What is Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 Overview

wifi 6 logo                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           (Braelow, 2018)

What is Wi-Fi 6?

In the age of smart devices, old generations of wi fi standards are failing to keep up with the expansion.  New Wi-Fi standards have led to a recategorization of Wi-Fi standards, which changes the way we communicate about wireless standards. By recategorizing complicate Wi-Fi standards, they become more friendly to less technically minded people who may not know the standards by their scientific name. By recategorizing the standards, they make it easier to market the changes to the general public when differentiating the pros of the next new thing.  For example, 802.11b (1999) is Wi-Fi 1, 802.11a (1999) is Wi-Fi 2, 802.11g (2003) is Wi-Fi 3, 802.11n (2009) is now Wi-Fi 4, 802.11ac (2014) is now Wi-Fi 5, and 802.11ax (2019) is Wi-Fi 6 (Hoffman, 2020). The new standard names ease troubleshooting Wi-Fi compatibility by creating consumer awareness of the standards on which their devices run. This reorganization alone is helpful but not quite near as interesting as what standard itself accomplishes.

WiFi-6 and other Wi-Fi supported technology standards (Aufranc & Jean-Luc, 2018)


            The real question about Wi-Fi 6 is how much faster Wi-Fi 6 is and is it worth trading in my phone to upgrade. The answer is yes. The max potential speeds of Wi-Fi 6 are 40 percent faster than Wi-Fi 5 (Hoffman, 2020). According to Leon (2019), rates reach up to 10GB per second. Speeds this fast come in hand when asking Alexa to tweet about your new smart refrigerator. Wi-Fi 6 accomplishes these speeds through more efficient data encoding (Hoffman, 2020). By making encoding more efficient, we can decrease the time it takes to transfer the information and minimize the overhead of wireless transfer. Encoding efficiency has also led to an increase in speeds for the 2.4ghz network, which allows faster speeds data while even leave room for downward compatibility and penetration of solid objects (Hoffman, 2020). Wi-Fi 6 leads to an overall better experience for modern technologies to coincide with older devices without sacrificing speed.


            Increased security is one of the most critical features of Wi-Fi 6. Since Wi-Fi 1, security professionals have been anxiety-ridden over the potential exploitations that have been exposed by wireless networks. Wi-Fi 6 comes with day one WPA3 support for encryption (Leon, 2019). This encryption is stronger than WPA2, which makes it harder to crack. WPA3 is important because Wi-Fi networks are more vulnerable than hardwired systems due to its vast expanse of coverage, which can lead to exploitation. Therefore, using WPA3 is an exciting advancement that comes with the release of Wi-Fi 6.

Added Features

            The speed is not the only perk to this new standard. The standard uses a new target wake time (TWT), which helps conserve battery to sleep the wi fi devices radio until it is time to receive the next transmission (Hoffman, 2020). Battery conservation is especially useful in the time of smartphones where battery power is scarce, and charges are never where you need them to be. Wi-Fi 6 increases the speed of individual devices accessing busy access points by dividing wireless channels into subchannels using Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) to service multiple devices at once (Hoffman, 2020). OFDMA allows for more transmissions to take place at once and increase speed on burdened and public networks. The standard also uses MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple In/Multiple Out), which allows the access points to talk to multiple devices at the same time and for those devices at the same time, which is an upgrade from, Wi-Fi 5 (Hoffman, 2020).  More connections mean that your device is spending less time buffering while waiting to transmit the signal back to a busy access point. Wireless access points can communicate on the same channel by using different Basic Service Set (BSS) to set different colors to a number 0 – 7 to establish spatial frequency reuse (Hoffman, 2020). Spatial frequency reuse helps to increase performance in high traffic areas by decreasing the waiting period for connection.

WiFi 6 icon, WiFi 5 icon, and WiFi 4 icon  (Aufranc & Jean-Luc, 2018)

How Does This Fit Together?

            These improvements show progress in the modern age of Wi-Fi devices. By increasing the rate of connectivity and speeding up communication through the application of OFDMA and MU-MIMO, we allow simultaneous processing and communication with multiple devices back and forth between the access point and machine. We can also decrease the consumption of battery mobile devices by using TWT to schedule transmissions and turn off the radio until needed. These features, along with improved encoding, allow this new standard to transform the way that we look at Wi-Fi and is the next step forward in creating large scale public Wi-Fi and increasing the rise of smart devices. In a transforming world, this accomplishment success in ushering in a new wave of technology and transforming the way we live our lives. Wi-Fi 6, combined with the release of 5G and the capabilities of the i9 9th generation processors, helps to increase speed and efficiency in our growing economy.


Aufranc, J.-L., & Jean-Luc. (2018, October 4). New WiFi Naming Scheme: 802.11n Becomes WiFi 4, 802.11ac WiFi 5, 802.11ax WiFi 6. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from https://www.cnx-software.com/2018/10/04/wifi-new-naming-scheme-wifi- 6-wifi-5-wifi-4/

Braelow, A. B. (2018, December 4). ABI Research: Wi-Fi 6 Adoption Will Outpace 5G. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from https://www.ipass.com/blog/abi-research-wi-fi-6-adoption-will-outpace-5g/

Hoffman, C. (2020, January 24). Wi-Fi 6: What's Different, and Why it Matters. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from https://www.howtogeek.com/368332/wi-fi-6-what’s-different-and-why-it-matters/

Leon, N. D. (2019, September 17). Is It Time to Buy a Wi-Fi 6 Router? Retrieved February 13, 2020, from https://www.consumerreports.org/wireless-routers/wifi-6-router-is-it-time-to-buy/