Wi-Fi 6: Is It Worth the Upgrade?


Would you drive a Lamborghini to take the kids to soccer practice? Even if money was no object, the answer is likely no. While fast enough to get the job done, good luck fitting everyone and everything inside. An extreme example, but the same idea holds true for many things, such as your home network. A good home network needs more than just raw speed. It also needs to provide features that make it the right fit for you and your family. Is Wi-Fi 6 worth the upgrade? That depends entirely on how you use your network today, or how you may use it in the future. Let’s talk about what exactly Wi-Fi 6 can offer you.

Wi-Fi 6 and the Congested Network

As you would expect with a full generation advancement, overall speed has been improved with Wi-Fi 6. While real-world issues can significantly affect total speeds on either network type, the bandwidth possibilities of Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 5 were greatly increased. This is a critical improvement because many of our devices demand the ability to send greater and greater amounts of information, such as 4K HDR streaming or VR games and experiences. As I mentioned earlier, that's not the be-all and end-all. Wi-Fi 6 adds some really cool and useful upgrades that can make it matter to many. The three major benefits that you will need to concern yourself with are MU-MIMO, OFDMA, and TWT, nerdy and complicated terms that I promise are easy to understand.

Over the years, we have rapidly increased the number of devices in our homes that need to connect to the Internet. It's not uncommon for a family to have multiple phones, tablets, laptops, gaming consoles, smart TVs, smart speakers, smartwatches, and security systems vying for that overall bandwidth. Never mind smart refrigerators, smoke alarms, thermostats, light bulbs, outlets, remote controls, and robotic vacuums.

Clear Traffic with MU-MIMO and OFDMA

MU-MIMO stands for “multi-user, multiple input, multiple output.” It's joined by OFDMA, which stands for "Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access" (I told you these terms were nerdy) and speaks to the core home networking issue many of us face: congestion. With all those devices, there needs to be some organization to relieve the invisible traffic jam. MU-MIMO lets multiple users in the home share the router simultaneously, without their devices having to wait for the other to finish. So, with a 4 x 4 MU-MIMO router, the overall bandwidth is split between four devices. Wi-Fi 5 has this too, but only for downloads. Wi-Fi 6 adds this ability to uploads, as well, which is ideal for video conferencing calls and working from home via a VPN connection to a work PC.

Then there's OFDMA. This is new with Wi-Fi 6 and alleviates the congestion even further by complementing MU-MIMO technology. If you think of MU-MIMO creating multiple lanes of traffic, think of OFDMA as allowing different vehicles on those lanes. It splits a channel to allow multiple devices to send data on it at the same time. Without OFDMA, such as on Wi-Fi 5 networks, only one device could use an available channel. This is ideal for low-bandwidth IoT (Internet of Things) devices and appliances.

Wi-Fi 6 Offers Even More

Additional features like TWT and the requirement that all devices use WPA3 encryption security further enhance the allure of Wi-Fi 6. TWT stands for “Target Wake Time.” With Wi-Fi 5 and earlier 802.11 networks, devices would regularly have to communicate with the router or access point to check in with servers or send information. This constant access can be a drain on a mobile device's battery. TWT changes things by specifying specific times when a device can connect to the network. Every device does not need to regularly connect to the network, so TWT helps to save precious battery life.

Is Wi-Fi 6 Worth the Upgrade To You?

Is Wi-Fi 6 worth the upgrade? Hopefully, you can now answer that question for you and your family. Just remember that all the Wi-Fi 6-specific features require that your computers and devices also support Wi-Fi 6. At B&H, we have a wide array of Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 5 networking products to fit your needs. For Wi-Fi 6, you can choose access points from Aruba. The Instant On AP22 Dual-Band Access Point offers 2x2 MU-MIMO and 1775 Mb/s of overall bandwidth, or select the AP-515, which increases bandwidth to 5375 Mb/s and provides 4x4 MU-MIMO.

Aruba Instant On AP22 Dual-Band Access Point

Another Wi-Fi 6 option is a router, and one of the top picks is the ASUS RT-AX88U AX6000. Built in support for Wi-Fi 6 allows it to offer speeds up to 6000 Mbps over the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Also, it uses a blend of OFDMA and MU-MIMO tech to boost performance in households that have multiple devices. If multiple people are working in the same home you'll want this tech to work.

ASUS RT-AX88U AX6000 Dual-Band Gigabit Router

If Wi-Fi 5 fits your lifestyle, Google Nest products can create a suitable home mesh network and access points can double as smart speakers. Each one features a built-in 360-degree speaker and far-field microphones to let you use your voice to access Google Assistant. If you need more options, feel free to browse the home networking selection online at B&H.

Google Nest Wifi Router and Point
Google Nest Wi-Fi Router and Point

Questions? Leave them in the Comments section, below, and we can come up with solutions.

1 Comment

Nice of B&H to offer the Aruba AP-515, at an extremely high price, but to have to wait 8 to 10 months for it beside??? To bad because the article is very informative. The least you could have done was offer something that's available now.