WiFi 6 – When Should You Upgrade?

Updated: Jan 29

You have probably been hearing some talk about WiFi-6 and how fast it is. So what is it and why you might care or even upgrade to it? We had the same questions and after some research we upgraded to this Wi-Fi 6 router by Asus. Let me share some of the things we learned.

As we get more and more connected by introducing more phones, smart home devices like Google, Alexa and others, bring in Netflix and other TV streaming services and move into the 4k world which is slowly but surely moving to the 8k world, our networking requirements keep getting more and more demanding. This is why Wi-Fi standards are evolving to suit the needs of the modern consumer.

Let’s start with Wi-Fi certifications in regeneral. Until quite recently these were named based on the standards 802.11 with the letters at the back determining iterations. Now it’s all rebranded and made easier to understand:

Since Wi-Fi 4 release in 2009, standards have been updated approximately every 5 years with Wi-Fi 6 officially released in 2019. With each iteration of the standards, they include new features on top of existing thus making it backwards compatible, in the most part. There are some really old legacy devices that may have issues, but this would be devices from the early 2000s.

Based on this, a lot of new higher-end devices have already adopted the new standard and are utilising it, like, smartphones such as iPhone 11, Samsung S and Note series from 2019 onwards, Huawei P40 and many others. We are also seeing a much higher adoption of built-in Wi-Fi cards in laptops and PC’s and soon most consumer devices will transition to it as well. So what do you get with Wi-Fi 6?

Well first you get much faster speeds as the theoretical limit is lifted due to signal channels being wider which provides more bandwidth. Let’s look at it as a motorway, the more lanes you add the more vehicles can go across.

There is a problem though, original design only supports one device at a time, so it would only be used by your phone, your PC or your smart oven if you are that one person who has it. Until now – router would switch back and forth between all devices one at a time. This was not an issue before, as households only had a few Wi-Fi devices, but as smart devices get deployed we now have households with 20, 30 or more devices and the router has to go between them all constantly. Not really efficient, right?

This is where Wi-Fi 6 improves efficiency by introducing Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA for short) which splits up the main channel into sub channels for each individual device thus providing independent bandwidth which can be utilised simultaneously.

The other cool feature is ‘Target Wake-up Time’ or TWT for short. In the yesteryears, every radio device would constantly talk to the router to ensure they didn’t lose connection. This is solved by TWT, now these devices can coordinate with the router and set up their own schedule so they can wake up only when it is required and go back to sleep thereafter. This technology still needs to be adopted by the manufacturers but it will have a significant power saving across the board.

There is another issue with Wi-Fi-6! Most of the world right now is not able to benefit from the speeds you may get through the device as people are limited by internet provider speeds which are quite low. This is a completely different story in Singapore – right now you get routers which are slower than the connection people are paying for, this is where we are all missing out. I am paying about 40 dollars for my line and only getting 50-60% of my advertised speed.

This can be drastically changed by upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 router. Here I am using ASUS RT-AX56U and my Wi-Fi speed is simply astonishing. In a way – spending a little bit more money on the router upgrade will be an investment into getting my money’s worth from the connection I am already paying for.

To conclude – should you care about Wi-Fi 6 and should you upgrade now?

The answer is a resounding yes, providing you have at least 1 device which supports it. The reason I am recommending it, even if not all your devices support it, is because once your newer Wi-Fi 6 devices have migrated to the more optimised network, the rest of devices will have a less congested network and you will see an overall benefit. And as you acquire more Wi-Fi 6 devices, your network will get better and better and you can utilise the better range, greater network capacity and efficiency and also have a better battery life for client devices, it is a win-win-win.

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