August 19, 2019

Wi-Fi 6: The Basics

A new wireless world is coming and it’s going to reshape the way we do business. The next generation of Wi-Fi, 802.11ax, also known as Wi-Fi 6, is engineered to cater to today’s always-connected world. It allows network access points to communicate more efficiently with more devices and users at once while using less power. Wi-Fi 6 promises to be significantly faster than existing Wi-Fi, be less congested, and improve battery life.

How Fast is Wi-Fi 6?

Just how fast is Wi-Fi 6 compared to existing Wi-Fi? According to Network World, it can be anywhere from 4x to 10x faster, although it depends on the context. That is a lot more speed than you’re likely to need from a single device while sitting at home, but in environments where several devices are trying to connect, ax will make a noticeable difference. For instance, in public spaces like stadiums, airports, and college dorms, data flow will be greatly improved due to orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) and multi-user multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO). These technologies allow Wi-Fi 6 routers to support multiple devices connecting at once within a single channel. Additionally, the Wi-Fi 6 routers pack more information in each signal they transmit, meaning they will communicate with devices faster and more efficiently than ever before.

Benefits of Wi-Fi 6

With OFDMA, the network will appear less congested compared to previous Wi-Fi. This is because OFDMA allows a router to divide the channel it’s using into smaller frequency resource units. Doing so provides the router another avenue to distribute data, efficiently increasing the number of people who connect and reducing latency. OFDMA is flexible in the sense that if someone is checking social media while using a streaming service, it will either allocate one resource unit to the phone checking social media and another to the device streaming TV, or it will divide the necessary data both devices require between multiple resource units. MU-MIMO complements OFDMA by also increasing the number of users connecting at once and the data throughput.

In addition to an improved signal power within its range, Wi-Fi 6 has a new feature called Target Wake Time (TWT). This feature makes access points more intuitive about scheduling devices to “wake up” and request information when necessary. TWT prevents the devices from interfering with each other, giving them more time in battery-saving mode. It’s a very short amount of time the devices are in battery-saving mode, however, these short periods of time will result in longer battery life for technologies such as motion sensors and smart locks. When technologies such as those need to report their status by periodically pinging the router, Wi-Fi 6 will put the device on a schedule to prevent it from colliding with another signal and ultimately creating congestion.

Impact of Wi-Fi 6 for Businesses

So, what does this mean for businesses? As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes more universally utilized, businesses of all sizes will need to start updating their Wi-Fi, if they have not already done so. It’s important to note that while there are a few Wi-Fi 6 routers available, devices such as cell phones and laptops with Wi-Fi 6 capabilities are not as widespread at the moment. However, with Wi-Fi 6’s improved capabilities for handling numerous devices at once, you can soon expect to notice a drastic difference in internet speed when in crowded spaces.

If you’re unsure what this means for your business, contact Business Information Group today.