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wifiWi-Fi 6: the next generation of wireless networks

The most recent wireless standard has been recently renamed from 802.11ax to Wi-Fi 6. It's a wise decision, because it makes it easy for non-techies to figure out if their devices support the latest Wi-Fi technology or not.

Here are the most important benefits that arise from setting up, and then using a Wi-Fi 6 network, according to Wi-Fi Alliance: higher data transfer rates, increased capacity, better performance in areas with many connected devices and improved power efficiency.

According to a Data Alliance study, Wi-Fi 6 certified routers and access points provide real-life data transfer speeds that are about 30% bigger in comparison with Wi-Fi 5/802.11ac. However, end users will greatly benefit from the increased throughput, which has been increased by 300% due to a much more efficient spectrum utilization.

Wi-Fi 6 uses new technologies to achieve better performance for home users, public Wi-Fi service providers and enterprise users. People using wireless networks in their homes will be able to stream high definition content without worrying about poor Wi-Fi data transfer rates, for example. Small businesses which use public hotspots to attract more clients will be able to provide a reliable service, because Wi-Fi 6 can manage spectral resources much better in comparison with the earlier versions of the technology. Enterprise users will benefit from having access to Wi-Fi that is able to handle mission-critical applications, such as healthcare monitoring, telepresence solutions, etc.

As you already know, Wi-Fi speeds are greatly reduced in crowded areas, where lots of people connect to the same hotspot. But besides fixing this problem, the new generation of wireless networks will also be helpful for people who have lots of connected devices in their homes. To achieve these results, Wi-Fi 6 splits the current communication channel into several subchannels; the router or access point will then use each subchannel to communicate with a different device. It's all part of the OFDMA feature, one of the new Wi-Fi 6 highlights.

With uplink and downlink orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA), several wireless network users have the possibility to use the same Wi-Fi channel at the same time in an efficient manner. Wi-Fi 6 has increased the number of spatial streams from 4 to 8.

Multi-user multiple input multiple output (MU-MIMO) works for devices that utilize multiple antennas and radio chains. It increases the amount of data that can be transferred to and from network clients by sending highly targeted spatial streams straight to them.

Transmit beamforming (TxBF) boosts signal power, increasing the range of the wireless network. The client measures the downstream channel amplitude, and then relays the information back to the transmitter, optimizing the data broadcasting process.

1024 quadrature amplitude modulation mode (1024-QAM) increases Wi-Fi throughput by about 25%, by making use of an improved signal encoding algorithm. To give you an idea, Wi-Fi 5's highest subcarrier modulation is 256-QAM, in comparison with Wi-Fi 6's 1024-QAM.

Target wake time (TWT) makes devices more power efficient. It's a great feature for devices which run using batteries; think Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and so on. With Wi-Fi 6, we could have IoT devices which are used in agriculture run for months and maybe even years in a row without needing human intervention, for example.

Wi-Fi 6 supports the same frequency bands as Wi-Fi 5, utilizing channels that can have a bandwidth of up to 160 MHz. However, the maximum data rate has been increased from 3.5 Gbps to 9.6 Gbps.

I don't know about you, but I look forward to seeing the first Wi-Fi 6 devices in action. I won't buy one until I am sure that all the inevitable bugs have been squashed, though.