Wi-Fi 6 is the latest and greatest in Wi-Fi technology. It’s faster, handles more traffic, saves battery life, reduces interference, improves security, and more.
With so many benefits, it seems like an obvious choice to upgrade, but what about your existing hardware? Does Wi-Fi 6 work with older devices?
Wi-Fi 6 is backward compatible with all 802.11 standards. If your older devices operate on Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 4, or even older standards, they can still operate on a Wi-Fi 6 network. In fact, Wi-Fi 6 routers and equipment won’t have any trouble at all communicating with the older devices and quarterbacking them very efficiently.
You can mix and match, and it all works just fine.
But Also No
With that said, there are some things to note. Mostly, you need to know that older devices will not enjoy all of the maximum benefits possible with Wi-Fi 6. Generally speaking, older devices won’t run as fast or efficiently. In fact, there are four specific Wi-Fi 6 advantages that will be diminished or entirely missing from older devices on the network.
The first is operating bands. Wi-Fi 6 utilizes 2.4, 5, and 6 GHz bands. That allows it to manage a lot of traffic with minimal interference. The challenge is that older devices can’t connect to the 6 GHz band and may only be able to connect to the 2.4 or 5 GHz band. They’ll still work, but they can’t utilize the full frequency range that Wi-Fi 6 offers.
Speed is a similar story. Wi-Fi 6 offers data rates of up to 9.6 Gbps. If your connected device can’t keep up, effective speeds will be lower.
Security is something else to consider. Wi-Fi 6 utilizes WPA3 encryption. It’s more powerful, but older devices don’t support it. In those cases, Wi-Fi 6 can encrypt via WPA2, but you’re losing security efficacy.
The last major issue is battery life. Wi-Fi 6 is designed with target wake time in mind. This minimizes battery use between transmissions and can dramatically expand battery life for connected devices. But, if the connected device doesn’t use target wake time, then the battery savings are lost.
In the end, Wi-Fi 6 is definitely compatible with older devices, but you are losing performance when you cling to your older hardware.
Additional Learning Center Resources