2020 is the year of Wifi 6, at Unocero we have talked a lot about this new technology and the improvements that it will bring to our lives, in fact, little by little we see more products compatible with Wifi 6 like the Huawei router that we reviewed a short time ago , which is why many users are probably wondering if it is worth the jump to Wifi 6, is it more expensive? Is it worth it? Is the difference with Wifi 5 remarkable? What do I need to be able to use Wifi 6 ?, well we will solve all those doubts here.
The differences between Wifi 5 and Wifi 6
If in the last 2 years you have invested in a new router or Wifi Mesh system, it is likely that you have Wifi 5 technology at home, although you will only know that by checking the specifications of your router or Wifi Mesh towers. Some products may have the Wi-Fi symbol and a number in the upper right that indicates the Wi-Fi technology they use as shown below.
If not, then in the specifications you can find the type of Wifi as follows:
- Wifi ac or Wifi 802.11ac is the same as Wifi 5
- Wifi ax or Wifi 802.11ax is the same as Wifi 6
Fortunately from Wifi 5 the Wifi Alliance realized that it is not convenient for users to know the Wifi standard to identify what technology it is, so for a couple of years it was simply known as Wifi 5, Wifi 6, Wifi 6E and surely in a few more years we will have Wifi 7, although that does not mean that in the technical sheet we will not continue to see the standard of each of these technologies with the 802.11 numbers.
It is important to mention that each new Wifi technology supports the previous standards, so having Wifi 6 does not mean that it is incompatible with Wifi 5 or Wifi 4, because devices that only support these standards will work perfectly with a router with Wifi 6, but It does not mean that they will have the advantages that Wifi 6 gives to equipment that is compatible with the new technology.
Once this part is understood, let’s talk about the theoretical advantages between Wifi 5 and Wifi 6, and I say theoretical because some of them are impossible to check in home networks, however, the Wifi Alliance says that Wifi 6 improves in very specific aspects compared to Wifi 5 :
- Higher speed: It is evident that each new generation will have improvements in data upload and download, supporting more and more Mbps connections. Theoretically, Wifi 6 can support up to 9.6 Gbps, while Wifi 5 only supports up to 6.9 Gbps. It is very difficult to see a home network or even for SMEs that reach 6.5 Gbps, however, the data is there.
- Lower latency: Latency is vital in Wi-Fi connections, especially when it comes to online games. In the case of Wifi 6, no specific figures are given on the theoretical milliseconds of latency, but it is mentioned that it can be up to 75% lower compared to Wifi 5.
- Better network congestion: Thanks to technologies such as OFDMA, MU-MIMO (which is also in Wifi 5 but only for downloading) and BSS coloration, better network management is achieved when there are many devices connected to the same network, so that this is much more stable and offers better download and upload speeds for each connected device.
- Use in 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz: Unlike Wifi 5 that only works on the 5 GHz frequency, Wifi 6 can work on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency.
- Lower energy consumption: thanks to Target Wake Time (TWT) technology, devices go into energy saving mode constantly until the moment of receiving new data, so smartphones and other devices that use battery will save, although How significant it is compared to Wifi 5 has not been revealed, but the energy savings exist.
What do I need to enjoy Wifi 6?
To use Wifi 6 you do not need to contract any special package with your service provider, you only need 2 things: a router or Wifi Mesh system compatible with Wifi 6, and a device that also supports this technology.
Currently there are several phones that support Wifi 6, but most are high-end and premium, and little by little we see more routers with Wifi 6, however, we still need more manufacturers to also bet on launching Wifi 6 on computers, Smart TV and other devices.
How much improvement is there between Wifi 6 and Wifi 5 in practice
Since we saw the theoretical differences between Wifi 5 and Wifi 6, it is time to make the respective comparison with what we normally do at home, so we have used a phone compatible with Wifi 6, a router with Wifi 6 and another with Wifi 5.
We did several tests during the day, all at the same distance from the router (in the same room) and with the same number of devices connected to the network. What was the results? Well, actually there was no noticeable difference between one and the other, and on average all speed tests always offered very similar results, but we did not notice a huge difference between one network and another.
In the case of latency, there were times when the router with Wifi 6 offered lower latency, but for very little, while in the data download and upload tests most of the time the difference between one test and another was not. it was greater than 5 Mbps.
The only notable difference is that, when connecting about 20 devices to the same network, the speed tests were slightly better in Wifi 6, but it was not something abysmal either, in fact, the highest difference was only 10 Mbps of download and 3 Mbps upload.
So should you switch to Wifi 6?
Betting on Wifi 6 is not a bad decision, especially because more and more devices compatible with Wifi 6 will be arriving with which we can get more out of this Wifi technology, however, for home networks where many times we do not even have connections that exceed 200 Mbps and where we do not have more than 30 devices connected to the network, it will not have much use.
If money is not a problem for you, because currently routers with Wifi 6 are more expensive than those with Wifi 5 because in addition to this technology they have other improvements and are 2020 models, then I would recommend you bet on this technology, even if you don’t have not even a Wifi 6 phone, because you will probably have it in the next 2 years.
Betting on Wifi 5 is not a mistake either, it is not that you are going to suffer or have a discontinued technology at home, and its advantage is that there are many devices on the market that already work with Wifi 5, although remember that this technology only works in the 5 GHz band.