The next generation of the Wi-Fi standard is Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, the latest step in a journey of nonstop innovation. The standard builds on the strengths of 802.11ac while adding efficiency, flexibility, and scalability that allows new and existing networks increased speed and capacity with next-generation applications.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) proposed the Wi-Fi 6 standard so it can couple the freedom and high speed of Gigabit Ethernet wireless with the reliability and predictability found in licensed radio.
Key benefits of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 technology include:
- Higher data rates
- Increased capacity
- Performance in environments with many connected devices
- Improved power efficiency
Is Wi-Fi 6 different from 802.11ax?
No, they are the same. The Wi-Fi Alliance started a campaign to coin the term “Wi-Fi 6” when referring to the IEEE 802.11ax standard. It indicates that it is the sixth generation of Wi-Fi. The premise was to simplify the marketing message to help 802.11ax be better positioned relative to the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards used in cellular (such as 5G).
When will Wi-Fi 6 be ratified?
The IEEE-Standards Association is currently scheduled to ratify the final IEEE Wi-Fi 6 amendment in the middle of 2020. However, the Wi-Fi Alliance is expected to certify key features from the amendment in about August 2019, with additional features (including operation in the 6GHz band) certified over the next couple of years.
Wi-Fi 6 access points
There are some Wi-Fi 6 access points already on the market, targeted for early adopters and customers who are eager to test the new standard. The access points that are released early will be pre-standard APs because the standard will not yet have been ratified. This means key features that are part of Wi-Fi 6 may not be supported on some of these initial, pre-standard access points. However, when available, some of these access points will be able to become certified through software updates and Wi-Fi 6 features will be supported. This approach is similar to the introduction of prior generations such 802.11ac and 802.11n. Ready to power next-gen wireless apps?
Wi-Fi 6 technology dimensions
- Denser modulation using 1024 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM), enabling a more than 35 percent speed burst.
- Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA)-based scheduling to reduce overhead and latency.
- Robust high-efficiency signaling for better operation at a significantly lower Received Signal Strength Indication (RSSI).
- Better scheduling and longer device battery life with Target Wake Time (TWT)
Will Wi-Fi 6 be compatible with 802.11ac?
As with every other recent Wi-Fi advance, Wi-Fi 6 will be backward compatible, building on existing technologies and making them more efficient.
Wi-Fi 6E extends Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 into 6 GHz
Wi-Fi operation in the 6 GHz frequency band enables Wi-Fi to continue delivering positive experiences for the most bandwidth intensive applications. Wi-Fi 6E certification as part of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 will offer the features and capabilities of Wi-Fi 6, extended to the 6 GHz band. The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made available all 1200 MHz of the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use, and Wi-Fi users will soon benefit from the quick action from Wi-Fi Alliance members to provide worldwide interoperability certification in early 2021.
Wi-Fi 6E can utilize up to 14 additional 80 MHz channels or 7 additional super-wide 160 MHz channels in 6 GHz for applications such as high-definition video streaming and virtual reality. Wi-Fi 6E devices leverage these wider channels and additional capacity to deliver greater network performance and support more Wi-Fi users at once, even in very dense and congested environments. Wi-Fi 6E will bring greater technology advancements in Wi-Fi that will introduce new use cases and accelerate the next generation connectivity with 5G networks.
Innovation and performance in challenging environments
The ubiquity of Wi-Fi and its ability to complement other wireless technologies helps bring the promise of connecting everyone and everything, everywhere, closer to reality. Wi-Fi popularity has also created very diverse and densely populated Wi-Fi conditions, requiring technological advances to meet the needs of users. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 delivers improvements and new features that enable Wi-Fi devices to operate efficiently in the most dense and dynamic connectivity settings.
- Orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) effectively shares channels to increase network efficiency and lower latency for both uplink and downlink traffic in high demand environments
- Multi-user multiple input, multiple output (multi-user MIMO) allows more downlink data to be transferred at one time, enabling access points (APs) to concurrently handle more devices
- 160 MHz channel utilization capability increases bandwidth to deliver greater performance with low latency
- Target wake time (TWT) significantly improves network efficiency and device battery life, including IoT devices
- 1024 quadrature amplitude modulation mode (1024-QAM) increases throughput for emerging, bandwidth intensive uses by encoding more data in the same amount of spectrum
- Transmit beamforming enables higher data rates at a given range to increase network capacity
Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 devices bring enhanced performance to emerging applications such as virtual and augmented reality used in e-Learning, telepresence, and healthcare. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 also provides carriers and public Wi-Fi operators with more capabilities to support advanced connectivity in retail, stadiums, and transportation hubs, including a growing array of location-based applications and services.