What is WiFi 6? (802.11ax)

Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, is changing the way we connect to and consume information. The Wi-Fi 6 standard builds on the strengths of earlier Wi-Fi standards while improving efficiency, flexibility, and scalability. These enhancements provide new and existing networks with increased speed and capacity for next-generation applications.

Wi-Fi 6 couples the freedom and high speed of Gigabit Ethernet wireless with the reliability and predictability of licensed radio.

What are the benefits of Wi-Fi 6?

With Wi-Fi 6, organizations and service providers can support new and emerging applications on the same wireless LAN (WLAN) infrastructure while delivering a higher grade of service to older applications. This scenario sets the stage for new business models and increased Wi-Fi adoption.

Is Wi-Fi 6 different from 802.11ax?

No, the terms are synonymous. The Wi-Fi Alliance campaigned to coin the term "Wi-Fi 6" to refer to the IEEE 802.11ax standard. The term indicates that it is the sixth generation of Wi-Fi. The premise was to simplify the marketing message to help 802.11ax be better positioned relative to the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards used in cellular (such as 5G).

When was Wi-Fi 6 ratified?

The Wi-Fi Alliance fully ratified Wi-Fi 6 in 2020. Most recently, the Wi-Fi Alliance added Wi-Fi Certified 6E.

Elements of Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 benefits

Wi-Fi 6 lets access points support more clients in dense environments and provides a better experience for users of typical wireless LAN networks. It also provides more-predictable performance for advanced applications such as 4K or 8K video, high-density, high-definition collaboration apps, all-wireless offices, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Read white paper >

Wi-Fi 6 technology dimensions

  • Denser modulation using 1024 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) adds two more bits per symbol as well as increased tone density and results in a speed burst of more than 35 percent.
  • Orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA)-based scheduling reduces overhead and latency. OFDMA multiplexes multiple users on the same channel at the same time, increasing network efficiency and reliability while providing lower latency for both uplink and downlink traffic. The lower latency and increased efficiency and reliability are important for business-critical, delay-sensitive applications.
  • Wi-Fi 6 offers significant co-channel-interference (CCI) mitigation via Basic Service Set (BSS) color techniques that let the operator dynamically report received signal strength indication (RSSI) of Overlapping BSS (OBSS) interference. This reporting allows organizations to see where the interference originates and better diagnose performance issues.
  • MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input, multiple output) employs the concept of multiple simultaneous beams to provide independent channels for each user. MU-MIMO works along with OFDMA to help enable a significant increase in capacity with the ability to support more devices.
  • Target wake time (TWT) facilitates better scheduling and longer device battery life. TWT helps devices conserve battery power by coordinating sleep cycles with the local access point. So instead of connecting multiple times a minute, the devices can be set to wake and transmit less frequently and still maintain a connection when needed.
  • Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3) is available in Wi-Fi 6 and is mandatory for Wi-Fi 6E. WPA3 adds more robust 192-bit encryption, providing consistent cryptography and helping eliminate the "mixing and matching of security protocols"that are defined in the 802.11 standard. Additionally, WPA3 requires Protected Management Frames (PMF) negotiation. PMF provides an additional layer of protection from deauthentication and disassociation attacks.

Wi-Fi 6 across use cases 

Upgrading to Wi-Fi 6-based infrastructure can provide many benefits and foster your organization's growth. For example, such an upgrade can help you expand your smart building capabilities, add IoT, move to more cloud services, or interface more directly with your customers through mobile apps. Wi-Fi 6 provides faster data transfers and lower latency for much more responsive applications, as well as increased security and better performance—all areas that are improved from previous generations of Wi-Fi.

Don't fall behind. The time to start your upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 is now.

Wi-Fi 6 compatibility with 802.11ac

As with other recent Wi-Fi advances, Wi-Fi 6 will be backward-compatible, building on existing technologies and making them more efficient.

Download FAQ