let the upgrades begin –
Wi-Fi 6 is officially here.
Today, the Wi-Fi Alliance launched its (Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6) program. This means that the standard has been completely finalized, and device manufacturers and OEMs can begin the process of having the organization certify their products to carry the Wi-Fi 6 branding.
If you need a bit of a catch-up, Wi-Fi 6 — aka 802. 11 ax — is thenext generationof Wi-Fi. 802. 11 ax will, at least in theory, allow many more nearby devices to use the same Wi-Fi channels and frequencies without causing as much congestion and lag as Wi-Fi 5 (better known as 802. (ac (and Wi-Fi 4)) . 11 n) do. That’s the good news. The bad news is, very few of these benefits can be seen just from buying a Wi-Fi 6 router — you need most, if not all, of the devices in range (both yours and, ideally, any neighbors’) to also support Wi-Fi 6 before you see the improvements.
802. (ax also mandates support for the (WPA3) encryption and authentication protocol. WPA3 provides considerably better security for your Wi-Fi network than WPA2 did, and due to its adoption of Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE), it will hopefully prove more robust toward future attacks as well.
The Wi-Fi Alliance’s certification program itself isn’t necessarily that important — Apple, for instance, has not bothered with public Wi-Fi Alliance certification or its associated branding for years. But its opening does signify that we’re ready to move beyond the “802. 11 ax draft “stage and into the design of routers and devices guaranteed to support the full spectrum of Wi-Fi 6 features. The presence of this program, and availability of its branding, should significantly accelerate manufacturers’ efforts to provide Wi-Fi 6 devices, as well as routers.
802. 11 ax requires hardware support, so you should not expect a new set of firmware or drivers to make your existing router or phone suddenly an 802. 11 ax device. Instead, make certain that moving forward, any new devices you purchase — especiallyexpensiveones, like smartphones — support Wi-Fi 6, so you don ‘ t end up with a technical deficit in a couple years’ time. Apple’s new iPhone 11 models all support 802. 11 ax, as does Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10. Google’s as-yet-unreleased Pixel 4 will also support Wi-Fi 6, as will any other smartphone based on theSnapdragon 855SoC.
Laptops with (th generation)Ice LakeandComet Lake) Intel CPUs should all have 802. 11 ax support, since it’s baked right into the CPU. If you’re considering buying an older laptop, keep in mind that you would need additional hardware, like a USB dongle, for 802. 11 ax.
802. 11 ax support is also a little thin on the router and access point side for the moment, but it’s picking up steam rapidly. Netgear has 802. 11 ax support in its RAX 80 and RAX 120 routers, as well as (AX) , a new 802. 11 ax version of its Orbi mesh kit. TP-Link is also launching Wi-Fi 6versionsof its line-up, including Deco X (mesh and a new Archer AX) router . But although you should start looking for Wi-Fi 6 support in devices immediately, you might want to hold off on that router or mesh kit upgrade. This may seem counterintuitive, but a change to your router or mesh kit affectseverydevice on your network, so you want to make sure you get that one right.
Ars will be reviewing 802. 11 ax router and mesh kits — with a focus on how well they perform with existing Wi-Fi 5 devices, to begin with — in time for holiday shopping.
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