Built for Speed: What You Need to Know About Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 is coming and is generating a lot of hype. In this first of two posts on Wi-Fi 6, we’ll take a look at what Wi-Fi 6 is and why it’s going to be a real game changer for wireless connectivity.

The Name Change

First, what is Wi-Fi 6? Was there ever a Wi-Fi 5? To make the standard easier to remember than the alphabet soup of letters and numbers, the Wi-Fi Alliance has named the IEEE 802.11ax standard Wi-Fi 6. Similar to the different generations of cellular networking technology (3G, 4G, and 5G) the Alliance is renaming the standards to reflect different generations of wireless technology.

Keep in mind that Wi-Fi 6 is different than 5G. Wi-Fi 6 is a wireless LAN technology designed for offices and public spaces. 5G is a WAN technology designed to carry cellular data. In most places, Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will coexist. You may use one or the other or a combination of both depending on your application, industry, and location.

Wi-Fi Generation IEEE Standard Speed
Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax 10-Gbps
Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac 2167 Mbps
Wi-Fi 4 802.11n 300-600 Mbps
Wi-Fi 3 802.11a, g 54 Mbps
Wi-Fi 2 802.11b 11 Mbps
Wi-Fi 1 802.11a 1–2 Mbps

Why is Wi-Fi 6 a Game Changer?

So why is Wi-Fi 6 better? As you can see from the above chart above, Wi-Fi 6 is significantly faster, anywhere from four to ten times faster than its predecessor, Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac.) It’s designed to solve wireless connectivity problems (range, coverage, capacity, dead spots) that its older relatives couldn’t address technologically, particularly in in high-density edge environments such as office buildings, conference halls, transportation hubs, sports venues, and more. What really makes Wi-Fi 6 different is that it will be able to accommodate large number of users and IoT devices accessing the network simultaneously.

Here’s an analogy. Think about going to a professional sports game. Before the game, you have no trouble accessing the internet, even though you’re in a stadium with thousands of other users. But, they’re not all online at the same time. Then the big play happens and suddenly you, and everyone else, is trying to get online to tweet, post, text and otherwise share the news with friends not lucky enough to snag a ticket to the game. The result? Spinning and more spinning. Frustrated you give up. Wi-Fi 6 will end the frustration.

Here’s another game changing analogy. Imagine you’re standing in line at the concession counter and there’s only one cashier who can only serve one person at a time, sort of like older 802.11 APs. Everyone has to wait their turn. But now imagine your cashier is a Wi-Fi 6 AP. Everyone in line would be placing orders and getting served at the same time, even the people in the back of the line. No wait. No frustration.

So in summary, Wi-Fi 6 is:

  • Fast! Wi-Fi 6 is 3x–10x faster
  • Designed for crowds with simultaneous uploads/downloads

Part Two

In part two of this post, we’ll take a more in-depth look at what Wi-Fi 6 is and the technology that makes it work, particularly in the areas of reduced latency, improved throughput, reduced power consumption, and better IoT operability. 

If you’re thinking about your mobile-first strategy, talk to Black Box now. We can help you make mobility happen with the right intelligent edge foundational technology including DAS, small cells, CBRS, two-way radio as well as Wi-Fi.  When you enable mobility, you enable connectivity at the digital edge.

Learn more at blackbox.com/Mobility

Learn more about all the IEEE 802.11 standards here.

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5G 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 Wireless networking wireless standards
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