prioritises its own traffic and ignores other networks. This will improve Wi-Fi in denser environments.

(Photo: Qualcomm)

With the increasing numbers of smartphones, tablets and other IoT devices on the market, Wi-Fi 6 will provide improved connectivity for all.

And with manufacturers like Samsung adding the new standard to its S10 and Note 10 line-up, we can only expect more devices to follow.

— Written by Renor C.