What Is Wi-Fi 6?

Javed Ali Javed Ali
What Is Wi-Fi 6?

The invention of wireless data transfer has done marvels for electronic equipment. Users can connect all their devices to the internet through WiFi. It means you can be connected to the world without being wired to the wall. Wi-Fi improved the ease of access to the world wide web but was slow compared with wired connections. Engineers have been working to improve the performance of Wi-Fi over the years, and we are at the 7th iteration of WiFi design, but what is WiFi 6? WiFi was standardized in the late 1990s. The WiFi versions start from IEEE 802.11 and later moved to 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g, 802.11n, and 802.11ac. We are now at the 802.11ax version of WiFi. 

Currently fastest commercially available WiFi design is the WiFi-6 or 802.11ax. There are mainly two versions of WiFi-6. The differentiation depends on the frequency at which they operate. WiFi-6 is based on 2.4GHz, and 5GHz frequencies, whereas the WiFi-6E introduced in 2020 works at a 6GHz frequency. Devices have not widely adopted WiFi-6E, but almost all devices support the 2.4/5 GHz band. The intent behind improving WiFi is to improve throughput. Cellular technology has been incorporated into WiFi, improving its successful message delivery. High-density areas such as malls and offices require high throughput as density affects speed. It leads engineers and scientists to improve technology.

Networking Protocols Char

Generation/IEEE Standard Frequency Maximum Linkrate Year
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) 2.4/5 GHz 600–9608 Mbit/s 2019
Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) 5 GHz 433–6933 Mbit/s 2014
Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n) 2.4/5 GHz 72–600 Mbit/s 2009

The rules that define how devices communicate with each other are called protocols. In WiFi technology, networking protocols apply to the sending and receiving devices. It would help if you had a WiFi-6 capable network adapter in a desktop or laptop computer to understand the WiFi-6 capable router sending the signals. The way the rules are assigned for devices depends on technological development. IEEE 802.11 WLAN protocol has WLAN types, components, frame types, client association, modulation, measuring of RF signal strength, encryption schemes, client authentication, RF signal interference, quality of service, and antenna types defined under the standard. IEEE has so far approved networking protocols, as seen in the chart.

How Is Wi-Fi 6 Different?

802.11 protocol was introduced in 1997, and each iteration of this technology worked on three basic performance improvements: modulation scheme, spatial streams, and channel bonding. The amplitude modulation scheme works by changing the three fundamental features of a wave, its amplitude, frequency, and phase. By changing these properties of the wave, different data can be transmitted. Sixteen (16-QAM) unique waves could be sent by the 802.11n technology. Now, WiFi-6 can send as many as 1024-QAM, increasing the information sending capability of the wave. As the differentiation between waves becomes tighter, the receiver must have enough sensitivity to detect and demodulate the incoming wave. That is why you need a WiFi-6 receiver to reap the fruits of the new technology.

The second improvement is the spatial streams mean improving the number of communication channels from the router to the user device. Users could achieve it by increasing the number of antennas, but most end-user devices have a maximum of one or two antennas. We need a router with more antennas to gain the benefit. WiFi-6 has MU-MIMO for this purpose. The third improvement that users can make in WiFi technology is channel bonding. The 5GHz band consists of 25 channels with 20MHz subdivisions sent non-overlapping. If your neighbor’s WiFi router sends data on a similar track, the interference will cause data loss. WiFi-6 creates a unique channel by bonding channels but changing the frequency. You can have 80MHz subdivisions at six channels.

If you are wondering, WiFi-6 is an improvement in all three areas by providing 1024-QAM, 8x8 spatial stream, and 80MHz and 160MHz channel bonding. However, WiFi-6 adds a new revision that supersedes all the previous WiFi standards. It provides air time efficiency through OFDMA. We will explain how OFDMA works later. The use of WiFi has drastically increased over the years. The number of smartphones, laptops, TVs, smart home appliances, and electrical circuits are all connected to the internet via a wireless connection. The burden on routers and the need for internet that runs in densely populated spaces like offices, coffee shops, and more have increased. WiFi-6 provides unique protocols through which simultaneous communication between router and receiver can be made without compromising on speed. WiFi-6 does not entirely change how we communicate but has some additional features that improve the overall performance.

Faster Speeds

With the rise of streaming platforms such as YouTube, Twitch, Discord, and Vimeo, the need for faster connection has risen, and people are curious about it. High-definition is the new normal and requires at least a data transfer speed of 5Mbps. For a streamer to have an excellent high-resolution video streamed smoothly, there needs to be a steady bandwidth supply. Wi-Fi 5 could only provide a maximum throughput of 3.5 Gbps, making streaming HD impossible. The WiFi-6 version also improves the power consumption of the adapter. WiFi-6 improves the overall speed of communication. 

What Makes Wi-Fi 6 Faster?

The most significant leap in WiFi-6 innovation is the OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) and MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple-Output).

Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing

The dense number of users within small areas like stadiums, cafes, offices, or airports causes older Wi-Fi generations to slow down significantly, leading to an overloaded router. The increasing number of users causes the throughput to decrease, and latency increases drastically. To solve this problem, WiFi-6 has a unique feature called OFDMA. As the number of users increases, throughput remains consistent while the latency becomes flat when more access point users increase. To understand how it makes WiFi-6 faster, we need to know how it works.


If we operate at 5GHz, we have 25 channels of 20MHz. Each channel allows 2300 bytes per frame. We are restricted to one transmission in one direction at a time per channel. In WiFi-5 or earlier technologies, the router used only 350 bytes of space, and the rest was wasted. But then again, what is WiFi 6, and what difference would it make in this scenario? What WiFi-6 does is that it distributes each frame into multiple subchannels so that the wasted space is filled with data. The data is sent to multiple devices simultaneously, both uplink and downlink. WiFi-6 also has BSS coloring, ideal for confined spaces with many access points. If simultaneously two access points (AP) are dealing with a client in the same channel frequency, it will cause the AP to change color (channel).

Network Benefits Beyond Speed


WPA stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access, and you might have come across this term at some point while connected to the router via your smartphone. WPA ensures that every user connecting to the AP enters a password for the handshake among devices. Most users keep easy passwords, which can crack a brute force attack using Aircrack Suite. Cryptographic protocols which a hacker can crack through offline analysis have been eliminated in WPA3. To achieve a successful connection with a WPA3 client will need to continuously interact with the infrastructure of the access point (AP) or router for each guessed password by the brute force attack algorithm. Due to the continuous requirement of communication, the infrastructure of the router can place a temporal limit on the number of attempts.

WPA3 significantly improves the security of the network in WiFi-6 (802.11ax). Older access protocols required a password to enter the network. Once you have entered the network attacker can decrypt all the encrypted data being sent over the web. WPA3 addresses the issue and eliminates the threat of having data interpreted. Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) push buttons physically present on the router help connect to the nearby devices when the password is unknown. WPA3 provides sufficient alternate ways through which clients can control the network provisions through a simple and easy user interface (UI).

Battery Life and TWT

WiFi adapters have been the culprit in battery draining in smartphones or laptops. There was room for improvement in which WiFi-6 pushed its capabilities. Target Wake Time (TWT), as the name suggests, only powers the low-power sleeping devices to awake stake when required. Typically the WiFi while not being used. Users can establish communication scheduling between the client and router per the network administrator’s demand. You won’t be able to see the difference in a busy network or devices with many background applications running. Overall it will positively impact the environment due to the decrease in power consumption.

What Is Wi-Fi 6E?

The federal communication commission (FCC) allowed the use of the 6GHz band in commercial devices in 2020. It gave IEEE time to evaluate and standardize the 6GHz band under the title WiFi 6E. The WiFi-6 only has 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, whereas WiFi-6E gives an additional frequency band for data transfer. It opens up massive opportunities for improvement in wireless data transfer. WiFi-6E is also called a tri-band network. WiFi-5 with 5GHz has 25 channels to operate within, out of which some frequency ranges are dedicated to radars. Routers are designed not to use those frequencies for communication, especially when a radar signal is nearby. If you live near an airport or a military base, your WiFi will not work in those frequency ranges, affecting the internet’s speed.

You only end up with nine of the 20MHz, four 40MHz, and two 80MHz frequency channels the router allows by default in North America. WiFi-6E has a frequency band from 5925MHz to 7125MHz leading to 59 20MHz channels, 29 40MHz channels, 14 80MHz channels, and seven 160MHz channels. The wide range of media leads to better data transmission in densely packed areas, and the least interference is observed. Compared to the WiFi-6, the 160MHz band has five more channels to work efficiently.

What Do I Need to Do Wi-Fi 6 Work?

For a WiFi-6 to work on your computer, you need to ensure that the adapter in your device supports WiFi-6. Modern motherboards come with WiFi chipsets. While building your new PC, be sure your motherboard has a WiFi-6/6E capable chipset. AMD and Intel processors support the WiFi-6 devices. Snapdragon, MediaTek, and Apple have introduced WiFi-6 support in their processors. Users cannot upgrade older smartphone devices from WiFi-5 to WiFi-6. However, laptops have WiFi adapters that users can replace with a newer WiFi-6 capable adapter to start receiving and transmitting data. Major router manufacturers have rapidly adopted the new WiFi-6 with the capability of firmware updates.

Does your router support Wi-Fi 6?

An easier way is to check the product code on the back of your router and search for it on the manufacturer’s website. Check the specs to see if the router supports an 802.11ax connection or mentions WiFi-6. The second way to connect to the router will be easier to understand. Open the browser and type Type in the username and password written on the back of your router. Search for the wireless option to see whether your router supports 802.11ax or WiFi-6.

Do your devices support Wi-Fi 6?

Look for your device name, search for it over the internet and open the brand’s official website. Look for detailed specifications of the product in the WLAN, Network, or Connectivity section; if it mentions 802.11ax, your device supports WiFi-6. However, if your devices do not support 7th gen WiFi, your router will still communicate with your device as they are backward compatible. You will not be able to access the true potential of the router during backward compatibility mode.

Does your PC support Wi-Fi 6?

PC usually has a wireless adapter to check whether it supports the latest connectivity. First, right-click on the Windows button and press device manager. Look for the network adapters section. Press it to open up the branches. You will find the wireless adapter name in the list of products. Now, right-click on the Windows button and press Windows Powershell. Type the below-written command “Netsh WLAN show drivers.” If you can see radio types supported, look for 802.11ax. If it is present, your PC supports the WiFi-6 technology. If it shows “There is no wireless interface on the system, “you do not have a wireless adapter.

Is it Time to Upgrade Your Wi-Fi?

WiFI 6 has advantages in terms of speed and applicability. As long as you do not have devices that support 802.11ax, spending money on an expensive 6E-capable router would not be wise unless you are planning on buying devices in the future. Have you found your answer to what is WiFi 6? Currently, the 6E routers are costly. Devices must be fully compatible to extract a router’s potential. As a business owner or manager who intends to improve employees' productivity, it’s highly recommended to go for the latest routers. It will eliminate the reduction in speed and hiccups caused by high-density client and router setup. A wise homeowner should also consider upgrading their router as MU-MIMO and OFDMA make the latest generation of wireless network efficient.

You might also be intrested in