Why is Wi-Fi 6 expensive?

Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, is the newest generation of Wi-Fi technology. It offers faster speeds, increased capacity, and lower latency compared to previous Wi-Fi generations. However, Wi-Fi 6 routers and devices tend to be more expensive than their Wi-Fi 5 counterparts. There are several reasons for the higher costs.

Why is Wi-Fi 6 expensive?

Improved Technology Adds Costs

Wi-Fi 6 includes a number of technological improvements that require more advanced and expensive hardware:

  • OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) – Allows more devices to share a channel simultaneously, increasing capacity. Requires additional signal processing.
  • 1024-QAM modulation – Increases peak transmission speeds up to 25% over Wi-Fi 5. Needs power-hungry processor.
  • Target Wake Time – Saves power on client devices. Needs an additional receiver.
  • Uplink/Downlink OFDMA – Better upload speed allocation. Requires more complex antenna design.

These features require extra antennas, amplified processors, and more accurate circuitry – all of which raise costs.

More Antennas and Sensors

Wi-Fi 6 routers typically contain extra antennas and sensors compared to Wi-Fi 5:

  • High-end Wi-Fi 6 routers have eight antenna ports to use advanced features and beamforming techniques. More antennas raise the price.
  • Motion sensors help the router detect movement and activity patterns for power savings and better Performance. These sensors add more costs.

 Early Adopter Costs

As an early generation of new technology, Wi-Fi 6 costs more due to:

  • Initial research and development costs need to be recouped by manufacturers.
  • Low initial production volumes. Prices will fall as production scales.
  • Early adopters pay a premium price, which helps fund further development.

 Advanced Security Features

Wi-Fi 6 comes with the latest security standards:

  • WPA3 encryption is stronger and more secure encryption than WPA2 used on Wi-Fi 5 networks. However, it requires more processing power.
  • Enhanced Open offers encrypted open networks, removing the need for passwords while preventing eavesdropping. The added technology increases costs.

 More Memory and Processing Power

The advanced capabilities of Wi-Fi 6 require:

  • Higher memory – Wi-Fi 6 routers have 2-4X more memory to store connected device information and speed up network traffic response.
  • Faster processors – Multi-core processors over 2 GHz manage the advanced features. Higher speeds raise processor costs significantly.

In summary, Wi-Fi 6 is more expensive because the added technology that enables faster speeds, more capacity, and advanced security also requires premium components that cost more to manufacture. As the technology matures, prices will likely decrease over the next several years.

Key Takeaways:

  • Wi-Fi 6 requires more advanced hardware like OFDMA, 1024-QAM, and Target Wake Time to improve performance, driving up costs.
  • Extra antennas and sensors are needed for Wi-Fi 6 capabilities, adding more expense.
  • As an early technology generation, initial Wi-Fi 6 costs are higher while research and development investments are recouped.
  • Stronger security and encryption raise the price for Wi-Fi 6.
  • More memory, faster processors, and multicore processors add more costs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, next-generation Wi-Fi 6 networking devices are more expensive than Wi-Fi 5 and earlier generations. The performance improvements in speed, capacity, latency, and security rely on cutting-edge technologies that are pricier to include. Manufacturers incorporate more advanced components like processors, antennas, sensors, and memory to power these features. Additionally, as an emerging standard that is still under development, Wi-Fi 6 costs are affected by initial research investments and early adopter prices. However, as the technology matures, prices are likely to decrease over the next 3-5 years. For consumers seeking the best possible Wi-Fi performance, Wi-Fi 6 is a worthwhile investment despite higher upfront costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Will Wi-Fi 6 prices ever drop to Wi-Fi 5 levels?
A: Maybe, but likely not for 3-5 years. The advanced technology in Wi-Fi 6 requires higher-end components that cost more. Prices will fall as adoption increases and technology matures.

Q: Is Wi-Fi 6 worth the current high price?
A: For most everyday users, probably not yet. But early adopters and users with advanced needs may benefit enough to justify costs.

Q: What factors specifically increase the costs of Wi-Fi 6 equipment?
A: Key drivers are additional antennas, specialty sensors, high-end processors, more memory, and new technologies like OFDMA and 1024-QAM modulation.

Q: Are any brands of Wi-Fi 6 affordable now?
A: Most major brands are similarly priced relatively high. Some less advanced budget Wi-Fi 6 routers are appearing under $200.

Q: Will upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 improve my Internet speeds?
A: It depends. You may need faster Internet service for maximum speed benefits. But Wi-Fi 6 optimizes speeds on crowded and distant connections.

Q: Is it worth upgrading my devices to Wi-Fi 6 compatibility?
A: Only if your Wi-Fi 6 router can take advantage. Prioritize the router upgrade first for wider network benefits.

Q: Do I need new cabling for a Wi-Fi 6 router?
A: Normally not, though CAT 6a or CAT 7 may help maximize performance. Most Wi-Fi 6 routers work well with existing cables.

Q: How much RAM and flash memory do Wi-Fi 6 routers have?
A: High-end models include 1GB+ RAM and 256MB+ flash to manage advanced capabilities. Entry-level Wi-Fi 6 may have 512MB RAM or less.

Q: Will Wi-Fi 6 replace 5G cellular data?
A: No. Wi-Fi 6 is still limited to fixed broadband connections. 5G offers wide mobility – the technologies complement rather than compete directly.

Q: Should I wait for the Wi-Fi 7 standard instead?
A: Wi-Fi 7 is still years away from mainstream availability. Wi-Fi 6 offers a major upgrade from older standards for current needs.

Q: Do I also need new Wi-Fi 6 client devices to see speed benefits?
A: To maximize the full potential, yes. But the router alone will still provide some improvement with older client devices.

Q: What household size or device number makes Wi-Fi 6 most beneficial?
A: Homes with 50+ simultaneously connected devices will see the most dramatic improvements in traffic capacity and latency.

Q: Will Wi-Fi 7 also be expensive when first released?
A: Almost certainly. As an early cutting-edge technology, initial Wi-Fi 7 hardware will likely have high costs that decrease over time.

Q: Should I buy a separate Wi-Fi 6 router, or is a modem/router combo enough?
A: For optimal performance, a dedicated router is best. But Wi-Fi 6 combo units can provide meaningful benefits for many users.

Q: What is the typical lifespan for a high-end Wi-Fi 6 router?
A: Approx. 5 years before advanced features or bandwidth can no longer support newest devices. Some may last 10 years with reduced capabilities.

Q: What internet speeds do I need for Wi-Fi 6?
A: For best results, 500 Mbps+ service. Gigabit or faster ideal. But even 100 Mbps provides some benefit for multiple devices over Wi-Fi 5.

 

Leave a Comment