WiFi 6 (or Wi-Fi 6): What is It & How It Works

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Heard of WiFi 6 before?

After a long hard day at work, you come back home, reheat some leftovers from the fridge, and open Netflix on your computer.

More than anything, I need an episode of Squid Game to forget about my annoying boss.

But then the buffering icon appears, and you forcefully slam your face into your palms as your sluggish WiFi once again fails to deliver.

By the time the episode is ready, your meal is finished and your mood has soured.

With an increasing number of people staying at home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re consuming more TV shows, YouTube videos, and playing more games than ever before.

And with us owning more devices these days, there’s a huge demand for bandwidth.

Fortunately, there’s something out there that can make your WiFi faster.

Meet WiFi 6

Launched in late 2019, Wi-Fi 6-enabled hardware was officially released last year.

It’s the latest version of WiFi released by the Wi-Fi Alliance, after WiFi 5 in 2015 and WiFi 4 in 2009.

Once routers that supported WiFi 6 were released, smartphone manufacturers followed suit, with the first being Samsung with the Galaxy S10.

Now, more and more new phones and laptops are equipped with WiFi 6 support.

Faster Speeds

So, you’ve already heard that WiFi 6 is faster than its predecessor, but how much faster, exactly?

It’s now widely known that WiFi 6 offers a maximum speed of 9.6 Gbps, in contrast to WiFi 5 which had a maximum speed of 3.5 Gbps.

As you know, faster WiFi means better upload and download speeds due to the increased bandwidth.

This is particularly important for the modern user as we’re consuming high-quality videos and playing communication-heavy games which have greater data demands.


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However…

9.6 Gps is Only the Theoretical Maximum 

But, as some have pointed out, these are just theoretical maximum speeds, meaning WiFi 6 could only achieve a speed of 9.6 Gbps in theory.

So, it’s unlikely you’ll ever reach it in real-world use, as local networks may not be able to reach this speed.

But still, it’s better because…

More About Reducing Network Congestion Than Improving Speed for a Single User

It’s when multiple users are connected to a network using WiFi 6 that we really see the superiority of WiFi 6.

See, WiFi 6 isn’t focused on boosting speeds for individual devices. Rather, it helps to reduce network congestion when multiple devices are connected at the same time.


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As you may know, when more than one device is connected to the internet, the bandwidth is being shared, which affects its speed.

This is because a router can only communicate with so many devices at a given time, meaning the more devices connected to your WiFi, the slower the network is going to be.

So if your friends come over and you’re all connected to your WiFi to play a game, you may find that your internet speed has slowed down a little.

More Devices, More Internet Users

The ability of WiFi 6 to reduce congestion is especially important nowadays, with more and more people staying at home and using the internet.

According to the Digital 2021 April Global Statshot Report, more than 60% of the world’s population is connected to the internet.


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In just the past year, Internet users have grown by more than 330 million, with over 4.7 billion users all over the globe as of April 2021.

Device ownership is also growing, with many people using more than one mobile phone.

How Does it Reduce Network Congestion?

According to How to Geek, WiFi utilises something called the Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access, which allows the WiFi access point to communicate with more than one device at a time.

With this, WiFi 6 has the ability to divide a wireless channel into a large number of subchannels. Since each of these subchannels can convey data to different devices, the overall speed of the network isn’t as heavily impacted.

Other Benefits: Less Latency, Longer Battery Life

Since it can handle large amounts of network traffic more efficiently, using WiFi 6 can also result in 75% less latency.


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What’s more, WiFi 6 can communicate with a device’s WiFi radio and only activate it when it needs to be awake, thus conserving power.

With the device’s WiFi radio spending more time in sleep mode, your device will likely have longer battery life.

How to Get It?

Of course, in order to get WiFi 6 in your home, you’ll need a WiFi 6 router.

A quick Google search will show you that popular brands like TP-Link and Asus are selling WiFi 6 routers, with cheaper ones on sites like Lazada.

Prices for a decent WiFI 6 router seem to range from $300 to $700 on the e-commerce site.


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No Need to Replace All WiFi 5 Devices at Once

Now, I know what you’re thinking: if I get a WiFi 6 router, I’ll have to upgrade all my WiFi 5 devices!

Well, fortunately, this isn’t the case.

See, WiFi 6 routers can support WiFi 5 devices, it just won’t give you the speeds you bought the new router for.

Conversely, WiFi 6 devices can also work with a WiFi 5 router.

So, if you think your WiFi speed needs a boost, you now know what to do.


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Reader: Ban all my family members from using the WiFi at home?

Exactly.

Featured Image: DANIEL CONSTANTE / Shutterstock.com


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