The next generation of the Wi-Fi standard is Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, the latest step in a journey of nonstop innovation. The standard builds on the strengths of 802.11ac while adding efficiency, flexibility, and scalability that allows new and existing networks increased speed and capacity with next-generation applications.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) proposed the Wi-Fi 6 standard so it can couple the freedom and high speed of Gigabit Ethernet wireless with the reliability and predictability found in licensed radio.

What are the benefits of Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 allows enterprises and service providers to support new and emerging applications on the same wireless LAN (WLAN) infrastructure while delivering a higher grade of service to older applications. This scenario sets the stage for new business models and increased Wi-Fi adoption.

Is Wi-Fi 6 different from 802.11ax?

No, they are the same. The Wi-Fi Alliance started a campaign to coin the term “Wi-Fi 6” when referring to the IEEE 802.11ax standard. It indicates that it is the sixth generation of Wi-Fi. The premise was to simplify the marketing message to help 802.11ax be better positioned relative to the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards used in cellular (such as 5G).

When will Wi-Fi 6 be ratified?

The IEEE-Standards Association is currently scheduled to ratify the final IEEE Wi-Fi 6 amendment in the middle of 2020. However, the Wi-Fi Alliance is expected to certify key features from the amendment in about August 2019, with additional features (including operation in the 6GHz band) certified over the next couple of years.

Wi-Fi 6 Functional Features

Wi-Fi 6 primarily uses technologies such as OFDMA and MU-MIMO. MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple-Output) technology allows the router to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously, rather than sequentially. mu-mimo allows the router to communicate with four devices at a time, and Wi-Fi 6 will allow communication with up to eight devices. wi-fi 6 also utilizes other technologies such as OFDMA (orthogonal frequency division multiple access) and transmit beamforming, both of which work to increase efficiency and network capacity, respectively. Wi-Fi 6 can reach a maximum rate of 9.6 Gbps.

New technology in Wi-Fi 6 allows devices to plan communications with the router, reducing the time needed to keep the antenna powered up to transmit and search for signals, which means less battery consumption and improved battery life performance.

For Wi-Fi 6 devices to be certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance, they must use WPA3, so most Wi-Fi 6 devices will have enhanced security once the certification program kicks in.

The most important improvement in Wi-Fi 6 is to reduce congestion and allow more devices to connect to the network. Wi-Fi 6 achieves this using a technology called MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multi-In-Multi-Out), which allows routers to communicate with multiple devices at the same time, rather than in sequence. Wi-Fi 6 also utilizes other technologies such as OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) and transmit beamforming, both of which serve to increase efficiency and network capacity, respectively.

The difference between Wi-Fi 6 and previous generations of Wi-Fi

Faster speed

Compared to WiFi 5, the previous generation of 802.11ac, WiFi 6 has a maximum transmission rate of 9.6Gbps, up from 3.5Gbps in the previous generation, which is nearly three times faster than the theoretical speed.

In terms of frequency band WiFi 5 only involves 5GHz, WiFi 6 covers 2.4/5GHz, completely covering low-speed and high-speed devices.

In terms of modulation mode, WiFi 6 supports 1024-QAM, higher than WiFi 5’s 256-QAM, with higher data capacity, which means higher data transfer speed.

Lower latency

WiFi 6 goes beyond just upload and download rates to dramatically improve network congestion, allowing more devices to connect to the wireless network and have a consistent, high-speed connection experience, thanks to new MU-MIMO and OFDMA technologies that support both uplink and downlink.

The WiFi 5 standard, which supports MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multi-Input Multi-Output) technology, only supports downlink, which can only be experienced when downloading content. WiFi 6 supports both uplink and downlink MU-MIMO, which means that mobile devices and wireless routers can experience MU-MIMO when uploading and downloading data between them, further improving the bandwidth utilization of wireless networks.

WiFi 6 supports up to 8 spatial data streams, up from 4 in WiFi 5, which means it can support up to 8×8 MU-MIMO, which is one of the key reasons for the significant increase in WiFi 6 rates.

WiFi 6 uses OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) technologies, which is an evolved version of the OFDM technology used in WiFi 5. It combines OFDM and FDMA technologies in a transmission technique that uses OFDM to parent the channel and then loads the transmission data on some of the subcarriers, allowing different users to share the same channel and allowing more devices to access it with shorter response times and lower latency.

In addition, WiFi 6 improves the per-signal carrier transmission time from 3.2μs in WiFi 5 to 12.8μs through Long DFDM Symbol transmission mechanism, reducing packet loss and retransmission rate for more stable transmission.

More capacity

WiFi 6 introduces the BSS Coloring mechanism, which labels each device that accesses the network and adds a corresponding label to its data, so that data is transmitted with a corresponding address and directly into place without confusion.

Multi-user MU-MIMO technology allows multiple terminals to share channels during computer communication network time, enabling multiple phones/computers to access the Internet together at the same time. Combined with OFDMA technology, each channel under the WiFi 6 network can be used for efficient data transmission, improving the network experience in multi-user scenarios, better meeting WiFi hotspot areas, multi-user use, and less lagging and larger capacity.

More Secure

WiFi 6 (wireless router) devices that need to be certified by the WiFi Alliance must use the WPA 3 security protocol for greater security.

In early 2018, WiFi Alliance released a new generation of WiFi encryption protocol, WPA 3, which is an upgraded version of the widely used WPA 2 protocol with further security enhancements to better stop strong attacks, brute force cracking, etc.

More Power Saving

WiFi 6 introduces Target Wake Time (TWT) technology, which allows active planning of communication time between devices and wireless routers, reducing the use of wireless network antennas and signal search time, which can reduce power consumption to a certain extent and improve device endurance.