Wi-Fi, like all technologies, is evolving. While new Wi-Fi technology updates are less frequent then the new generations of devices, it allows Internet service providers, consumers and businesses time to prepare for the shift to the new Wi-Fi standard. With 802.11ax on the horizon, it’s important to consider the impact it can have for consumers and how to make sure they’re equipped with the tools and technology necessary for the upgrade.
802.11ac, or Wi-Fi 5, was established in 2014. Since then, devices have gotten smarter, homes and businesses have become more connected and the demand for better Internet is apparent. Wi-Fi 6 could be the answer to that demand. Wi-Fi 5 introduced mesh networks while allowing for multiple users and devices to experience increased Internet speeds. Despite these improvements, by 2017, the typical American household had about 5 connected devices. Wi-Fi 5 routers couldn’t manage the number of devices connected at any given time, resulting in a slower network.
Wi-Fi 6 was designed with Internet of Things (IoT) in mind, making it an important addition to the connected ecosystem. Currently, 90% of Americans have at least one smart home device. Statista forecasts suggests that there will be 20 billion IoT devices worldwide by 2020. Wi-Fi 6 boast three key features to bridge the gap between device connectivity demands and the current Wi-Fi standard:
3 Key Features for WiFi 6
Wi-Fi 6 boast three key features to bridge the gap between device connectivity demands and the current Wi-Fi standard:
1. Faster Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi 6 features more efficient data management, so you can expect significantly faster internet speeds. By expanding the amount of data transferred in radio waves and improving the internal technology that translates data, Wi-Fi 6 even improved speeds on a 2.4GHz network. In addition to faster speeds across the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, Wi-Fi 6 is introducing a 6GHz band, exclusively for Wi-Fi 6 compatible devices and routers.
2. Better Battery Life
Wi-Fi 6 features “target wake time” (TWT), which improves the battery life of your smartphones, laptops and other connected devices. TWT allows your network access point to communicate with your device and put the Wi-Fi connection to sleep when not in use and automatically wake up when Wi-Fi is needed. When the Wi-Fi radio frequency spends more time in sleep mode, it conserves and extends your device’s battery life.
3. Lower Latency
Since Wi-Fi 6 was designed to handle a higher number of devices and deliver more data to devices, latency drops significantly. This means consumers will have a better Internet connection in congested areas such as airports, hotels, festivals and stadiums. With Wi-Fi 6, Intel expects each user’s average speed to improve by four times in areas with a lot of connected devices.
Wi-Fi 6 in the Home
Creating a functional home network hinges on Wi-Fi that is capable of handling the various devices within the home. Wi-Fi 6 was designed to manage connected home devices such as smart thermostats, connected lighting and smart hubs by splitting transmissions to stream to multiple devices at one time. This prevents IoT devices from slowing down your network. TWT technology prolongs the battery life of connected devices. Wi-Fi 6 boasts Internet speeds up to 4.6 times faster than Wi-Fi 5, making it ideal for common bandwidth demands such as streaming 4K video and online gaming.
Enhancing the home network to the Wi-Fi 6 standard requires device compatibility. Devices built prior to 2018 probably won’t have the hardware required to support Wi-Fi 6. While Wi-Fi 6 improves the performance of a network, there is no need to upgrade to new devices immediately. As Wi-Fi 6 slowly transitions, taking the place of Wi-Fi 5, devices will be designed to include compatible hardware by default. Wi-Fi 6 hardware will be built into new routers and future generations of smartphones and computers.
Wi-Fi 6 in Business
Wi-Fi 6 was designed to be backward and forward compatible. This means existing networking components within the business environment will still work without any updates. Utilizing the new features of Wi-Fi 6 and achieving peak Internet speeds will require upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 routers, access points or switches and compatible endpoint devices. However, companies using Wi-Fi 5 hardware will still see a partial increase in speed. As Wi-Fi 6 becomes the standard, new generations of devices will be equipped with 802.11ax compatible hardware.
Wi-Fi 6 improved connectivity will be most apparent in business environments that frequently have large numbers of people on their network, delivering better Internet speeds, bandwidth and device battery life. Network World identified four types of businesses that would benefit from upgrading to Wi-Fi 6: companies using Wi-Fi 4 or older, companies that strive to be early adopters of new technology, companies that use immersive applications and use high-bandwidth, and new building developments that require high-density wireless networks.
Two Tips to Prepare for Wi-Fi 6
1. Invest in Wi-Fi 6 infrastructure, including Wi-Fi 6 certified routers and access points. Wi-Fi 6 access points are being incorporated into new infrastructure to prepare for the coming years. New routers, labeled “Wi-Fi 6 Certified” or “Wi-Fi 6 Compatible,” were announced in late 2018 for home networks and are expected to emerge more in 2019 as the standard becomes more commonplace.
2. Pair Wi-Fi 6 with a managed Wi-Fi system to allow consumers to easily navigate an increasingly intricate network. Optim Managed Wi-Fi is available through Internet service providers and offers a simplified way for consumers to manage their home network. Network connectivity features like automatic band steering and enhanced device management tools make it easy to manage the additional bands available through Wi-Fi 6. As with any new technology, consumers might have some questions about their network. A Managed WiFi solution such as Actiontec’s Optim Managed WiFi has advanced troubleshooting which provides customers with a direct line to a service provider technician who can view network issues and provide solutions.
Are your clients ready for Wi-Fi 6? Start the conversation today to stay connected in the future. Stay in-the-know on the impacts of Wi-Fi 6 and other developing technologies by following the Actiontec blog. You can also learn more about the evolution of Wi-Fi on Actiontec’s Complete Guide to WiFi Networking.