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Wifi 6: The next generation of wifi explained

The next generation of wifi is here and it's got a shiny, easy to pronounce name too! Wifi 6 brings the promise of faster home wifi networks, but speed isn't everything. Busy networks will get a boost from this update, with some clever, under-the-hood improvements to the ways data is transmitted between your computers, devices and router.

What is wifi 6?

Wifi 6, also called 802.11ax, is the latest version of the wireless technology which enables computers to transmit data using radio signals. We know it simply as wifi.

Wifi 6 is the most recent in a series of enhancements to the wireless standard stretching back to 1997 - each revision improving the speed, performance and security of the previous generation.

This update to the wireless standard will support even faster wifi speeds and the ability to handle multiple simultaneous connections more efficiently. It will also draw less power from your wifi devices, so your phone, laptop and tablet will last a bit longer between charges.

Wifi 6 is compatible with WiFi 5 (802.11ac), so when you buy a new wifi 6 certified router you can be confident it will work with your existing wifi devices.

How fast is wifi 6?

Each new version of wifi has promised faster speeds over the previous generation. Industry commentators say wifi 6 is 25% faster than wifi 5 with maximum data speeds ranging up to 10 Gbps. 

These figures sound impressive, but it's important to remember these are theoretical maximums. The actual speed you'll get from your home wifi network will depend on a number of factors like the number of people using your wifi, how far you are from your wifi router and how old your device or router is.

When will wifi 6 arrive?

Wifi 6 is already here. The technical specification has been in the works since 2014 and was approved in 2018. Now that the rules for wifi 6 are agreed, the way is clear for manufacturers to build the next generation of wifi access points, routers and devices.

And build they have! wifi 6 routers are available at a retailer near you. We recommend you compare the specifications (memory, processor power, number of antennas) of different models and purchase the best router you can afford.

Like any new technology, expect to pay a bit more for a wifi 6 router than a wifi 5 model. If you have a lot of wifi devices or are looking to future-proof your home network, then an upgrade to a wifi 6 router might be a good investment to make now.

Wifi 6 certified devices like phones, tablets and laptops aren't common right now, but expect more to become available now soon. Apple and Samsung have already launched flagship products which support the new wireless technology. The iPhone 11 and Galaxy S10 both feature wifi 6.

Your new iPhone 11 won't be able to take advantage of all the wifi 6 has to offer unless your router also supports the new technology, so consider upgrading your router first.

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