There’s been plenty of talk of how 5G is going to revolutionise the smartphone industry, and by extension the entire world, but that doesn’t mean that Wi-Fi and broadband are going anywhere. In fact, they're making some significant steps themselves, as we approach the newest grade of broadband — Wi-Fi 6.
The Wi-Fi Alliance recently announced that it would start offering Wi-Fi 6 certifications to device manufacturers, meaning that all new technology that accesses the internet is now capable of being certified if it reaches its exacting standards.
It means that from now on, almost all newly-released devices that access the internet, from laptops to your smart TVs to that shiny new iPhone 11 you've got your eye on, will be able to connect to a stronger, faster, safer Wi-Fi connection.
But what exactly is Wi-Fi 6 and why is it so great?
Wi-Fi 6 is, quite simply, the 6th generation of 802.11 standard for wireless networking, commonly known as Wi-Fi. If you’re looking at the technical specifications you may see Wi-Fi 6 written as 802.11ax, as opposed to 802.11ac, which is the fancy technical name for Wi-Fi 5.
Wi-Fi 6 is more in line with the constantly-increasing demands of modern internet users. When previous generations of Wi-Fi technology were introduced, streaming high-quality content like 4K movies and entire video games were rare, whereas now they’re an everyday occurrence.
Basically, Wi-Fi 6 will provide much faster speeds than current Wi-Fi technology, reaching top speeds of 1,320Mbps in tests performed by CNET, 40% faster than typical Wi-Fi 5 speeds.
It’s also much more capable of handling multiple devices at once — an improvement which people are sure to enjoy when using public Wi-Fi in crowded locations such as sports stadiums, entertainment venues and airports where hundreds of individual devices might all be connected to a single Wi-Fi router.
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Wi-Fi 6 doesn’t automatically guarantee faster internet speeds — you’ll first need to get a device capable of supporting Wi-Fi 6. At the moment those devices are few and far between but they do include the new Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and, of course, the iPhone 11.
However, in addition to purchasing a Wi-Fi 6 certified hub and a Wi-Fi 6-supporting device, you’ll also need to have a broadband connection that’s capable of delivering those blindingly fast speeds you’re hoping for. Much like having a 5G device running on a 4G network, you won’t see any benefit of Wi-Fi 6 without a full-fibre broadband connection. Those 1000Mbps speeds won’t suddenly appear if your broadband package tops out at 66Mbps.
At the moment, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are both new and exciting, but they aren’t really making a big impact on our daily lives just yet. Be prepared, though — the future is most assuredly going to include both 5G and Wi-Fi 6, we just might not all get to experience it in 2019.