We get angry when links take ages to open, and when our videos stutter or start buﬀering. We want faster Wi-Fi but getting there can be a pain. Fortunately, if CES 2019 was any indication, we could all be using a faster Wi-Fi standard this time next year.
CATERING FOR DEVICE OVERLOAD
The predominant Wi-Fi standard now is 802.11ac, or, as the Wi-Fi Alliance has so eloquently renamed it recently, Wi-Fi 5. The problem with Wi-Fi 5 is not so much about sheer speeds—with the right equipment in place, it can achieve link speeds well in excess of one Gigabit—it is its inability to interface with multiple devices simultaneously. Without getting too technical, one serious technical limitation of Wi-Fi 5 devices is that they can only transmit to or receive data from one other device at any one time. At a time when studies show that the average number of connected devices per household today is around 20, you can see how this can quickly result in some serious Wi-Fi congestion.
Wi-Fi 6 (formerly 802.11ax), fixes these issues by adopting technologies from the world of LTE. This is great because when was the last time you had 4G connectivity issues? The key technology at work here is OFDMA or orthogonal frequency division multiple access as it's known in full form. To put it succinctly, it chops up each Wi-Fi channel into hundreds of smaller sub-channels so that a single channel can now accommodate multiple clients. What this ultimately means is that Wi-Fi 6 will enable a single router to handle more simultaneous clients eﬀectively and thus improve the overall performance of the network. In other words, it’s more about increasing capacity rather than peak speeds.
GETTING EVERYONE ONBOARD FASTER
But to get there requires not just Wi-Fi 6 routers, we also need Wi-Fi 6 compatible clients. And this disconnect between the availability of routers and clients has typically been the biggest hurdle to adoption of new wireless standards. Take for example Wi-Fi 5. The first Wi-Fi 5 routers started appearing on shelves as early as mid-2012. But it wasn’t until the tail-end of 2014 that the majority of devices started to support Wi-Fi 5 by default. That’s a long time. Even as late as 2015, we still had a handful of new devices that were launched that only supported Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n).
Luckily, if CES 2019 is anything to by, we could see faster adoption of Wi-Fi 6. Already, we have Wi-Fi 6 routers on sale from the likes of ASUS and Netgear. And at CES 2019, more Wi-Fi 6 routers were announced, including mesh networking systems. More crucially, client devices supporting Wi-Fi 6 were announced as well. So unlike the situation with Wi-Fi 5, consumers wanting to adopt the latest and greatest in home networking can get a taste of Wi-Fi 6 as soon as in a few months time and as long as their wallets are deep enough.
"One serious technical limitation of Wi-Fi 5 devices is that they can only transmit to, or receive data from one other device at any one time."
THE LATEST WI-FI 6 PRODUCTS FROM CES 2019
ASUS ROG MOTHERSHIP
The ROG Mothership can best be described as a Surface Pro on steroids. It’s a gaming notebook with a 17.3-inch display and a detachable keyboard. Inside, it is powered by the latest Core i9-8950HK processor and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 GPU. It also has a speedy storage system consisting of three M.2 PCIe SSDs in a RAID 0 configuration. But just as important is the fact that it is one of the first notebooks to support Wi-Fi 6.
TP-LINK DECO X10
Even though there are no Wi-Fi 6 compatible client devices now, the Deco X10 provides a compelling reason to upgrade because the nodes are connected to each other through Wi-Fi 6 to provide a stronger and faster connection. Thanks to Wi-Fi 6 technology, TP-Link says that Deco X10 nodes in the network can communicate with each other at speeds of up to 1.95Gbps.