What is Wi-Fi 6?
Wi-Fi 6 is here. Even while 5G, Ethernet 8 and many other communication protocols and standards are revolutionizing the digital age, Wi-Fi 6 is a big deal that will transform networking in countless applications.
Wi-Fi 6 is the next generation of standard Wi-Fi. It’s also known as AX Wi-Fi or 802.11ax. It builds on the 802.11ac standard to bring improvements across the board to Wi-Fi capabilities and experiences. Wi-Fi 6 is built for better network quarterbacking, more reliable communication and faster transmission rates.
In terms of networking improvements, speed is always a top concern. Wi-Fi 6 currently caps at 9.6 Gbps — roughly a 50-percent increase over the best 802.11ac performance. Wi-Fi 6 achieves these speeds with a 160 MHz channel and the implementation of 1024-QAM. The wider channel allows more bandwidth in a Wi-Fi network. In fact, the 160 MHz channel doubles the bandwidth available for Wi-Fi 6.
1024-QAM increases the data packet symbol to 10 bits. Wi-Fi 5 used 8 bit packet symbols. This constitutes a raw increase in data transmission of 25 percent. Since each symbol has more information in it, the transmission rates increase directly.
Wi-Fi 6 is faster than its predecessors, and it expands network capacity by large amounts. Wi-Fi 6 uses 8x8 MU-MIMO as opposed to MU-MIMO used in previous Wi-Fi standards. The 8x8 constitutes an increase in data streams. Wi-Fi 6 has eight times as many streams, and that translates to a much larger network capacity.
Wi-Fi 6 networks can handle four times as many simultaneous users as 802.11ac. When combined with other Wi-Fi 6 optimizations and improvements, the massively increased number of users will also be able to perform more demanding tasks on the networks while enjoying a better experience.
Wi-Fi 6 expands reliability by redesigning and expanding the OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing) symbol. The symbol is the wave function that actually carries data across the wireless network. The larger symbol allows for more subdivisions. When data is carried by more subcarriers, information can be carried across greater distances and obstacles with fewer packet losses. The Wi-Fi 6 symbol allows for four times as many subcarriers, constituting a massive increase in reliability.
This change is multiplied by the implementation of the new OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access) instead of just OFDM. This new method allows packets to be delivered to multiple devices simultaneously. The old OFDM methodology used linear transmission that forced devices to queue up packet requests. With OFDMA, multiple antennas can transmit at the same time. The sophisticated transmission assignments allow many simultaneous transmissions — virtually eliminating packet request bottlenecks.
One of the most exciting upgrades for Wi-Fi 6 happened in April of 2020. The FCC opened up the 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi 5 will make great use of this additional band. Not only does it dramatically expand the total band allotted for Wi-Fi, but the newly added range is contiguous. This allows for many more Wi-Fi channels and channel bonding. These changes further expand the total amount of traffic that a single network can handle. Perhaps most importantly, the exclusive bandwidth can only be used by Wi-Fi 6 devices. Legacy devices won’t be able to slow down traffic and hinder networks that operate in the 6 GHz range.
Overall, Wi-Fi 6 is bringing major upgrades to the concept of Wi-Fi. The networks are being designed from a wireless-first perspective. The user experience is going to improve by leaps and bounds, and wireless applications will only grow from here. IoT, widespread connectivity and an even more immersive digital experience are all possible with this dramatic improvement to wireless communication.
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