What is Wi-Fi 6 and do I need it now?

The designation of WLAN standards with cryptic sequences of numbers and letters such as IEEE 802.11 is not really user-friendly. The Wi-Fi Alliance responsible for this now wants to change that and is simply calling the new, super-fast WLAN “Wi-Fi 6”. TECHNOLOGY BUTTON explains what it is exactly, how fast the Internet will be with it and which router you need for it.

Another plus of Wi-Fi 6 is the improved level of security. “WPA3 is used here to encrypt the wireless connection. The constant WLAN key is used to exchange a temporary key for a current connection, ”explains Prof. Peter Richert from the Münster University of Applied Sciences. This method makes it much more difficult to crack the encryption.

WLAN is getting new names

The latest Wi-Fi generation “ax” will solve one of the biggest problems that the WLAN standard IEEE 802.11 had in recent years: WLAN is finally getting a simple and understandable name! In a blog post  , the Wi-Fi alliance, which also includes Samsung, Microsoft and Sony, said that Wi-Fi versions would now simply be numbered. The previous standard IEEE 802.11ac is now called “Wi-Fi 5”, its predecessor IEEE 802.11n “Wi-Fi 4” and the new IEEE 802.11ax correspondingly “Wi-Fi 6”.

“For almost 20 years, users have had to search through technical naming conventions to find out whether they have the latest WLAN version,” says Wi-Fi Alliance boss Edgar Figueroa. “The new naming project should help both industry and users to understand their WLAN more easily.”

New Wi-Fi names
The different Wi-Fi generations are to have their own user interface symbols.

What is Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is the successor to the ac standard introduced in 2013 (Wi-Fi 5). What is 802.11 all about? This specification is the most widely used WLAN standard worldwide  and is maintained by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). This ensures that all devices with 802.11 certification are compatible with each other. New standards are being added all the time, Wi-Fi 6 is just one more step in the evolution. The latest standard Wi-Fi 5 is a few years old and has already been expanded several times.

What functions does the Wi-Fi 6 standard offer and how fast is it?

Wi-Fi 6 will replace Wi-Fi 5, but will continue to use the familiar 2.4 and 5 gigahertz (GHz) frequency bands. In the past, routers only used the frequency range of 2.4 GHz for radio transmission, the advantages of which are, among other things, the long range with constant transmission power and good penetration of walls. However, the 2.4 gigahertz band is often overloaded, which is why modern routers regularly switch between the 2.4 and 5 gigahertz ranges depending on the load. The bottom line is that this means fewer disruptions and more speed.

In addition to “Multiple Input, Multiple Output” (MIMO), which improves the use of several antennas on the router, Wi-Fi 6 now supports a new technology with the cumbersome name MIMO-OFDM, an abbreviation for “Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing”. OFDM reduces delays in transmission when there are many simultaneous network accesses through finer signal distribution. Although Wi-Fi 6 “only” achieves approximately 37 percent higher data transmission than Wi-Fi 5, throughput increases fourfold thanks to OFDM. In practical terms, this means a transmission speed of up to 11 gigabits per second (Gbit / s), a big leap from the maximum 1.3 Gbit / s that is possible with Wi-Fi 5. A film with high 4K resolution would be on the PC in a few minutes, music or photos in less than a second.

Do I have to buy a new router for Wi-Fi 6 now?

There are already some routers on the market that are compatible with the new standard. This allows you to prepare for devices that take advantage of the speed of the new standard. These include the latest smartphones and laptops.

The ASUS RT-AX88U was presented at the CES technology fair in 2018 and achieves up to 6000 Mbit / s. The router is already on the market. At Computex 2018, ASUS also presented the AiMesh AX6100, the first mesh system for Wi-Fi 6, with which several supported routers can be connected to a network for the entire home. The supported devices include the ASUS RT-AX88U. You can find out exactly what a mesh network is in this article .

The first Fritzbox with Wi-Fi 6 has also been available for a few weeks. AVM has upgraded the small Fritzbox 7530. The new model is now called Fritzbox 7530 AX. The Netgear Nighthawk AX8 and the ASUS ROG GT-AX11000 are also available.

In order to achieve really super-fast speeds of one or more gigabits per second, you must of course also have the right connection. Currently, speeds of up to 250 megabits per second (Mbit / s) are possible via DSL lines and the new  super vectoring technology, and 100 Mbit / s via cable. It’s even faster with a fiber optic connection.


“Wi-Fi 6 is a very promising technology that can help, especially in industry and in busy networks. For consumers it has so far been a nice extra, as most connections are far from delivering the speeds for which Wi-Fi 6 would be needed. ”

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