BY ANTONY MUTUNGA
With COVID-19 having slowed down movement and business activity, many have found themselves at home in order to combat its spread. During the period, access to the internet has become crucial especially among the youth. Mobile data bundles and Wi-Fi have seen an increase in popularity. With a majority working from home, many have experienced slow connections especially those on Wi-Fi. The more people are on the same Wi-Fi, the slower the connection.
The problem is especially worse where there is a large number of people on one network at the same location for example in stadiums and universities. In order to ensure that the connection remains stable despite the number, Wi-Fi has evolved to the next generation, Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax. This is not only going to improve the speed and connection; it also increases efficiency and reduces congestion in heavy bandwidth usage scenarios.
In a world where devices are ever-increasing, according to Statista, internet of things (IoT) use cases are predicted to increase to 21.5 billion connections by 2025, there is a need for technology that is able to handle them. This is exactly what the new generation aims to accomplish. When compared to the first Wi-Fi to be used, dubbed 802.11b which was released in 1999, the two are leagues apart. Even compared to its predecessor the Wi-Fi 5 or 802.11ac, which was released in 2014, Wi-Fi 6 looks to better complement the new technology.
Routers with the new generation will offer faster data transfer speeds. In fact, Wi-Fi 6 will allow the user to experience 40% more speed as compared to Wi-Fi 5 when connected to a single device. This is capable due to the more efficient data encoding allowing more data to be packed in the radio waves.
In addition, Wi-Fi 6 is about to make slow Wi-Fi in crowded areas a thing of the past. The new generation is expected to increase the speeds at least four times compared to its predecessor. This will also apply in a situation where there are a lot of devices connected to a single router. It will be possible as a result of both the Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) and the Multi-user multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO).
The OFDMA will allow a more densely-packed channel through channel sharing while reducing latency during periods where there is a high demand. On the other hand, MU-MIMIO supports many devices on a network without a massive decrease in connection quality. Unlike Multiple In/Multiple Out in Wi-Fi 5, which allowed the Wi-Fi access point to talk to devices at the same time, but those devices couldn’t respond at the same time, the new generation will enable devices to respond at the same time.
According to Kevin Robinson, marketing leader for the Wi-Fi Alliance, an internationally backed tech-industry group that oversees the implementation of Wi-Fi, you can think of adding MU-MIMO connections like delivery trucks to a fleet.
“You can send each of those trucks in different directions to different customers. Before, you had four trucks to fill with goods and send to four customers. With Wi-Fi 6, you now have eight trucks,” he said.
The new generation is also expected to ensure a longer battery life for the devices of the users. Before, many users have complained how the use of Wi-Fi normally drains their battery life at a high rate. Wi-Fi 6 will integrate a new target wake time (TWT) feature which is expected to specify waking times for different devices and stations in the network.
Basically, it will control the functions of the devices and put them on when they are needed and ensure they are powered off when not in use. This is expected to conserve power and ensure the battery life of the connected devices is prolonged.
Additionally, the new Wi-Fi generation will solve the issue of interference that is usually felt whenever two or more networks are near each other. For example, those who live in apartments and everyone has their own router can experience issues with connection as some interfere with each other. However, the new generation introduces the Base Service station (BSS) Color, which marks frames causing one’s router to ignore networks from others nearby. This will mean that the router will be more efficient and faster.
Wi-Fi 6 will also have better security as it is equipped with the new security protocol called WPA3. This makes it harder for cyber criminals to crack passwords by constantly guessing them, and it makes some data less useful even if hackers manage to obtain it.
The new generation is taking the Wi-Fi technology to the next level. Internet quality is very important to many users and it is a crucial factor when one is choosing a network. The technology comes at the best possible time as it will complement the 5G network. Many have wished for faster speeds and less connection quality issues, Wi-Fi 6 is here to deliver exactly that.