While 5G is the talk of the town, WiFi still has a place in the world, and there’s a new version of it you should know about.
The Wi-Fi Alliance announced Monday that it would start offering WiFi 6 certifications to device manufacturers. That means the non-profit group will make sure WiFi 6 devices are all up to the same technical standards, and if they are, there will be a badge on the packaging to let you know.
That’s all well and good, but what does that actually mean? Luckily, we’re here to explain everything to you.
What’s so great about WiFi 6?
WiFi 6 is a new version of the same WiFi you’ve been using for more than a decade, but faster and more efficient. Just as mobile internet jumped from 3G to 4G, and is upgrading to 5G this year, WiFi technology has gradually improved over the years.
Since we constantly ask for more from our internet, such as streaming 4K movies and even entire video games, it only makes sense that our WiFi should get better.
The main thing you need to know is that it provides much, much faster speeds than the WiFi we all use right now. According to CNET’s testing, it can outpace the average download speed in the United States by around 1,000 percent.
Yeah, that’s fast. One of the other selling points, per the Wi-Fi Alliance, is that WiFi 6 can perform better in crowded environments where a lot of devices are connected to a single network. Internet speeds in sports stadiums or other packed venues could be significantly better with WiFi 6.
Sounds great! Does that mean my devices will all be faster now?
Right now, not really. We’re still in the early stages of WiFi 6 deployment, and devices need to be built with the standard in mind to take advantage of it.
To be clear, that is absolutely happening. Companies like Netgear have already produced a handful of WiFi 6-compatible routers, while the Samsung Galaxy S10 and iPhone 11 both support the standard, too. That said, these devices are all held back by ISPs in the U.S.
It’s great that WiFi 6 can achieve download speeds of well above 1,000 Mbps, but most home networks can’t support that right now. If you buy a WiFi 6-compatible device but your home internet package only goes up to 200 Mbps, it’s a little bit like using a 5G phone in a 4G network. It’ll work and you’ll be fine, but it won’t feel any different from what you’re used to.
Even if WiFi 6 doesn’t work for most people or devices in 2019, it’s important that standards are set now to make sure it works well once the infrastructure is in place. It could be a few years before you start seeing tangible effects from the WiFi 6 rollout, but rest assured that it’s happening.