Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, is the newest generation of Wi-Fi that brings faster speeds, higher capacity, and better performance in dense and congested environments. Upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 prepares your network for the future.
Understanding Wi-Fi 6
Wi-Fi 6 builds on previous Wi-Fi versions with new technology and features:
- Faster top transfer speeds – maximum theoretical speed of 9.6 Gbps, nearly 3x faster than Wi-Fi 5. Real-world speeds will be lower but still faster than predecessing versions.
- Higher throughput per user – Advanced efficiency features allow a Wi-Fi 6 router to handle more connected devices with reduced congestion and latency.
- Backward compatibility – Wi-Fi 6 devices maintain compatibility with older Wi-Fi 4/5 networks and clients.
- OFDMA – Allows a Wi-Fi 6 router to transmit data to multiple clients simultaneously, using subsets of the available bandwidth. Enables better handling of dense, high-demand environments.
- Uplink/Downlink OFDMA – Extends OFDMA benefits to improve uplink traffic efficiency from client devices to the router in addition to downlink traffic.
- MU-MIMO – Multi-user MIMO that enables simultaneous data transmission to multiple clients, now supporting uplink in addition to downlink.
- 1024-QAM – Modulation technique that encodes more data in the same amount of spectrum for faster speeds.
- Target Wake Time – Schedule transmissions efficiently, letting clients sleep longer to preserve battery life.
Together these capabilities provide the faster speeds, lower latency, increased capacity and reliability that Wi-Fi 6 brings compared to older Wi-Fi versions.
Upgrading to a Wi-Fi 6 Router
To take advantage of Wi-Fi 6 speeds and capabilities in your home, you need to upgrade your router to a Wi-Fi 6 model. Here is what you’ll need:
Wi-Fi 6 Certified Router
Look for routers labeled Wi-Fi Certified 6 or 802.11ax to ensure they meet the latest standards for features and compatibility. Models ending in “E” denote the highest-end Wi-Fi 6E routers with extended 6 GHz support.
The router is only one end – Wi-Fi 6 client devices like laptops and phones also need Wi-Fi 6 wireless adapters to connect at the faster speeds. Newer devices may already have Wi-Fi 6 built-in.
To achieve Wi-Fi 6’s maximum speeds, a high-speed broadband plan is recommended. Most Wi-Fi 6 routers have a 2.5Gbps WAN port to connects to speeds up to 1Gbps.
Upgraded Network Infrastructure
All network components must provide sufficient bandwidth – upgrading patch cables to Cat 5e or Cat6 improves performance over older Cat5, for example.
Once you upgrade to compatible hardware, you can enjoy Wi-Fi 6 benefits like faster file transfers, smoother video conferencing, and more simultaneous device connections throughout your home or office.
Key Differences from Wi-Fi 5
Comparing Wi-Fi 6 to the previous Wi-Fi 5 standard highlights the performance improvements:
|256-QAM, 80MHz channels
|1024-QAM, 160MHz channels
|8 SS, MU-MIMO downlink
|8 SS, MU-MIMO uplink & downlink
|Some multi-user capabilities
|Adds OFDMA, TWT
Wi-Fi 6 builds on Wi-Fi 5 technologies to achieve nearly triple the maximum speeds under ideal conditions, plus major efficiency gains through advances like OFDMA that handle multiple devices better.
Wi-Fi 6E for 6 GHz Support
Wi-Fi 6E is a recent extension of Wi-Fi 6 that adds support for the new 6 GHz frequency band. Key advantages of Wi-Fi 6E include:
- Additional Spectrum Bandwidth – The 6 GHz band provides a massive new clean band without interference from legacy Wi-Fi devices, enabling ultra-fast speeds.
- Faster Top Speeds – Wi-Fi 6E theoretically supports maximum speeds up to 9.6 Gbps just like Wi-Fi 6, but with more bandwidth to achieve higher real-world speeds.
- Reduced Congestion – The pristine 6 GHz spectrum provides seven additional 160 MHz channels to offload devices from the crowded 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.
Wi-Fi 6E brings noticeable speed, latency and reliability improvements by expanding available spectrum into the new 6 GHz band. It requires all new hardware to access 6 GHz frequencies.
Getting Wi-Fi 6 for Home Networks
Follow these steps to upgrade your home network to Wi-Fi 6:
- Get a Wi-Fi 6 Router – Purchase a Wi-Fi Certified 6 router like the Netgear Nighthawk AX8 or TP-Link Archer AX73 to replace your old router.
- Install Router and Set Up Network – Connect the Wi-Fi 6 router to your modem, configure wireless settings, set a password, enable WPA3 encryption for security.
- Connect Devices – Update wireless adapters on your devices if needed, then connect laptops, phones, tablets etc to the new Wi-Fi 6 network SSID.
- Prioritize Key Devices – Use smart connect or device prioritization to optimize connectivity for the most important devices that need the fastest speeds.
With the router handling all wireless communication, upgrading it to Wi-Fi 6 is the essential first step to enjoy next-gen speeds and capacity. As more client devices add Wi-Fi 6 support down the road, the benefits compound.
Other Ways to Get Wi-Fi 6
Besides upgrading your home router, there are a couple other ways to access Wi-Fi 6 networks:
Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Systems
Mesh Wi-Fi systems like the Linksys Atlas Max 6E provide full home Wi-Fi 6 coverage by adding satellite nodes around your house. Convenient for larger homes in place of range extenders.
Public Wi-Fi 6 Hotspots
Some airports, stadiums and other public locations now offer Wi-Fi 6 hotspots you can connect to on the go if your mobile devices are Wi-Fi 6 capable. availability remains limited but should improve over time.
As the new standard becomes more widely adopted over the next several years, Wi-Fi 6 support will make its way into more laptops, phones, and network infrastructure.
- Wi-Fi 6 brings faster top transfer speeds up to 9.6 Gbps. Real-world speeds will be lower but still faster than Wi-Fi 5.
- Advanced efficiency features like OFDMA allow Wi-Fi 6 routers to handle more devices with reduced congestion.
- You need to upgrade your router to a Wi-Fi 6 model to take advantage of the new standard.
- Wi-Fi 6E routers support the new 6 GHz band for reduced congestion and faster speeds.
- As more devices add Wi-Fi 6 support, the benefits will compound over time.
Wi-Fi 6 ushers in faster speeds, higher capacity, and an overall better wireless experience to keep up with modern network demands. By upgrading your router and devices over time, you can make sure your home or office is ready to take full advantage of the newest generation of Wi-Fi technology. With more devices and bandwidth-intensive uses coming online every day, the upgrades Wi-Fi 6 delivers will only become more relevant.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Wi-Fi 6?
Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, is the newest generation of Wi-Fi bringing faster top transfer speeds up to 9.6 Gbps, higher throughput thanks to advanced efficiency features, and better performance in dense, congested environments with lots of connected devices.
- What devices are compatible with Wi-Fi 6?
Most new smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other devices releasing now include built-in support for Wi-Fi 6. Many recent flagship devices support Wi-Fi 6 already. For older devices, you may need to use an external Wi-Fi 6 adapter to connect at the faster speeds.
- How is Wi-Fi 6E different from Wi-Fi 6?
Wi-Fi 6E builds on Wi-Fi 6 by adding support for the new 6 GHz band. This provides additional interference-free bandwidth for faster speeds, plus more available channels to reduce congestion. Wi-Fi 6E requires all new hardware including routers and devices designed for 6 GHz support.
- Is Wi-Fi 6 worth it?
For light internet users, Wi-Fi 5 may still be adequate. But the faster speeds and advanced congestion relief of Wi-Fi 6 make it worthwhile for households with lots of connected devices engaging in bandwidth-intensive uses like 4K/8K video streaming, VR gaming, video conferencing, smart homes, and more.
- Will upgrading to commercial gigabit impact connection speed?
It depends. If you are upgrading from a slower DSL or cable internet plan, moving to gigabit speeds should deliver a noticeable boost. However, since Wi-Fi 6 supports wireless speeds beyond what even gigabit can provide, upgrading internet service may remove that bottleneck without improving Wi-Fi speeds.
- Is Wi-Fi 7 coming soon?
Wi-Fi 7 technology is still under development with ratification of official IEEE standards likely at least a couple years away. While initial Wi-Fi 7 devices could arrive sooner, widespread availability is not expected before 2025-2026 along with necessary wireless infrastructure upgrades like routers.
- What is the typical range of a Wi-Fi 6 router?
The range depends on factors like router antenna configuration, building materials, and wireless interference. But a typical Wi-Fi 6 router using beamforming and operating in the 5GHz band can cover 2,500-3,500 square feet indoors to deliver strong signal to connected devices under good conditions. Adding range extenders can boost coverage further if needed.
- What is the difference between MU-MIMO and OFDMA?
MU-MIMO stands for Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output and allows a Wi-Fi router to transmit data to multiple devices simultaneously. OFDMA, or Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access, splits up the available frequency band into small sub-channels so more devices can share the spectrum dynamically without interfering. Together MU-MIMO and OFDMA significantly contribute to Wi-Fi 6’s enhanced capacity and efficiency.
- Do I need new hardware to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6?
Yes, to take full advantage of Wi-Fi 6 you will need:
- A Wi-Fi 6 certified wireless router
- Devices with Wi-Fi 6 or 802.11ax adapters
- For fastest speeds, a gigabit broadband connection
You also may need or benefit from upgraded patch cables and other networking infrastructure components.
10. How is Wi-Fi 6 faster than Wi-Fi 5?
Wi-Fi 6 achieves faster speeds in a few key ways:
- Faster top transfer rates up to 9.6Gbps
- More efficient modulation like 1024-QAM encodes more data per transmission
- Additional spacial streams and MU-MIMO support more simultaneous transmissions
- Adds OFDMA allowing multiple devices to share bandwidth dynamically
Together these advancements increase overall speeds and capacity.