Year 2019 in a nutshell? The Chinese space probe Chang’e 4 lands on the invisible side of the Moon, Donald Trump is the first American president to cross the border between North and South Korea, and Wi-Fi 6 Certification process is becoming one of the hottest topics in tech industry. Manufacturers of electronic devices are already outdoing themselves in promoting solutions that will work smoothly with the latest network standard. Amidst the wild rush, however, it is good to slow down for a bit and pay close attention to the markings placed on the devices…
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for some manufacturers to advertise their products as: “11ax compatible” or “Wi-Fi 6 compliant”, suggesting that they are consistent with the Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) standard. And, unfortunately, it usually ends only with a suggestion, because such information can actually mislead users. Devices of this type often do not have the full functionality offered by the 802.11ax standard. Therefore, before making a choice, it is important to have a good insight on what’s the difference between products marked as 802.11ax compliant and those which are certified. In this case, the “label” actually matters…
A quick look into the future
To many people, it may seem that the introduction of the 5G networks is the beginning of the end of technologies such as Wi-Fi. However, if we analyse the facts, it turns out that the future is completely different. It is expected that by 2024 users will already use about 1.5 billion devices equipped with a module that allows a connection to the 5G network. There are around 4.7 billion phones in the world today. This means that even a few years after the introduction of the new communication technology, it will not constitute the majority of the market.
It is also worth noting that currently around 9 billion Wi-Fi devices are in use globally, and it is estimated that another 3 billion will arrive with each new year. Putting two and two together, one can clearly see that Wi-Fi technology will not lose its popularity in the foreseeable future. This standard is commonly used in company networks, homes and hotels. It is also very often used for the joint communication of devices connected to home automation systems of the smart home, numerous IoT devices, smartphones, portable and desktop computers and many, many others. To put it simply, Wi-Fi is doing well and there are no signs that would suggest otherwise.
So why choose devices with Wi-Fi 6? Because it opens up completely new possibilities for users! The 802.11ax standard was developed to create a situation where the whole technology will enter a completely new level – not only to be highly functional, but also extremely comfortable in everyday use.
Benefit #1: Performance
The main purpose of introducing Wi-Fi 6 is to increase performance and reliability in wireless communication. The point is for every device connected to the network to be able to achieve the highest bandwidth – regardless of whether it is a laptop, a game console or an intelligent LED bulb.
Benefit #2: Energy saving
Wi-Fi 6 is also supposed to be more energy efficient. This means that connecting to the network will consume less electricity, while mobile devices will continue to operate on one battery for a longer period. This will also make it easier to incorporate this technology into smaller devices.
Benefit #3: Optimization
Wi-Fi 6 allows a large number of devices to operate on the same channel simultaneously, shortening waiting times and granting better network performance. Compared to previous versions of the technology, we can reach up to four times higher data bandwidth. According to Edgar Figueroa, after all of the improvements are in place, the optimal bandwidth will be 9 to 10 gigabits per second. The President and CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance also claims that devices connected to Wi-Fi 6 will be able to use decent-quality communication even at the edge of the range. All thanks to the computational intelligence of the network, which will “know” that a stronger signal should be sent to the receiver with weaker signal.
Benefit #4: Security
The 802.11ax standard optimizes both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz operations. Using MU-MIMO and OFDMA technologies, Wi-Fi 6 creates numerous outputs and inputs for many users simultaneously, while the new prerequisite WPA3 ensures greater security. And what about devices equipped with the older Wi-Fi standard? Do not worry about their compatibility with the new technology! Each subsequent generation of the Wi-Fi standard is backward compatible. Regardless of the generation of the Wi-Fi module used in the device, it will be able to connect to the new generation router. This also applies to the Wi-Fi 6 standard! For example, a router which uses 802.11ax standard will properly handle a smartphone with a Wi-Fi 4 module.
How to recognize Wi-Fi 6 certified devices?
There are many benefits of using devices with Wi-Fi 6 certification. But how to properly identify the ones that actually have such certificate? You should carefully analyse the specifications and look for the unique expression: “certified Wi-Fi 6”. If you spot alternative expressions, such as “compatible” or “compliant”, consider it a big, flashy warning sign. Such endorsements can only suggest that the device has been equipped with Wi-Fi 6 technology, while the reality looks quite different. Such products probably operate fairly well with Wi-Fi 6 networks, but the user will not be able to take full advantage of the functionality of this new technology. If you have trouble finding information, seek advice from the seller, distributor or manufacturer.
When will the new standard be launched?
The IEEE organization expects the Wi-Fi 6 standard to be approved in the second half of 2019. At the same time the certification is also supposed to be carried out by the Wi-Fi Alliance. Many people believe that the launch will come as a Christmas gift, so it is probably better to take things slow and wait until fully certified devices appear on the market!