By now you may have heard of Wi-Fi 6. But what is it? Is it faster? Is it better? Can it handle more devices? The answer to all of your questions…is yes. But how does it do it? In honor of the 6th iteration of Wi-Fi, let’s look at 6 ways that Wi-Fi 6 is better than the previous versions of Wi-Fi.
OFDMA or orthogonal frequency division multiple access is a pretty complex term. But its actually pretty cool. Without getting too technical, let’s look at it like a subway system. In previous versions of Wi-Fi, only one train could run at once, and it could only go one way. So imagine being stuck having to wait for a train to depart from the station to take passengers to destination A, then the train has to come back to the station to pick up the passengers to go to destination B, then waiting for it to come back to take you to destination C. This seems extremely inefficient. But that’s the way Wi-Fi has worked for years now. Granted, it has gotten much faster at transmitting this data. But you still have to wait in line for the train to finish all of its other routes to get to you. In a small office or home network, this isn’t too bad. But as more and more devices connect, the wait gets longer. Think about the last time you were at an airport connected to the Wi-Fi. Chances are it was pretty slow. That’s because there were a lot of other devices connected and you had to wait your turn. With OFDMA, now each destination can have its own set of tracks, and the train can run both ways, simultaneously. Not only that, but OFDMA can allocate different resource units. So maybe an iOT device like a smart light only needs a small bit of information to transfer. But streaming a 4k movie needs a much larger chunk of data to transfer. OFDMA allows for RU’s or resource units to be used to subdivide channels to allow for more improved performance.
2. Target Wake Up Time
This one ties back into OFDMA a little. You see, in the past devices would constantly check back into the router to see if any new data was waiting to be transmitted to them. Think of the annoying kid in the back seat saying “are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” But instead, it’s your Alexa asking the AP “anything for me? Anything for me? Anything for me?” With multiple devices constantly checking in, this can slow down your network. With target wake up time, the router or AP will negotiate specific times for the device to check in. So no more constant check ins that slow down the connection for other devices.
3. BSS Color
BSS Color has absolutely nothing to do with the colors that you see. Wi-Fi 6 isn’t going to enhance your photos or videos. However, BSS color will enhance your connection speed if you are in a Wi-Fi congested area. Think of a large office complex, or an apartment building. When you pull out your device to select the network to connect to, chances are there are a bunch of networks listed. Without BSS Color your router will see all of the data coming from other devices connected to other networks and determine whether or not this device is on the same network. With BSS color, this allows for the router to know ahead of time whether or not the information is coming from one of the devices on its network, and only focus on the information that is needed.
This one is a bit tricky. Technically Wi-Fi 6 is faster than Wi-Fi 5. It’s said that Wi-Fi 6 can reach speeds of 9.6 gigabits per second. When you look at that compared to Wi-Fi 5’s 3.5 gigabits per second, that’s pretty impressive. But there are a lot of factors that go into your connection speed. Distance from the router or ap, interference from other signals, walls, and so on. So Wi-Fi speeds will vary drastically. But I think it’s safe to say that you will see an increase in your top speed.
MIMO, or multiple input multiple output helps determine how data is transmitted and received. You’ve probably noticed some routers with a bunch of antennas sticking out. This is used for MIMO. MIMO allows for higher data throughput and can increase range and reliability. With more antennas, more data can be sent to more devices, and more data can be received from those devices. Wireless 5 supported 4×4 MIMO, while Wi-Fi 6 supports 8×8 MIMO.
6. Backwards Compatibility
So now you’re probably saying to yourself, great, Wi-Fi 6 sounds amazing, but none of my current devices support Wi-Fi 6. Why upgrade? Here’s the thing, more and more devices are going to support Wi-Fi 6 in the future. And…Wi-Fi 6 is backwards compatible. So even if your current devices don’t support all of the fancy new bells and whistles available in Wi-Fi 6, they can still be set up on the same network. You may even notice an increase in speed on these older devices. You’re also future proofing your network. As Wi-Fi 6 will soon become the standard, you’ll already have your network set up for the new devices coming on with Wi-Fi 6 capabilities. This is especially important as more and more devices are connecting to the internet. Wi-Fi 6 can support a lot more connected devices at once.
There’s already a lot of great companies that offer Wi-Fi 6 solutions. Companies like Fortinet, Cisco Meraki, Aerohive, Cradlepoint, and more. So if you’re interested in learning more about how you can upgrade your network to Wi-Fi 6, contact us. Give us a call, shoot us an email, or start a chat with us on our website. Our security experts can help you find the solution that best fits your business.