Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is appearing on more and more products. We invite you to come back to the interest and the operation of this Wi-Fi new generation and discover our advice and recommendations to take advantage now.
Wi-Fi is about to become faster. This is good news: Very High-Speed Internet is developing strongly with fiber optics, 4G and soon 5G. We also consume more bandwidth-intensive apps, games, and videos with our PCs, iPads, and smartphones.
This new generation of Wi-Fi, named simply Wi-Fi 6, will not just bring a bit more bitrate. Its impact is more nuanced.
What does Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) bring?
If you want a short but incomplete answer: a bitrate of 9.6 Gbps, against 3.5 Gbps for Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac).
In reality, these flows are theoretical, and you probably will never reach them. These 9.6 Gbps do not have to go on a single device, they can be spread across a network of devices.
We have more and more devices that use Wi-Fi. Around me I already have 4 (two smartphones, a tablet, and a laptop), and these are just my own devices. Multiply that number by the number of people around me on the Wi-Fi router that what we use: we get at least 40 devices connected.
Wi-Fi 6 is there, and it has a solution. It introduces new technologies to alleviate the problems of installing a large number of Wi-Fi devices on a single network. It allows routers to simultaneously communicate with more devices, send data to multiple devices in the same wave, and Wi-Fi devices communicate intelligently with the router. Together, these features should help maintain strong, more stable connections with less latency and better throughput.
There are two key technologies that allow Wi-Fi 6 to offer these new capabilities: MU-MIMO and OFDMA. The MU-MIMO, “Multi-user, Multiple Inputs, Multiple Outputs,” allows a router to communicate with multiple devices at the same time, rather than streaming to one device and moving to the next. Wi-Fi 6 allows routers to communicate with up to eight other devices. The other new technology, OFDMA, which stands for “orthogonal frequency division multiple access,” allows one transmission to transmit data to multiple devices at once. More concretely, this makes it possible to take advantage of each data shipment, such as a truck that delivers several customers at the same time. It is a technology already used in 4G.
Finally, compatible devices are a little smarter: they can plan their connection. This allows them to consume less battery, devices Wi-FI 6 are more energy efficient. This is the function called Target Wake Time (TWT).
How to switch to Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)?
Bad news, you will have to change your equipment. Not only your smartphone or your laptop but also your router. Like all new generations of technologies, deployment is expensive.
Which routers compatible Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)?
There are few routers compatible with Wi-Fi 6. There is even far less at the ISPs.
Netgear Nighthawk AX4, AX8 and AX12
Netgear already has a full line of Wi-Fi 6 compliant routers and stamped Nighthawk AX. The first prize is still around 200 euros on Amazon, a 4-stream router that supports speeds of up to 3 Gb / s (600 Mb / s) thanks to the bands 2.4 GHz and 2400 Mb / s and band 5 GHz).
As their names indicate, the AX8 is an 8-stream router ( 280 euros ) and the AX12 … a 12-stream router ( 360 euros ). Only the AX12 supports the WPA3 protocol, thanks among other things to the SoC ARM Qualcomm IPQ8074. Another feature we appreciate about the RAX12 is the multi-gigabit port. This is a special hardware port that supports multiple speeds: 1 Gb / s, 2.5 Gb / s, and 5 Gb / s. Finally if you choose the AX12 is really to have a greater range than other two routers and in an environment where there are many devices to connect.
If you hesitate between the AX4 and AX8, we recommend the AX8 because it offers the MU-MIMO dual stream.
There is also a Wi-Fi 6 Wi-Fi Mesh Repeater model at Netgear, but only available for pre-order at the moment.
Asus offers two models of Wi-Fi routers 6: the RT-AX88U, for example, is notable for its futuristic design and gilded finishes. Sold at around 430 euros, it’s a double band that offers speeds up to 6 Gb / s with (obviously) MU-MIMO and OFDMA technologies. Unfortunately, no WPA3 protocol for security. The same thing for the huge ROG Rapture GT-AX11000, its design is impressive.
TP-Link also has two compatible routers: Archer AX6000 and AX11000. But these are unavailable models in France.
On the smartphone side, there is little choice. You may have a compatible smartphone since the Galaxy S10 offers Wi-Fi 6. Samsung was the first to offer Wi-Fi 6 on the entire S10 range.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 supports Wi-Fi 6, so equipped smartphones are theoretically compatible. Unfortunately, it is up to manufacturers to implement this technology and to plan the design of smartphones to integrate the necessary antennas. It is a shame to pay a smartphone over 1000 euros that will not be able to support the new generation of Wi-Fi.
Intel has marketed and introduced its Wi-Fi 6 AX200, it is a network controller for laptops. Many laptops announced at Computex 2019 are compatible Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), they also include an Intel 8th generation Core chip. It should be noted, however, that most compatible notebook models will only arrive in late 2019 – early 2020.
As you can see, the start of Wi-Fi 6 is slow: it is found on more and more routers, but on very few gadgets. Most likely, the transition to Wi-Fi 6 will not start for good until 2020. Qualcomm could bring the technology to cheaper ARM chips by then; hopefully, support for Wi-Fi 6 could extend to the iPhone alongside the launch of the 5G. It will also rely on boxes provided by ISPs, but also on more accessible routers.