What Is WiFi 6 and Why Is It a Big Deal for Your Customers

WiFi 6

A New Beginning

With more and more high definition video and games being downloaded, and smart home technology trending upward, demand for faster inside-the-home streaming speeds has been growing. WiFi 6 is the answer. It’s the next generation of wireless technology consumers have been waiting for.  

But do they know about it? Are you prepared to answer any questions they have about the benefits of WiFi 6?

Read on.

WiFi today

The WiFi Alliance turns 20 years old this year. They are the keeper of WiFi standards and protocols, and the driver of WiFi adoption across the world. In a 20-year celebration press release, the Alliance states:

“WiFi is one of the most pervasive technologies around the world, with an installed base of more than 13 billion devices and more than four billion WiFi devices shipping in 2019 alone.”

According to the Pew Research Center, about 75% of Americans have broadband Internet service at home. Parks Associates clarifies the big picture further:

“More than 60% of U.S. broadband households with a networking router received that device from their broadband service provider
“U.S. broadband households now have an average of 9.1 connected devices
“37% of US broadband households report that their WiFi network seems slow”

The newest WiFi standard is WiFi 6, and it’s due to launch in late 2019. Products that use the technology will trickle out after that.

But wait a minute. If this is 6, was there a 5? Yes, but it wasn’t called that in the past.

The renaming of WiFi standards

The WiFi Alliance has renamed WiFi technologies to be more consumer-friendly, ditching all those letters that followed 802.11.

  • 802.11n = WiFi 4
  • 802.11ac = WiFi 5
  • 802.11ax = WiFi 6

The idea behind each generation, of course, was to provide faster speeds and throughput. According to the Alliance, 6

“will deliver an improved experience to address device and application needs in a range of consumer and enterprise environments.”

For consumers, this should mean:

  • Streaming of 4K and 8K movies
  • Low latency for less sync problems
  • Being able to access WiFi in crowded areas or when networks are congested

It should also improve smart home and IoT (Internet of Things) communications and make more VR and AR applications feasible.

On the business end, the Alliance says 6:

“Also provides carriers and public WiFi operators with more capabilities to support next generation connectivity uses in retail settings, stadiums, and transportation hubs, including a growing array of location-based applications and services and bandwidth intensive applications.”

How WiFi 6 works and why people will love it

WiFi 6 will be able to deliver faster speeds with every signal. It’s designed to allow network access points to communicate more efficiently with more users and devices at once. It also helps them use less power because they are not working as hard.

In addition, this new standard’s access points will be able to divvy up each individual signal between multiple recipient devices, servicing all of them with a single transmission like a delivery truck driver with multiple stops on the route.

According to ZDNet, where WiFi 6 really shines is in distributing a network’s broadband across multiple devices. For example, you’re in a large venue before anyone is there and you’ve got plenty of bandwidth. But, as it fills up your bandwidth drops to a slow crawl.

The reason this happens is because a lot of people are trying to access an Internet connection through a single router. WiFi 5, the current generation of router, can’t handle that kind of overload.

Likewise, this kind of traffic jam also happens in the home, with the problem expected to get worse. Smart home technology is designed to tap a home’s WiFi system. As more and more consumers turn to smart devices, running out of bandwidth will become an even greater problem.

WiFi 6
A family of four can experience a speed increase of 4x to 10x with WiFi 6. Source: https://gizmodo.com/WiFi-6-is-coming-and-heres-why-you-should-care-1829516258
Image: Qualcomm

WiFi 5 supports up to four simultaneous device connections at full bandwidth speed. WiFi 6 will support eight on the 5 GHz band and four on the 2.4 GHz band at full bandwidth speed.

People are going to want WiFi 6 in their home and public routers because they don’t want to deal with network delays and congestion.

Other Benefits of WiFi 6

According to the networking giant CISCO,

“The total amount of internet traffic from 2017 to 2022 will be higher than in the previous 32 years of the Internet, and from 2017 to 2022, bandwidth-intensive 4K video is expected to grow from 3% to 22% percent of all IP traffic.”

In addition to improved speeds, WiFi 6 is expected to drastically improve connections because there will not be that struggle to remain connected. And whether a user is on a 5 GHz or 2.4 GHz band, performance should be boosted.

And, according to Consumer Reports, to truly experience the benefits of WiFi 6, the products must be WiFi 6 compliant. That’s because

“It’s about improving the aggregate network performance rather than merely single-device performance”

Kevin Robinson, vice president of marketing, WiFi Alliance

Remember, WiFi 6 is an upgrade for routers and WiFi devices, not an upgrade to Internet service in general. If there is a slow connection from a service provider to start with, a 6 router can’t fix that.

Final thoughts

There’s been a lot of attention paid recently to the rollout of 5G Internet connectivity. If you’re unclear on 5G, be sure to read our blog—it explains everything you need to know about 5G.

So, are 5G and WiFi 6 are somehow related? According to CISCO, yes!

  1. 5G and WiFi 6 are built from the same foundation but support different uses
  2. WiFi 6 is for indoor networks
  3. 5G is for outdoor networks
  4. Both will help businesses (and homes) connect more devices wirelessly as well as enhance immersive experiences
  5. WiFi 6 may well roll out faster than 5G, as 5G is being deployed in stages over the next few years

Once 5G connectivity becomes widespread, the one-two punch of WiFi 6 and 5G will be incredible.

So, keep your eye out for WiFi 6 certified routers and products—as will we. In the meantime, you can assure your customers that they don’t need to toss out products designed for WiFi 4 and 5. WiFi 6 is backward compatible. But it can’t impart its benefits to the older technologies. For the latest, current lineup of routers and networking components, be sure to check out Petra.com!

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