Wi-Fi 6 is the newest version of the 802.11 standard for wireless network transmissions that people commonly call Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi 6 isn’t a new means of connecting to the internet like fiber — rather, it’s an upgraded standard that compatible devices, particularly routers, can take advantage of to transmit Wi-Fi signals more efficiently.
While it is still an unknown, the industry touts based on testing only that Wi-Fi 6 will offer speeds that are roughly 30% faster than Wi-Fi 5, with theoretical maximum transfer speeds up around 10 Gbps.
The actual number you ultimately experience will really depend on context, though, because it’s a lot more speed than you’re likely to ever need from a single device. In environments with lots and lots of devices that need to connect, Wi-Fi 6 might make a huge difference. In small homes with only a few devices on the network, the difference might be harder to notice.
The other important thing to keep in mind is that the speed from your internet service provider (ISP) is like a speed limit for your local network — a Wi-Fi 6 router won’t magically speed it up. Right now, most plans don’t go nearly that high.
In other words, ISPs still have a lot of work to do with fiber rollouts and such in order to really capitalize on next-gen router technology, and that might take years. But when those faster ISP speeds get here, it appears that the hardware will be ready to go.
If the most advanced technology a device supports is 802.11ax, then it shall be identified as generation Wi-Fi 6. If the most advanced technology device supports is 802.11ac it will be identified as Wi-Fi 5. And, if the most advanced technology a device supports is 802.11n, it will be identified as generation Wi-Fi 4.
When will Wi-Fi 6 get here?
Wi-Fi 6 is already technically a thing — it’s a new, certified standard that newly-made wireless devices can put to use. Since it is officially up and running, it’s a pretty sure bet that the next generation of laptops, streaming devices and Wi-Fi smart home devices will follow suit.