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What Is Wi-Fi 6 And How Is It Going To Change The Way You Connect In 2019?

Technology

Mason Carter wrote this article

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We’ve come a long way since the days when the Internet could only be accessed through a direct connection. Wireless was just a fantasy. I’ve lived through it all since the early days of dial-up Internet. The first Wi-Fi protocol appeared in 1997. It offered “blazing” transfer speeds of 2Mbit/s to link to your computer. Connections were very unstable, and as a result, it wasn’t heavily adopted for home use. But it was in 1999 that Wi-Fi took its first huge step with 802.11b. This became the very first industry standard for Wi-Fi. 802.11b allowed for transfer speeds of 11Mbit/s (compared to the several gigabits per second today).

An incredible feat, 802.11b was the tipping point that Wi-Fi needed for in-home demand.

You could now have a router in your home, but it was when 802.11g in 2003 (with 54Mbit/s speeds) and 802.11n in 2009 (600Mbit/s) came onto the scene that Wi-Fi became a true replacement for the wired network.

You can start to see where this “Wi-Fi 6” moniker is coming from now. Even though when the 802.11b protocol was released it wasn’t referred to as “Wi-Fi 1” it was for all intents and purposes.

So when you think of it that way…here’s the sequential order of Wi-Fi since 1999:

802.11b (1999) was Wi-Fi 1.

802.11a released in 1999 too, which you could consider being Wi-Fi 2.

802.11g (2003), that’s Wi-Fi 3

By 2009 with 802.11n, we got Wi-Fi 4.

Wi-Fi 5 is 802.11ac, released in 2014.

…And for the new Wi-Fi 6, that’s going to be 802.11ax. While there’s no clear date for when this will release in 2019, that’s going to be the year.

As you can see, calling these protocols Wi-Fi 1-6 is a lot easier than memorizing the 802.11 monikers. I like it better personally, and will be referring to the new protocol as Wi-Fi 6 thank you very much!

So what’s going to make Wi-Fi 6 so special?

It’s possible that transfer speeds will be 40% higher than Wi-Fi 5. Wi-Fi 6 does this through more efficient data encoding, which means that more data can pack together into the same radio waves as before. What’s going to be a vast improvement is the lower power draw, which means that people that use Wi-Fi 6 are going to have a more efficient battery life on their phones, and lower electric bills! What will the difference be? That’ll be tough to tell until we’re all using Wi-Fi 6, but I can see this being a gamechanger for people who are using public Wi-Fi on their phones.

I can also see conferences and trade shows hugely benefitting from Wi-Fi 6 since it’ll be able to handle crowded environments better. This is because Wi-Fi 6 can divide a wireless channel into a large number of subchannels and each of these subchannels can carry data intended for a different device. The Wi-Fi access point can talk to more devices at once. Unstable Wi-Fi connections at conferences, airports, stadiums, and hotels may be a thing of the past! Since Wi-Fi gets bogged down crowded places with a lot of connected devices, it’s going to be really interesting to see how much smoother things get. I’ll be sure to keep in touch with people who handle large crowds of connected people!

So when will you be able to get your hands on Wi-Fi 6?

Even with the 2019 release, when you get to experience Wi-Fi 6 will largely depend on your Internet Service Provider (ISP), hardware manufacturers, software developers, you name it. Wi-Fi 6 is going to be backward compatible, so if you buy something that supports the new standard, it will work fine. It just won’t be optimized until everyone is on board with the new Wi-Fi 6 standard.

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