Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 is a wireless data transfer standard whose development began back in 2017. At CES in 2018, the first devices with its support were presented, in which the peak data download speed reached the value of 11 Gbit/s. The final specification of this generation of WiFi IEEE 802.11ax is approved in September 2020. Its key features: radio signal frequencies between 1 and 7 GHz (theoretical), support for MU-MIMO is enabled by default.

Differences from WiFi 5 (802.11ac) and WiFi 4 (802.11n)

The main differences between WiFi 6 and previous generations of the wireless data standard:
  • OFDMA frequency spectrum sharing (reduces noise, prevents conflicts when transmitting to multiple devices at once, helps reduce ping rate);
  • MU-MIMO works by default, channel distribution is better optimized (prevents device conflicts);
  • Digital trigger-based packet data access (makes it impossible for third-party devices to capture data);
  • Dynamic RF power variation (improves power efficiency);
  • Double NAV support (reduces response delay, protects against data hijacking);
  • TWT support (reduces wake-up time and response speed, also reduces power consumption).
The advertised maximum speed of the WiFi hotspot is 9.6Gbps (WiFi 5 is 6.7Gbps). In theory, this can be increased by increasing the number of antennas simultaneously involved in data transfer. The download speed for receiving devices is up to 1148 Mbps at 2.4 GHz and 4508 Mbps at 5GHz.

Where to use

The main problem one wants to solve with 802.11ax is reducing the radio air density when deploying WiFi in common frequency bands (2.4 and 5 GHz). Tests show that just because of the intersection of radio channels in a typical apartment building ping value increases by 20 - 35%, and access speed is reduced by 20 - 40%. The problem is particularly acute for 4th generation WiFi, where the entire bandwidth is divided into only 16 independent frequency channels.

And the U.S. Federal Commission (FCC) is already planning to allocate a frequency range of 6 GHz for WiFi needs. The higher the frequency - the greater the theoretical data transfer rate. Analysts say it will enable streaming ultra-HD augmented reality video.

How to find out if your device supports WiFi 6

On a Windows 10 PC, check for WiFi 6:
  • Locate to Network and Internet under Settings
  • open WiFi tab
  • select Hardware properties.
In MacOS the same data is mentioned in "Settings", under "Network" (you have to select the 802.X adapter to view the properties).

In Android devices you can find out if the device supports 802.11ax either by checking the technical specification mentioned on the package or with AIDA64 software.

Apple devices support WiFi 6 since iPhone 11.

In summary, what is Wi-Fi 6? It is one of the most advanced wireless data standards for 2021 - 2024. Not only does it provide access speeds of up to nearly 10Gbps, but it also makes it completely impossible to intercept packets. And the cost of an IEEE 802.11ax enabled router is almost the same as for IEEE 802.11ac.
Petr Sholokhov
Petr Sholokhov

Full-time website author. Expert in network infrastructure, security and system administration, 25 years of experience.

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