It’s been more than two years since the 802.11ax wireless networking standard made its debut. More commonly referred to as Wi-Fi 6, there is today a raft of routers and devices built to make the most of these new technologies. As with any new standard, upgrading is not always necessary.
Sometimes, it’s best to wait out or make gradual changes. The investment in new technology must make financial sense too for a business. So, what are the strengths of Wi-Fi 6 that you can tap into? Let’s take a look.
1. It’s Faster
Wi-Fi 6 throughput maxes out at 9.6Gbps. This is almost three times higher than Wi-Fi 5 which tops out at 3.5Gbps. Wi-Fi 6 does this by improving data encoding. It supports 1,024-QAM, a technique that aids in packing more information into a signal for greater throughput. More data goes into each radio wave.
The chips responsible for the encoding are getting increasingly powerful. This delivers as much as 25 percent more speed and capacity than the method in use in the majority of Wi-Fi 5 routers (that is, 256-QAM).
Wi-Fi 6 throughput maxes out at 9.6Gbpscompared to 3.5Gbps for Wi-Fi 5
The faster speed can improve allocation of network resources and promote higher productivity because cloud platforms are more responsive.
2. Battery Saver
In earlier wireless standards, a device is either connected or it isn’t. This binary state isn’t helpful for efficient battery use. Wi-Fi 6 relies on TWT (Target Wake Time), a mechanism that helps connected devices know when they should wake up and start receiving and sending data.
How does that work? When your router is communicating with a device, it can tell the gadget when it needs to switch off its Wi-Fi radio and when to switch it on in readiness for the new transmission. The Wi-Fi radio when switched on does drain a significant proportion of battery life. So, this new feature ensures it can spend more time in sleep mode.
That can stretch battery life on not just tablets and smartphones but also battery-operated smart home gadgets such as video doorbells and security cameras. As a bonus, Wi-Fi radio sleep also minimizes bandwidth use.
3. Reduced Congestion
In crowded places, Wi-Fi can get congested and slow. This is not just an issue at airports, restaurants or other public spaces but the office and remote work environment too. Each employee depends on multiple devices that require network access. And in certain industries like warehousing and manufacturing, the number is larger when you factor the raft of IoT devices needed.
Multi-device access is not the only cause of congestion though. Capacity is a major factor especially with the drive toward remote work. Video calls and VoIP require good quality bandwidth to minimize lag, jitter and freezing. Wi-Fi 6’s expanded access point capacity ensures a better experience for employees and other users. It reduces network congestion and expands client capacity.
It reduces network congestion and expands client capacity
For instance, it uses OFDMA modulation that can carry as much as 30 clients within a single channel simultaneously. OFDMA allocates time intervals or subchannels to the devices to optimize use of the available bandwidth. Wi-fi 6 assigns channels to each device depending on the capacity they need thereby improving efficiency and capacity while reducing latency.
Usually, Wi-Fi signals are spread evenly around the router. That’s a good thing if you are moving about since you get almost the same quality of signal irrespective of where you are in the room. But for the most part, devices are often stationed in one location for long periods at a time.
So, from a distribution standpoint, spreading the signal across the room is not the most efficient approach given you sacrifice some reliability and speed in the process.
Wi-Fi 6 gets around this problem by using beamforming. This is the transmission of signals to a client device directly instead of doing it over a wide spectrum. Beamforming improves the quality of the connection substantially.
So, is it a good idea for you to upgrade your equipment now? Yes, you should if your router is three years or older. Laptops that are Wi-Fi 6-ready are increasingly common in the market across the price spectrum. The same applies to smartphones and tablets. Still, you don’t have to upgrade both the router and devices at the same time.
You could for instance, start off with getting a Wi-Fi 6 router then upgrade your gadgets one by one. This does not just spread the cost but also helps you see whether the shift is worth it. A Wi-Fi 6 router will work with Wi-Fi 5 gadgets except that the devices will have their throughput constrained to the Wi-Fi 5 standard.
If you are contemplating moving to Wi-Fi 6, reach out to us.