The WiFi 6 network is coming

    The new WLAN standard WiFi 6 (ax-WLAN) promises some improvements.

    The number of devices connected wirelessly to the home Wi-Fi network is constantly increasing. Desktops, laptops, televisions, tablets, and smartphones top the list. They are followed by “digital home” devices, such as lights or smart appliances, which are also connected to the home Wi-Fi network.

    It is not surprising then that the home router sometimes becomes overloaded causing much slower interaction and interruptions in the transmission of content. The new WLAN standard WiFi 6 (ax-WLAN) promises improvements. “It uses a technology that carries the cumbersome abbreviation of OFDMA and that allows to use all the bandwidth of much more efficient way”, explains Ernst Ahlers, of the German specialized magazine c’t.

    Whereas with previous WLAN standards, including the still current WiFi 5 (ac-WLAN), the router processes all its “tasks” one after another, WiFi 6 does it simultaneously. “You have to imagine the network’s air interface as a multi-lane highway where each WiFi 6 device uses its own path,” explains Olaf Hagemann, an expert at US network equipment manufacturer Extreme Networks.

    According to Hagemann, WiFi 6 makes traffic on the data highway smoother, whereas with previous versions of WLAN, with a single lane, traffic jams sometimes occurred.

    Ernst Ahlers, however, does not expect WiFi 6 to result in a significant speed increase just yet. “In really optimal conditions, the new standard reaches 1 gigabit per second (GBit / s), but for this, all the components must work with the latest standard and no other user can access the network.”

    Another advantage of WiFi 6 is the higher level of security. “For the encryption of the wireless connection, the ‘WPA3’ protocol is used, which uses the constant password of the wireless network to replace a temporary key entered to establish a connection to a Wi-Fi access point,” explains Professor Peter Richert. from the Münster University of Applied Sciences, adding that this method makes the encryption much more difficult to crack.

    However, Richert believes that the use of WiFi 6 in homes is still premature. “At the moment, it is mainly the industry that can benefit from this new standard, for example in production lines where many machines are controlled wirelessly. For private households it is more of a whim than a necessity ”.

    Therefore, Ernst Ahlers also advises consumers not to invest in new devices yet. “Anyone with a working installation of the WiFi 5 predecessor can take their time before purchasing a new one.”

    6 GHz WLAN is also known as WiFi 6E. Although this standard will be compatible with all the lower ones, the advantages will only be perceived with new triple band devices that, in addition to the new one, can also work with the previous 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency ranges. That is: All the more reason to wait before buying new devices.

    Currently, experts consider that the new standard is particularly useful for campus area networks, that is, closed wireless networks in which companies, institutions or even event centers want to integrate many users simultaneously. “In these, WiFi 6 can significantly increase efficiency and also facilitate a better user experience,” explains Olaf Hagemann.

    “WiFi 6 is aimed at so-called high-density scenarios, that is, situations in which a large number of devices want to establish a connection at the same time and in the same place,” says Max Pohl, from the German WLAN service provider Socialwave. , and adds that, therefore, WiFi 6 provides advantages especially for networks of factories, hotels or events. However, Pohl is convinced that sooner or later the new standard will also reach consumers. Today’s smartphones, like the latest iPhones, already support WiFi 6, but Pohl believes this will not have a positive impact on users yet.

    On the other hand, these will not have any kind of disadvantage either: “Since WiFi 6 is compatible with previous versions, devices that were used before and supported one of the previous standards can continue to integrate and operate on the network”, explains Olaf Hagemann . “The essential benefits of WiFi 6, however, will go unnoticed.”

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