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Boosting Connectivity: The Advantages of Wi-Fi 6 Technology

Is it time to upgrade your wireless infrastructure? Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E were introduced in 2019 and were quickly embraced by the tech community. Wi-Fi 7 followed closely behind in January of 2024. 

These new technologies offer a truly next-gen feel to their performance. The new iterations are far faster, support greater density of devices and ensure better battery life, all while delivering high-quality video and cloud computing capabilities. Even better, the rebooting of the Wi-Fi router when it freezes is a thing of the past. 

New Innovations and Naming Conventions

Back in 2019, the Wi-Fi Alliance, which certifies Wi-Fi devices, changed its naming conventions to debut Wi-Fi 6. Previously that standard was known as IEEE 802.11ax. That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? That’s because Wi-Fi technology started with an arcane naming system. For example, the first iteration released in 1999 was 802.11. This is now known as Wi-Fi 1.

This new naming system has been well-received by the greater tech community. That’s because delving into Wi-Fi technology is like attempting to summit Mount Acronym. Let’s decipher one of these acronyms first: Wi-Fi standards and IEEE.

Wi-Fi is a wireless local area network (WLAN) technology that enables digital devices within a certain area to communicate via radio waves. What made the Wi-Fi revolution possible in the first place was the IEEE 802.11 standards family. Wi-Fi standards are created and maintained by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) LAN/MAN Standards Committee. 

The standard and its amendments provide the basis for all wireless network technologies.  

Creating Faster Speeds

To create faster speeds, many behind-the scenes improvements were made for Wi-Fi 6. It offers faster data transfer speeds compared to previous generations. When optimized by the crew at Rhize Tech, Wi-Fi 6 can transfer data at up to 9.6Gbps, compared with max speeds of around 3.5Gbps for Wi- Fi 5.

Wi-Fi 6 is also able to allow simultaneous 4K video streaming, gaming and use by a wide variety of internet of things (IoT) devices, such as alarm systems, appliances, locks, thermostats and remotely controlled light switches.

It uses advanced technologies like orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) and multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) to deliver more data to multiple devices simultaneously, resulting in faster and more efficient Wi-Fi connections. 

The OFDMA modulation allows up to 30 users to share a channel at the same time, improving efficiency by boosting overall capacity while reducing latency. Moreover, OFDMA assigns time intervals to users that allow them to better parse available network channels. If one person in your home or office is streaming a movie and another is checking social media on a phone, OFDMA allows a router to assign channels to each device based on when it needs it most.

Wi-Fi 6 also offers eight-stream uplink and downlink via MU-MIMO. This streams data simultaneously rather than sequentially, allowing a more equitable sharing of bandwidth among all connected users. In contrast, Wi-Fi 5 topped out at only four streams.

Here are some other Wi-Fi 6 benefits: 

  • Target wake time saves energy. Wi-Fi 6 also uses target wake time (TWT), which allows devices to determine when they will normally wake up to send and receive data. This extends the battery life of all devices. The new standard also takes advantage of previously unused radio frequencies to provide faster 2.4GHz performance, and it uses refined bandwidth management to provide enhanced quality of service (QoS) options.
  • Improved performance in crowded environments. Wi-Fi 6 is designed to perform better in environments with high device density, such as airports, stadiums and office buildings. 
  • Increased range. Wi-Fi 6 includes enhancements to improve coverage and range, allowing signals to reach farther and penetrate walls, and obstacles more effectively. This means users will not experience dead zones or dropped connections.
  • Lowered latency. Latency refers to the delay or lag between sending a command from a device and the time it takes for the command to reach its destination. Latency is measured in milliseconds (ms) and it plays a crucial role in determining the performance of a Wi-Fi connection. Wi-Fi 6 latency capabilities make it ideal for applications such as online gaming, video streaming and video conferencing. By minimizing delays in data transmission, Wi-Fi 6 provides a smoother and more responsive user experience, even in demanding real-time applications.
  • Improved security. Wi-Fi 6 includes enhanced security features to protect against security threats and vulnerabilities. It supports the latest encryption standards and includes features like WPA3, which provides stronger encryption and better protection against brute-force attacks and unauthorized access.

How Does Wi-Fi 7 Differ?

Wi-Fi 7 could offer speeds of up to four times faster than Wi-Fi 6 and 6E. It is currently available in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan and Mexico. However, it still needs regulatory approval in many other countries.

The benefits of Wi-Fi 7 include helping the delivery of high-quality video and better cloud gaming, and the ability to serve AR and VR applications that require high throughput and low latency. Wi-Fi 7 also tackles congestion and interference, bringing tangible benefits to areas with densely packed devices or neighboring networks that overlap. The latter is significant for larger enterprise-sized companies and larger venues.

How Does Wi-Fi 7 Compare to Wi-Fi 6E?

Here are some notable upgrades within Wi-Fi 7 over 6E:

  • Wider channels. The wider the channel, the more data it can transmit. With 7, each band is broken into channels. The 2.4-GHz band comprises 11 channels of 20 megahertz (MHz) each. The 5-GHz band has 45 channels, but instead of being limited to a width of 20 MHz, they can combine to create 40-MHz or 80-MHz channels. The 6-GHz band supports 60 channels, and with Wi-Fi 6E they can be as wide as 160 MHz. Wi-Fi 7 supports channels that are up to 320 MHz wide. A simple analogy is to imagine how much traffic a single-lane road can handle compared to a three- or a six-lane superhighway.
  • Multi-link operation: The real game changer in 7 is the multi-link operation (MLO). Every previous Wi-Fi standard establishes a connection between two devices on a single band. Even a tri-band Wi-Fi 6E router connects two devices on a single band on a fixed channel (the router decides whether to connect on the 2.4-GHz, 5-GHz, or 6-GHz band). MLO can combine several frequencies across bands into a single connection. A Wi-Fi 7 router can connect to a Wi-Fi 7 device across two or more channels in different bands simultaneously. MLO potentially enables wider channels capable of transmitting more data—going back to our highway analogy, you can send traffic on the highway and the superhighway at once. Speed isn’t always a priority, but MLO also allows for more efficient performance. A Wi-Fi 7 router can take congestion and other interference into account and transmit on the best channel to bypass it, switching to maintain a stable connection and low latency. MLO can also help mitigate the relatively short range of the 6-GHz band, ensuring you get seamless connectivity from your mesh system as you move around the home.
  • Higher QAM: Quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) is a method to transmit and receive data in radio-frequency waves. The higher it is, the more information you can transmit. Wi-Fi 7 supports 4K-QAM, while Wi-Fi 6 supports 1,024-QAM and Wi-Fi 5 was limited to 256-QAM. The potential benefits are complicated by signal strength, background noise and interference. Consequently, as QAM goes up, the range drops and you need a stronger signal. So, the jump to 1,024-QAM in Wi-Fi 6 offered around a 25 percent data rate increase over Wi-Fi 5. The leap to 4K-QAM in Wi-Fi 7 translates to a 20 percent increase in peak performance.

When Will Wi-Fi 7 Be Available?

Wi-Fi 7 devices and routers began rolling out in 2023 and accelerating in 2024. Much of it will depend on what your local internet service provider (ISP) is offering. 

The new Wi-Fi 7 routers are backward compatible, so they may make sense for people now considering an expensive Wi-Fi 6E system, as they will handle 6E connections but also afford some future-proofing.

Like previous standards, Wi-Fi 7 will be backward compatible. But to take advantage of the new features and improved performance it promises, you will need to upgrade your devices. If you are buying new routers, modems, access points, smartphones, laptops and TVs, this can take a serious bite out of your budget. 

Answering Your Wi-Fi Questions

Unpacking all the features and benefits of the new Wi-Fi technology can make any business owner balk. Don’t try to go it alone. Reach out to Rhize Tech. We are the first large-scale IT solutions provider within proximity of the remotest communities in Colorado’s high country. We can help you sort out which Wi-Fi technology is right for your needs and budget. Contact us today.

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