WiFi 6, also known as 802.11ax, is the newest generation of WiFi technology. It builds on previous WiFi 5 (802.11ac) networks, aiming to deliver faster speeds, increased capacity, lower latency, and better efficiency.
A WiFi mesh network takes things even further by covering your whole home in strong, reliable WiFi. It does this using a main router connected to your modem, with a series of satellite nodes placed around your home. The satellites connect wirelessly back to the main router, extending its signals into areas it can’t reach on its own.
Mesh networks versus range extenders
WiFi mesh systems are the ideal solution if you struggle with slow speeds, buffering, or WiFi dropout in parts of your home. They provide complete, unbroken WiFi coverage, without compromise.
WiFi range extenders seem like an easy solution, but they have some big drawbacks:
- They don’t create new networks, just rebroadcast the existing signal. So as devices move further from the main router, speed and reliability still drop.
- Connecting extra devices puts more load on the main router, slowing down the whole network.
- Having multiple network names/passwords is frustrating and confusing.
A mesh system avoids all these downsides by spreading multiple access points throughout your home. Devices automatically connect to the closest satellite at any time, seamlessly handing off connections as you move around. The satellites work cooperatively to share bandwidth efficiently while eliminating dead spots. And you get the simplicity of a single network name and password everywhere.
How does WiFi 6 improve mesh performance?
WiFi 6 devices contain several upgrades that bring meaningful benefits for home users:
- Faster top speeds – WiFi 6 can theoretically reach maximum speeds up to 9.6 Gbps thanks to more efficient data encoding, compared to 3.5 Gbps on WiFi 5. Of course, your real-world speeds depend on your internet plan.
- Higher simultaneous capacity – Advanced scheduling mechanisms allow WiFi 6 nodes to handle more connected devices at once while keeping fast performance.
- Lower latency – Key optimizations greatly reduce lag and delays when transmitting data over the wireless network. This brings major improvements for gaming, video conferencing, VR/AR apps and more.
- Better efficiency – WiFi 6 aims to use spectrum bandwidth much more effectively. Your devices will see faster performance while consuming less power for longer battery life. New power-saving features also help limit your electricity usage.
By combining next-gen WiFi 6 with purpose-built mesh networking hardware and software, you can enjoy lightning-fast whole-home coverage with minimal dead zones. Devices stay fast no matter how many are connected, and moving around is seamless.
Main components of a WiFi 6 mesh system
There are a few key hardware components to look for when shopping for a WiFi 6 mesh system:
- Mesh router – This is the hub of your network, connecting directly to your cable/fiber modem. It distributes internet to the rest of the system and handles system configuration and monitoring.
- Mesh satellites ??? These wirelessly connect to the main router, expanding WiFi coverage into more areas. A 2-pack covers most homes under 3000 sq ft, while a 3-pack accommodates larger spaces.
- Backhaul band – A dedicated wireless band connects the nodes together behind-the-scenes without eating into client device bandwidth. WiFi 6 supports a fast dedicated 160 MHz backhaul for robust inter-node communication.
- Modern antenna array – Each node contains high-gain internal antennas for long-range connectivity plus spatial diversity for minimizing dead zones in tricky WiFi environments.
- Tri-band WiFi radios – Support for low, mid and high 5 GHz frequency bands allows for less interference and congestion across the system. Dual 5 GHz bands bring faster speeds while the 2.4 GHz radio maintains compatibility.
Along with the hardware, a dedicated software platform handles channel selection, band steering, load balancing and seamless roaming between nodes. Top providers also include malware protection, ad blocking, parental controls and more.
Key benefits of WiFi 6 mesh networks
Upgrading to WiFi 6 mesh brings some clear-cut advantages over earlier generations:
- Faster speeds ??? Enjoy two-digit speed boosts over WiFi 5 thanks to more efficient data encoding, higher peak rates and less congestion.
- Lower latency ??? Key innovations slash lag when streaming video, playing online games, video calls and using AR/VR apps.
- Higher capacity ??? Advanced mechanisms allow more devices to connect at once with consistently fast performance.
- Longer battery life ??? Efficiency gains let devices download and upload data faster then idle more, reducing power draw.
- Seamless mobility – Move anywhere in your home without dropping video calls or streaming sessions thanks to coordinated roaming.
- No dead zones – Consistent signals from multiple access points eliminate frustrating WiFi dropout areas.
- Simple setup – User-friendly apps walk you through getting your network up and running in under 10 minutes. No pro installation needed.
- Robust security – Commercial-grade encryption keeps your network and internet usage safe from intruders.
With speeds over a gigabit per second now possible over WiFi, mesh systems must adopt WiFi 6 to deliver reliably fast performance systemwide. The cutting-edge standard provides the bandwidth headroom and efficiency required for modern smart homes and bandwidth-hungry applications all around your home.
Real-world performance to expect
Of course, your actual WiFi speeds depend on the internet speeds delivered by your broadband provider to begin with. With a gigabit (1000 Mbps) internet plan, WiFi 6 mesh kits can provide total wireless throughput up to about 1200-1300 Mbps. Of course, connecting a device far from your router limits speeds to what its individual radio can handle. But thanks to WiFi 6 optimizations, simultaneous performance across the mesh remains strong.
On slower internet plans of 100-500 Mbps, a WiFi mesh allows you to take full advantage of your maximum wired speeds over WiFi, with bandwidth to spare. So you can finally stream 4K video, game online, video chat and more without performance taking a hit. Range extenders often struggle to provide these speeds reliably.
Note that device capabilities also impact connectivity. Laptops, phones and tablets with older WiFi 5 chipsets can only reach maximum speeds of around 500 Mbps even on WiFi 6 networks. Upgrading client devices over the next 1-3 years will unlock the full potential of next-gen mesh systems.
WiFi 6E – What comes next?
WiFi 6E represents the next evolution of WiFi technology. It takes advantage of newly opened 6 GHz frequency bands to provide additional capacity beyond the existing 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels.
Key benefits of WiFi 6E include:
- Nearly 3x more spectrum – The huge 1200 MHz of bandwidth available minimizes interference and congestion even in dense environments with 150+ devices.
- Wider channels – Massive 160 MHz-wide channels bring faster peak speeds, less latency and higher capacity than WiFi 5/6.
- Less interference – The newly opened 6 GHz band provides “clean slate” spectrum free from legacy WiFi, Bluetooth and other device transmissions.
- Backward compatibility – WiFi 6E devices work on existing 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands to support older client devices.
Mesh systems adopting WiFi 6E stand to unlock unprecedented wireless performance – over 4Gbps speeds, sub-5ms latency and support for 500+ connected devices per node.
Of course, smartphone/PC adoption of WiFi 6E remains limited so far. But upgrading your home network first futureproofs it to take advantage of next-gen device capabilities down the road. So while WiFi 6 mesh excels at serving today’s home connectivity needs, WiFi 6E represents an exciting path to even faster and more responsive wireless networking.
- WiFi 6 mesh systems bring faster speeds, higher capacity, lower latency and extended range compared to WiFi 5 – great for 4K/8K video, VR, smart homes and more.
- Mesh kits consist of multiple access points working cooperatively to create one unified network without dead zones.
- WiFi 6 optimizations like efficient scheduling and signaling boost performance across the whole mesh.
- Expect over a gigabit of total throughput on fast internet plans along with rock-solid stability.
- WiFi 6E adds wide new 6 GHz channels for even faster future speed potential.
In closing, WiFi 6 mesh represents a major leap forward for whole-home wireless connectivity. It provides the bandwidth, efficiency and robustness required to deliver solid performance to today’s numerous smartphones, notebooks, TVs, IoT gadgets and more. Multiple access points managed under one system eliminate frustrations like dead zones while making it easy to move around without dropping connections. While making technical advances under the hood, WiFi 6 retains compatibility with existing devices for a seamless upgrade. So by investing in next-gen mesh systems backed by proven manufacturers, you can futureproof your home for all that emerging applications like cloud gaming, VR and 8K streaming have to offer.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the difference between WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E?
WiFi 6 utilizes existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands while making optimizations like more efficient data encoding. WiFi 6E also takes advantage of newly opened 6GHz bands for massively increased bandwidth and less interference.
- Is WiFi 6 backwards compatible?
Yes, WiFi 6 mesh routers maintain compatibility with earlier WiFi 5 and WiFi 4 devices. However, those older devices can’t take advantage of the faster WiFi 6 speeds.
- Should I upgrade to WiFi 6 now or wait?
Now is a good time to upgrade, as WiFi 6 brings meaningful benefits thanks to better efficiency, capacity and latency. Prices have also come down a lot making fast mesh systems more affordable. WiFi 6E offers exciting future potential when more devices support it.
- How is WiFi 6 mesh different from WiFi 6 routers?
WiFi 6 improves performance on all types of WiFi networks. But mesh systems really unlock its potential since entire homes are covered by multiple high-speed nodes instead of just a single router.
- What internet speeds do I need for WiFi 6?
To take full advantage of WiFi 6 mesh, gigabit fiber or DOCSIS 3.1 cable internet delivering 500-1000Mbps is recommended. That allows enough headroom for top equipment WiFi speeds simultaneously across the mesh.
- Does WiFi 6 mean I no longer need Ethernet backhaul?
WiFi 6 includes a fast dedicated wireless backhaul that works great for mesh performance in most homes. But Ethernet backhaul is still preferred for the absolute highest speeds and lowest latency if wiring your system is feasible.
- Should I get a tri-band or dual-band system?
Tri-band WiFi 6 systems with a dedicated backhaul offer the best combination of wireless speed, capacity and reliability across an entire mesh network. Dual-band can be OK for smaller homes with just a couple nodes.
- Is it easy to set up a mesh network?
Reputable mesh systems are designed for simple do-it-yourself installation. Just place the satellites around your home and the software walks you through getting online in under 10 minutes for most users. No professional help needed.
- Where should I place my mesh satellites?
Satellites perform best centrally located in the areas needing better WiFi coverage. Keep them away from electronics that could cause interference like baby monitors, microwaves and cordless phones. Away from thick walls and ceilings is also wise.
- Can I combine my old router with a mesh system?
We don’t recommend it. Using old routers as extra WiFi points causes problems like frequency interference. Mesh systems are designed to work optimally within their own unified setup. So it’s best to replace your existing router outright.
- Is WiFi 6 mesh safe and secure?
Reputable mesh brands include commercial-grade security like WPA3 encryption to keep your network and internet usage safe from intruders. Firewall protections, malware scanning and parental controls also help keep your home safe and secure.
- How many devices can connect to WiFi 6 mesh?
Thanks to advanced concurrency mechanisms, WiFi 6 nodes can handle over 150 devices each while providing reliably fast performance to everything connected. So even large homes with 50+ connected smart lights, speakers, TVs, phones and more are handled with capacity to spare.
- Does mesh WiFi work outside?
Mesh nodes are designed to broadcast signals indoors. But if you position satellites near exterior walls with windows facing your outdoor coverage area, WiFi can often stretch to backyards reasonably well. Extenders may be needed to reach further.
- Can I use old WiFi extenders with WiFi 6?
We don’t recommend it. Extenders degrade network performance which contradicts the purpose of upgrading to WiFi 6. Mesh systems provide proven, reliable whole-home coverage without compromise making typical extenders unnecessary.
- Do I need professional installation?
One of the appeals of commercial mesh systems is their ease of self setup. The process involves little more than plugging devices in and using the smartphone app to get online. So for most homes, professional installation provides little benefit given the cost.
- Is Wi-Fi 6 mesh expensive?
Prices have fallen substantially, making fast Wi-Fi 6 or 6E mesh systems very competitive vs. the monthly costs of renting routers from your ISP. And investing in your own high-end equipment pays dividends in reliability and future-proofing.