Internet and Networking

What Is Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, is a massive upgrade from its predecessor Wi-Fi 5. The new standard not only brings faster download and upload speeds, but its beauty is in how it’s able to achieve such high rates and the additional benefits it provides.

So How Fast Can Wi-Fi 6 Be, Anyway?

Theoretically, it can go up to 9.6 Gbps, a big jump if you compare it with the previous generation Wi-Fi 5 that can achieve a maximum throughput of 3.5 Gbps.

In the real world, it’s improbable for an average user even to come close to 9.6 Gbps, but then by the same logic, it’s also unlikely to reach 3.5 Gbps with Wi-Fi 5. All in all, the point to be noted is that Wi-Fi 6 is more than twice the speed of Wi-Fi 5. Translated, it’s fast, really fast!

What Is the Significance of Such a High-Speed Wi-Fi 6?

Typically, devices connected to the same network via a single router end up sharing or affecting Wi-Fi speeds for each other. So as more and more households get more and more devices dependent on Wi-Fi — including those classified as IoT such as smart switches and whatnot, the 9.6 Gbps throughput of Wi-Fi 6 will have a considerable positive impact.

In fact, many opine that the timing for Wi-Fi 6 couldn’t be better, especially in light of the covid-19 pandemic.

Are the Speeds That Great That I Should Go Buy New Devices and Routers?

The answer is both yes and no. You see, it’s easy to get excited by reading about the sizeable speed upgrades of Wi-Fi 6. However, as The Verge points out, switching over to the new 6th generation of Wi-Fi from the 5th for a single device won’t have much of an influence on speeds.

Where it would make a dent though, is when multiple devices are demanding high speeds all at once, and are in constant need of data transmissions.

Wi-Fi 6 routers (with all the ideal setups) are made to handle the simultaneous needs of many devices together while maintaining top speeds. And this is precisely one of the primary differences between a router made for Wi-Fi 6 over others and where Wi-Fi 6 comes in handy.

What Are the Requirements To Use Wi-Fi 6

The primary requirements fall into two categories:

  1. Needing a Wi-Fi 6 capable router.
  2. Needing a device that can support Wi-Fi 6.

Meeting both conditions is necessary in order to benefit from Wi-Fi 6. Note that a Wi-Fi 6 router is backward compatible with Wi-Fi 5, but again, you need to meet both requirements.

Wi-Fi 6 is still relatively new as it was launched in 2019. But if history serves as any proof, all the newer devices, routers, and devices will increasingly start becoming equipped to handle Wi-Fi 6, and at some point, it will be the new standard for everything — until the next one comes out.

How Do I Know if I Am Actually Connected to/Using Wi-Fi 6?

Assuming you follow all the requirements to be eligible on a Wi-Fi 6 connection, there’s an easy way to check if you’re actually using it. For reference, I will discuss this on a Windows device, but hazarding a guess that the process might be similar for Mac operating systems.

How To Confirm if My Device Is Using Wi-Fi 6 in Windows 11

To verify if your Windows 11 laptop is indeed connected to Wi-Fi 6, you essentially need to check the properties of your existing Wi-Fi connection. Then, the field you’re looking for is “protocol.” If its value is “Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax),” that is proof that your device is utilizing Wi-Fi 6.

checking the protocol value for an SSID in Windows 11
Check the protocol field value of the currently connected Wi-Fi name in Windows 11 to see if you’re on a Wi-Fi 6 standard.

What Are Some of the Other Benefits of Wi-Fi 6?

Outside of the obvious speed upgrades, prominently, there are two:

  1. More Robust Password Security: For many years, WPA2 has been the standard for Wi-Fi passwords/encryptions — which in itself is pretty adequate. But with Wi-Fi 6, we can now embrace a much stronger standard called WPA3, a level up from the current one that’s adopted widely. At the heart of things, know that WPA3 makes it more challenging to decrypt or hack Wi-Fi Passwords. This is a win-win because it doesn’t affect anything at all for the users, while for the bad actors out there, things get tougher.
  2. Improved Battery Life: Wi-Fi 6 possesses the setup to use an exciting technology called “Target Wake Time (TWT).” TWT optimizes the message & communication between a router and the device using Wi-Fi 6 on when to sleep and wake up. By more effectively knowing to only turn on the Wi-Fi when the device is awake, battery life can be improved because less time is spent searching for Wi-Fi, thereby extending your device’s battery life.

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Wi-Fi 6 Is a Thrill!

With remarkable and innovative features, Wi-Fi 6 is a much-needed next step for humanity. And as time passes by, this new standard will feel exceedingly meaningful as users will begin to enjoy accelerated and reliable connections, more security, and improved battery life.

Expert sources