Wi-Fi 6 is coming to a router near you


Just when we were all getting used to the IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi nomenclature that differentiates between generations of the technology, the industry’s Wi-Fi Alliance has gone and made it simpler and more digestible for the user on the street.

As a result, starting this month what we know as 802.11ax is officially called Wi-Fi 6.

The new, vastly simplified system also means that 802.11ac is now Wi-Fi 5, and 802.11n is Wi-Fi 4. The idea, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance, is to make matching endpoint and router capabilities a simpler matter for the rank-and-file user of Wi-Fi technology.

Think of it as the unlicensed equivalent to the various Gs – 3G, 4G, 5G – that the cellular data carriers have rolled out over the years – broad descriptors of the generation of connectivity tech that it’s in place on a given device, not specific technical specifications.

What is Wi-Fi 6 good for?

The basic technology behind Wi-Fi 6, which is still known as 802.11ax on the technical side, promises major advances beyond just higher data rates, including better performance in dense radio environments and higher power efficiency.

Wi-Fi 6 is also seen as a possible communications method for internet-of-things (IoT) devices that have low power capabilities and limited battery life. Thanks to a feature called target wake time, Wi-Fi 6 IoT devices can shut down their Wi-Fi connections most of the time and connect only briefly as scheduled in order to transmit data they’ve gathered since the last time, thus extending battery life.

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