Get ready for the next generation of wifi technology: Wi-fi 6 (for so it is named) is going to be appearing on devices from next year. But will you have to throw out your old router and get a new one? And is this going to make your Netflix run faster? Here’s everything you need to know about the new standard.
A brief history of wifi
Those of you of a certain age will remember when home internet access was very much wired—only one computer could get online, a single MP3 took half an hour to download, and you couldn’t use the landline phone at the same time.
Explaining wifi technology can get quite technical. A lot of recent improvements, including those arriving with Wi-Fi 6, involve some clever engineering to squeeze more bandwidth out of the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz your router already employs. The end result is more capacity on the same channels, with less interference between them, as well as faster data transfer speeds.
Turning wifi up to six
One of the most important changes Wi-Fi 6 brings with it is, of course, the new naming system: Using a simple succession of numbers is going to make it a lot easier for consumers to keep track of standards and make sure they’ve got compatible kit set up. The more technical term for Wi-Fi 6 is 802.11ax, if you prefer the old naming.
Even if you have no problems with download and upload speeds right now, Wi-Fi 6 is intended to fix some of the pain points that still exist: Trying to get decent wifi in a crowded space, for example, or trying to connect 20 different devices to the same home router without the wireless performance falling off a cliff.
If you think about the number of smart speakers and smart lights and streaming dongles set up in the modern-day home, anything that adds more capacity to the network is going to help. And of course, those faster data transfer speeds don’t hurt either.