Wi-Fi 6, is it worth the hype?

The good news is that Wi-Fi is about to get faster. Quicker bandwidth is always top of the wish-list, as devices, apps and games evolve to be more resource-heavy, demanding more robust networks and faster speeds.

Digital spaces are now employing enormous numbers of IoT terminals, requiring seamless Wi-Fi coverage, and augmented reality, virtual reality and immersive applications cannot function without Wi-Fi networks that have high bandwidth and ultra-low latency. Moreover, the application of autonomous decision-making robots relies on Wi-Fi networks with zero packet loss and 100% stability

“This drove the move towards 802.11ax, otherwise known as Wi-Fi 6,” says Fred Saayman, Huawei Business Unit: Executive at Pinnacle, SA’s leading ICT distributor, a fully connected world is here. “There’s no doubt that Wi-Fi 6 will be one of the most advanced technologies to meet the needs of today’s demanding technologies and speed-up all enterprise digital transformation initiatives over the next five years.”

However, he says Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of Wi-Fi, is about more than faster speeds alone and comes with many other benefits that will reveal themselves over time. It is in its infancy, only arriving this year, and likely to be available the next time you upgrade your laptop or mobile device.”

In terms of what it does, Wi-Fi 6 will do pretty much the same basic thing, namely connecting you to your devices, but with a slew of new features that will make this happen better, more efficiently, and quicker, he explains

So how much quicker is quicker? “The short, yet not full answer, is 9.6 Gbps, which is up from 3.5 Gbps enjoyed on Wi-Fi 5. However, the 9.6 Gbps doesn’t have to go to a single computer, as it can be divided between a whole network of devices, which translates into more potential speed for each device,” he explains.

In addition, Wi-Fi 6 introduces key 5G technologies, including Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA), uplink Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO), and higher-order coding 1,024-QAM. “It also achieves four times higher network bandwidth and as many times more concurrent users than Wi-Fi 5, and it reduces the average network latency from 30 milliseconds to 20 milliseconds.

But according to Saayman, it’s not all about speed, Wi-Fi 6 is all about improving the network when a bunch of devices are connected. OFDMA, which allows a single transmission to deliver data to several devices at the same time and MU-MIMO, which has been employed in modern routers and devices, for a while now, and is upgraded with Wi-Fi 6. “Both of these core technologies that have helped speed up connections in Wi-Fi 6.”

So how does one take advantage of Wi-Fi 6? Saayman says, unfortunately, existing devices cannot be upgraded so you will need to get new devices. “Generations when it comes to Wi-Fi, are dependent on new hardware, not software updates, so most of us will have to wait till upgrade time to enjoy the benefits. The good news is that new devices will feature Wi-Fi 6 by default, so all new smartphones, wearables, gaming consoles and laptops will feature this standard in the future.”

There is one exception which can’t wait for an upgrade, and that is your router, he adds. If it doesn’t already support Wi-Fi 6, you will need to go out and buy one that does. Without a Wi-Fi 6 router, you will not be able to enjoy any of the benefits of Wi-Fi 6, as it simply won’t be compatible. You can still use Wi-Fi 6 devices on your current router though, so there’s no danger of your new devices not working at all.

Saayman says Huawei is leading the charge when it comes to the Wi-Fi 6 era. “Huawei  AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 products support 5G-powered antenna and algorithm technologies to lower network latency from 30 milliseconds to 10 milliseconds. This enables seamless and smooth virtual or augmented reality teaching without user disorientation, wireless 4K HD conferences, and zero packet loss during AGV roaming.”

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