Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, is the newest generation of Wi-Fi, offering faster speeds, better performance in dense environments like stadiums and airports, and increased security. But what exactly makes Wi-Fi 6 so much faster than previous versions?
One of the main reasons Wi-Fi 6 is faster is that it has higher throughput, meaning it can transfer more data at one time. Here are some of the key improvements:
- OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) – Allows more devices to share a channel simultaneously, increasing efficiency.
- 1024-QAM – Transmits more bits per waveform, allowing faster transfer speeds.
- Multi-User MIMO – Allows an access point to transmit data to multiple clients simultaneously.
With these advancements, Wi-Fi 6 can handle more devices at once and achieve faster peak transfer speeds of up to 9.6 Gbps, around 40% faster than the maximum speeds of Wi-Fi 5.
Better Spectrum Efficiency
Wi-Fi 6 makes better use of the available spectrum thanks to features like 1024-QAM and OFDMA. It packs more data into each MHz of spectrum, delivering faster speeds while using spectrum more efficiently.
The result is that networks have higher capacity, reduced latency, and faster data rates per user. For very dense environments with lots of Wi-Fi traffic, Wi-Fi 6 can deliver up to 4x the capacity of Wi-Fi 5.
Security continues to be a priority in Wi-Fi 6, building on the advances made in previous versions. It comes with the latest WPA3 encryption protocol and delivers important new capabilities:
- Individual data encryption: Even when using an open Wi-Fi network, user data is encrypted individually to protect from eavesdropping.
- More robust password requirements: Makes brute force dictionary attacks far more difficult by requiring true random passwords.
Together, these security upgrades make Wi-Fi 6 the most secure version of Wi-Fi ever.
Better Battery Life
Wi-Fi 6 is designed to consume less power, meaning better battery life for supporting devices. Features like Target Wake Time (TWT) allow the access point and client devices to agree on scheduled times to power down during periods of inactive transmission.
This and other optimizations around power-saving mean mobile devices see noticeable improvements in Wi-Fi usage battery life, an important advancement as more and more devices rely on Wi-Fi connectivity.
Key Capabilities Behind the Speed
Allowing multiple users to share a channel at once increases efficiency and capacity.
Carries more data per waveform for faster transfer speeds.
Simultaneous transmission to multiple clients using advanced beamforming.
The latest security protocol for robust data protection.
Target Wake Time
Scheduled power down times increase power efficiency.
Wi-Fi Generations Comparison
|~35 meters indoors
|First popular Wi-Fi devices
|~38 meters indoors
|Faster peak data rates
|~70 meters indoors
|MIMO, channel bonding
|~35 meters indoors
|MU-MIMO, higher frequencies
|802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6)
|~70 meters indoors
|OFDMA, 1024-QAM, MU-MIMO+++
- Wi-Fi 6 delivers faster peak transfer speeds up to 40% faster than Wi-Fi 5.
- Improved spectrum efficiency means more data capacity for dense, high-demand environments.
- Upgraded security protocols like WPA3 provide robust encryption and protection.
- Features like TWT increase battery life for supporting devices.
- Capabilities like OFDMA, 1024-QAM, and MU-MIMO drive the speed and performance improvements.
With revolutionary capabilities like OFDMA, 1024-QAM, MU-MIMO, and WPA3 encryption, Wi-Fi 6 represents a major leap forward for Wi-Fi technology. It brings significantly faster speeds, handles more devices with greater reliability, improves security safeguards, and increases battery life efficiency.
As more clients and access points adopt the 802.11ax standard in the coming years, users will notice substantial performance improvements that make Wi-Fi connectivity faster and more robust than ever. Wi-Fi 6 has raised the bar on speed, capacity, and user experience for the world’s most popular wireless networking technology.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How much faster is Wi-Fi 6 than Wi-Fi 5?
A: Wi-Fi 6 offers peak transfer speeds up to 40% faster than Wi-Fi 5, achieving up to 9.6 Gbps.
Q: What does 1024-QAM mean?
A: 1024-QAM is a modulation technique that carries more data per waveform, resulting in faster transfer speeds.
Q: How does OFDMA improve Wi-Fi 6 performance?
A: OFDMA allows multiple devices to share a channel efficiently, increasing capacity and reducing latency in crowded environments.
Q: What devices are compatible with Wi-Fi 6?
A: Devices need to have an 802.11ax-compatible wireless chip to support Wi-Fi 6 capabilities. Laptops, phones, routers and other devices released in 2019 onward may support Wi-Fi 6.
Q: Does Wi-Fi 6 require a new router?
A: To enjoy the fully upgraded Wi-Fi 6 experience, you will need an 802.11ax compatible router. However, Wi-Fi 6 clients can still see some speed gains on older routers.
Q: How is the range of Wi-Fi 6 compared to past versions?
A: Wi-Fi 6 offers indoor range similar to 802.11ac Wave 2 at approximately 70 meters. Range has not significantly improved with the latest generation.
Q: Is WPA3 the same encryption used in Wi-Fi 5?
A: No, Wi-Fi 6 newly introduces WPA3 which is the latest security protocol with enhanced encryption capabilities for more robust protection.
Q: Will Wi-Fi 6 work on 2.4 GHz networks?
A: Yes, 802.11ax includes support and improvements for both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. But the fastest multi-gigabit speeds will require a 5 GHz network.
Q: What is Target Wake Time?
A: A Wi-Fi 6 efficiency feature that saves battery by allowing devices and access points to schedule specific inactive/sleep time periods.
Q: How many simultaneous connections does Wi-Fi 6 enable on one router?
A: With OFDMA and improved MU-MIMO capabilities, Wi-Fi 6 routers can handle over 4x more simultaneous devices than Wi-Fi 5.
Q: Can I upgrade just my router to Wi-Fi 6?
A: Yes, you can upgrade your wireless router to Wi-Fi 6 to take advantage of faster speeds and capacity improvements. But Wi-Fi 6 client devices are needed to utilize some new features.
Q: How much does Wi-Fi 6 certification matter?
A: Wi-Fi certified devices have passed full interoperability testing, giving assurance they meet performance standards and will work reliably on Wi-Fi 6 networks.
Q: Will Wi-Fi 6 work with Bluetooth 5 connections?
A: Yes, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 can work together seamlessly. In fact, due to less interference Wi-Fi 6 can enable faster, more reliable Bluetooth connections.
Q: What kind of throughput speeds can I expect with Wi-Fi 6?
A: In optimal networking conditions, Wi-Fi 6 enables wireless throughput exceeding 1 Gbps. Multi-gigabit speeds above 2 Gbps are possible on some routers and devices.
Q: Is Wi-Fi 6 backwards compatible?
A: Yes, Wi-Fi 6 access points and routers work with older Wi-Fi device standards. But to take full advantage of new features, Wi-Fi 6 clients are recommended.
Q: Does MU-MIMO still matter with Wi-Fi 6?
A: Yes, MU-MIMO allows simultaneously transmitting data to multiple devices at once, helping increase total network capacity and efficiency.
Q: Will I see speed improvements from Wi-Fi 6 on crowded public networks?
A: Yes, key efficiencies like OFDMA give Wi-Fi 6 significant capacity and performance benefits in crowded environments like airports and stadiums.