What is Wifi 6 and How is it Different?
So before we look at which Wifi 6 routers are the best, let´s first see, what Wifi 6 is and why it is so revoloutionary. Now most of us probably know what Wifi is, since it is something that most of us use every single day in our home, work and many other places.
Now fewer of us have probably heard of Wifi 6 and the Wifi Standards, that came before, so to make it easier to understand what Wifi 6 is, let us look at what the earlier Wifi-Standards were called:
Now many of you may ask, what the number 802.11 is? Well not to worry too much, this is just a socalled Protocol-name, which the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) has chosen to call wifi in a technical and thus why they a few years ago, began to call these hard to understand numbers, something that we all can understand, namely Wifi 4, 5 and 6.
Now, many of you many ask: But I don´t even know what kind of wifi I have in my home? Well we can start by ruling out the first 3 wifi-standards, which were Wifi 1, 2 and 3, which were called 802.11 b,a and g Respectively, because the are now obselete and are no longer used in any wifi routers sold today, so unless you have a very old wifi router (Before 2009), the almost certainly have either a Wifi 4 or Wifi 5 Router.
Now, what are the differences between these three latest wifi-standards? Well to get a clearer picture of the differences in specifications of these three latest wifi standards, let look at comparison-chart:
How Wifi 6 improves on anterior wifi standards:
Now as we can see, from the chart above, Wifi 6 improves significantly on wifi standars coming before it. There are several technologies though, in which this is acheived, in the new Wifi 6 Standard. Let´s look at some of them here.
Multi User – Multiple Input – Multiple Output (MU-MIMO):
On of the technologies used in Wifi 6, although not new to the standard, is Multi User – Multiple Input – Multiple Output (MU-MIMO). This technology was first implemented in the Wifi 5 Standard, but in Wifi 5, this techinology could only be used in what is known as “Downlink” Mode. This meant, that it could only be used for download and not upload or “Uplink” Mode. What the new Wifi 6 standard does, is that it Implements the “Uplink” Mode as well as the “Downlink” Mode, such that users now can take advantage of this technology for both upload and download.
But what is Multi User – Multiple Input – Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) and how does it help your online experience? Well what this technology does, is that it creates a spatial channel in which the router and the client (user), can communicate and exchange data, without the interuption of other clients. To understand this, we must first understand how a router without (MU-MIMO) works. A router without (MU-MIMO), just sends a general signal out, without any specific direction, just like the famous emblem of wifi signifies.
What (MU-MIMO) does is, that instead of sending out a general signal in all directions, it creates direct link in the form of a focused beam, known as “Beamforming”, where it directs its signal directly to the client and thus forms a stable connection, like a type of electronic bridge, between the two devices.
Now as was mentinoned earlier, this can only occur, if the clients spatially seperated. If they stand too close, the will have to share a stream. So what is a stream? All routers before the Wifi 6 Standard, have either 2×2, 3×3 or 4×4 socalled “Spatial Streams” available, but with the new Wifi 6 Standard, this jumps to 8×8. This means that a 2×2 spatial stream router, can only communicate with two devices at a time and 3×3 with three and so on. Usually the number of spatial streams available, corresponds to the number of antennas on the router, but not always. To get an idea of how this technology works, please look at the following figure.
1024-QAM – 25% Higher Data Capacity:
Wifi 6 has what is known as 1024-QAM. This technology is a measure of how much data can be contained in the signal and thus how much data can be transferred en a given data package. Wifi 5 only used 256 QAM, so 25 % less data could be tranferred with this protocol. The higher data package size of Wifi 6 therefore, translates into higher data transfer speeds between routers or access points and clients.
OFDMA: The single most important invention of Wifi 6:
OFDMA stands for (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access). This technology is an advancement from the earlier OFDM which stands for (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing), which was implemented in Wifi 5. The difference between the two technologies, can be seen in this figure below.
As can be seen in this figure, the difference between Wifi 5 (OFDM) and Wifi 6 (OFDMA) is that channels are used to carry data in both Wifi 5 and Wifi 6, but in ifi 5 the entire channel is used to send one data package at a time to the client, no matter the size, small or big and every time this occurs, the channel is in use with that particular client and is thus occupied for other clients, which again means, that all other clients, must wait in line for their turn to send data.
Wifi 6 and thus (OFDMA) works differently. Think of these channels as trucks. Every truck has a certain capacity, but in Wifi 5 (OFDM), the trucks drives back and forth between the router and the client, to serve each client one at a time, no mater the size of the package.
This means, that most of the time, when you just write an e-mail or are searching for something in Google, you only use a very little part of that trucks capacity. This creates inefficiency, because a lot of the space in the truck is not used and all the other clients a waiting for you, to unoccupy the entire truck, just because you to send one letter (Analogy).
Wifi 6 (OFDMA) on the other hand, divides the trucks (Channels) space in to subspaces (Subchannels), such that more (up to 8 at a time) clients can both send and receive data concurrently. Thus in other words and as can be seeen in the firgure above, with Wifi 6, you can fill up the truck, with many clients packages, instead of just using the entire truck, for one client to send a small letter.
This is why Wifi 6 is known as the “High Efficiency Protocol”, because where all of the wifi protocols, which have come before, speed for the sake of speed itself, were the purpose of the development and advancement of these earlier protocols. In Wifi 6 however, speed itself, has not been the purpose of this protocols development. Instead it has been how make wifi more efficient, in using the to space of the entire truck, instead having it run back and forth half-empty. That the speed in Wifi 6 has increased anyway, is a bi-product and a secondary advantage of making this protocol more efficient.
BSS – Colouring: Another means of avoiding congenstion:
BSS – Colouring is a technology, which in a congested evironment, like an airport or a shopping mall, helps avoid congestion on the different wifi-channels, which exists in all AP´s and routers and this technology is implemented for the first in commercial available AP´s and routers with the Wifi 6 protocol.
Now does does this technology work? Well imagine you have two AP´s for instance in an airport. Now if one device is connected to AP-1, but not AP-2, then what happens is, that this device connected to AP-1, is still obviously emitting a signal in all directions, in let´s say channel 1. But AP-2 is also transmitting on channel 1, so how does AP-2 avoid the emitting signal of the device connected to AP-1? This is what BSS – Colouring is about. What this technology does, is that it assigns a different “Colour” to the signal of Both AP´s and the devices connected to them. So let´s say, that AP-1 is assigned the colour of blue, then perhaps AP-2 is assigned the colour of red. What this means is, that if a device is connected to AP-1, this then means that this device is assigned the colour blue and so even though both AP´s are transmitting on the same channel (channel 1 in this example), then the emitting signal from AP-1 and it´s corresponding device(s), will not interfere with AP-2 and it´s device(s), since they have all been assigned a different colour (in this case the colour red). This means, that AP-1 will ignore the signals from AP-2 and it´s device(s) and vice versa.
You can see a figure here, which explains it in a graphical form:
TWT – Target Wakeup Time: The Dream of all IOS clients:
TWT or Target Wakeup Time is a technology, which is not new, but which has also been implemented into Wifi 6. To know what this technolgy does, we first have to go back and see how Wifi 5 worked.
Now let´s say for instance, that you were a scientist and that you studying volcanoes. Now let´s say this scientist had an apparatus with him, which he wanted set uo near the volcano, which measured among other things, the concentración of the sulphur coming out of the volcano, as a measure of how close the volcano was to errupting.
Now obviously is would not be necessary to send these data every signle second, since the volcano does not change it´s errupting-profile that often, so once an hour or perhaps even once a day, would be suffucient.
Now if this apparatus had been a Wifi 5 client, then this apparatus would have been constantly awake 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, even though it would only be sending data every 24 hours. Now one can imagine, that since there obviouly are nor electricity near a volcano, this apparatus, would have been driven by a battery. Now this obviouly means, that if this apparatus is on all the time, this battery would be drained in a very short time.
Wifi 6, comes with the solution to this problem, in the form of TWT. Because what TWT does, is that it tell the apparatus to go to sleep for 23 hours and 59 minutes and 59 seconds of the day and only wake up to send data for one single second, perhaps a couple of kilobits of data and then go back to sleep again for another 24 hours.
This is a revolutionary technique, which also helps save battery on devices like our cellphones, since if the cellphones is not in use, it will go into a kind of hibernation-mode in respect to it´s wifi connection and only wake up, once you start to use it again. this has been proven to save between 20-30% on batterylife on your phone and up to 67% on devices aforementioned.
For a graphic explanation, please look at this figure:
Longer OFDM Symbol Duration – Helps The Wifi 6 Signal Propogate further:
As discussed earlier in this article, the OFDMA technology splits up a channel into several subchannels, so that several devices, can communicate at the same time, instead of one device using the entire channel, just to send a small data-package.
In the same way, the “Longer OFDM Symbol Duration” technology, encreases the Sysmbol Duration from 3.2 μs in Wifi 5 to the quadruble, which is 12,8 μs in Wifi 6. This splits the socalled “Subcarrier Spacing” up from 312.5 in Wifi 5 to 78,125 in Wifi 6, which is a size-reduction of 1/4th of the original size. What this does, is that instead of creating 64 socalled “subcarriers” in Wifi 5, this multiplies by four and becomes 256 subcarriers. Subcarriers are also known as “Tones” and this is the heart of the OFDMA technology and thus the heart of Wifi 6, because what happens is, that these “Tones” are able to join together, from 2 to 256, depending on how much data each client device needs.
It also has another advantage, which is the subject of this paragraph, which is that Longer Symbol Duration, helps the propagation of the signal of the AP or router, especially in outdor settings and thus thereby increases the coverage. There a single Wifi 6 router positioned strategally, can easily cover a 800 m2 4 storey house.
To understand better this technology, look at this figure:
WPA 3 – More Security:
The New “WPA3” – Security Protocol, help protect our devices in very public spaces, again like airports and shopping-malls. All Wifi 6 Certified Devices, are equipped with this new WPA3 Security Protocol and so all forms of hacking and phishing, will be much harder for people, who do not have clean intentions.
So what are the best Wifi 6 routers in 2020?
Here are some of the best Wifi 6 Routers out there in 2020. All of these router, has all of the above mentioned technologies, but if you want to know more about each of these routers or buy one or more of them, please press their respective links below.
ASUS RT-AX89X AX6000
NETGEAR Nighthawk 12-Stream AX12 (RAX120) AX6000
TP-Link Archer AX50
TP-Link Archer AX3000 (AX50) Review:
The Tp-Link Archer AX3000 (AX50) is a very inexpensive Wifi 6 router. It is though, one of best Wifi 6 routers, reghardless of price. It has an excellent range and speed and very few people would need more. With all the above mentioned advancedments in technology in the new Wifi 6 protocol, of which the TP-link Archer AX3000 (AX50) possesses all, you will be able to stream 4K videos, at the same time your family and friends at the same time, are doing whatever they are doing on the internet, even if that is, to also be streaming 4K videos.
You will also have a very very decent range, where a 800 m2 4 strorey house, can easily be accomodated with practically full signal in all corners of such a house. This will be true even for socalled “Legacy Clients”, which means for everybody, which has a decice, which does not support Wifi 6, but Wifi 5 and all wifi standards before that.
With a Wifi 6 client connected to the TP-Link Archer AX3000 (AX50) though, everything just gets significantly better in every aspect. The Range, The Speed and the firmness of your connection also improves significantly, so that dropouts of your connection, will practically become a thing of the past.
Apart from that, the TP-Link Archer AX3000 (AX50) is also a very beuatiful device, with it’s piano-black surface and does not need hiding from the living-room.
Yes there are more powerfull decices out there, but none has a more stremlined graph as does the TP-Link Archer AX3000 (AX50). when it comes to producing a constant wifi-signal though all sorts of obstacles like walls and floors.