Everything You Need To Know About Wi-Fi 6
Maximum PC|November 2019
Wi-Fi 6 is coming and promises big things for our wireless networks.Here’s what to expect.
Matt Hanson

Wi-Fi 6 is probably the most exciting thing to happen to your wireless network in 2019. You’ll probably start to hear the term increasingly bandied about by router makers and ISPs as we approach its launch, but what exactly is Wi-Fi 6, and how can it benefit you? Here, we take a close look at what Wi-Fi 6 promises and explain the impact it can make to home networks. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about the standard, including how to upgrade your network to get the most out of the new tech.

You may have already come across Wi-Fi 6’s previous name: 802.11ax. Thankfully, the Wi-Fi Alliance, a non-profit organization that ensures Wi-Fi products meet certain standards, acknowledged that the former naming conventions were far too convoluted. As Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance, explained: “For nearly two decades, WiFi users have had to sort through technical naming conventions to determine if their devices support the latest Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi Alliance is excited to introduce Wi-Fi 6, and present a new naming scheme to help industry and Wi-Fi users easily understand the Wi-Fi generation supported by their device or connection.”

“Wi-Fi 6” is certainly going to be a lot easier to remember than “802.11ax,” which supersedes 802.11ac (now known as Wi-Fi 5). It brings the naming convention more in line with 3G, 4G, and 5G. Going from Wi-Fi 5 to Wi-Fi 6 is a clear upgrade—whereas it’s not clear whether 802.11ax is newer or older than 802.11ac. We’re certainly glad of this new naming convention.

If your current router is only a few years old, it’s likely to be a Wi-Fi 5 model. While Wi-Fi 6 is backward compatible with older devices, you’ll need a Wi-Fi 6 router to benefit from the full potential of the new technology.


Earlier this year, a Wi-Fi 6 certification program was announced for devices to support the new standard, stating that products need to offer several features and meet certain criteria to be Wi-Fi 6 certified, with the program starting in the third quarter of 2019—which is pretty much now.

In fact, Wi-Fi 6 capable devices were on display as early as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January of this year, and you might have noticed that some Wi-Fi 6 routers have already gone on sale—including the Netgear Nighthawk AX8 and AX4, TP-Link’s Archer AX6000, and the Asus RT-AX88U. These early devices generally still have the 802.11ax labeling, though.

Does that mean you can go out and buy a Wi-Fi 6 router today? Well, not quite. These early routers are based on the draft standard of Wi-Fi 6, which at the time of their release has not been finalized. If certain aspects of the certification change, then these early routers may miss out on features that other Wi-Fi 6-certified devices boast. As always with early adopters, it’s a risk you’ll have to take if you want the new technology as soon as possible.


Of course, having a Wi-Fi 6-capable router is only the first step toward benefitting from the new technology. While your older Wi-Fi products will be able to connect to a Wi-Fi 6 router, to get the features of Wi-Fi 6 (which we’ll get to in a moment), you’ll also need Wi-Fi 6-certified devices. And at the moment, those are rather thin on the ground.

The good news, though, is that we should start seeing a steady stream of Wi-Fi 6-enabled devices hitting the market. Most flagship smartphones will feature the technology—for example, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is the first smartphone with Wi-Fi 6 built in. At the moment, Wi-Fi 6 could be confined to the more expensive handsets, but hopefully that will quickly change as Wi-Fi 6 adoption grows.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine


African Internet Riches Threatened by Lawsuit and Corruption

Outsiders have long profited from Africa’s riches of gold, diamonds, and even people. Digital resources have proven no different.

8 mins read
Techlife News
27, November 2021

Delete Your Internet Footprint

With spies lurking everywhere, how can you keep yourself safe? Here are 25 smart steps, from the editor of HowtoGeek.com.

10+ mins read
Reader's Digest US
November 2021

Before, During, After, January 6

The Historical Perspective at Six Months

5 mins read
New York magazine
July 5-18, 2021

The Internet Doesn't Have To Be Awful

The civic habits necessary for a functioning republic have been killed off by an internet kleptocracy that profits from disinformation, polarization, and rage. Here’s how to fix that.

10+ mins read
The Atlantic
April 2021

Google Gets Into Sleep Surveillance With New Nest Hub Screen

Google’s next internet-connected home device will test whether consumers trust the company enough to let it snoop on their sleep.

3 mins read
AppleMagazine #490

Why We (Still) Shouldn't Censor Misinformation

Trump’s loss in 2020, a majority of his supporters believed the election had been rigged. Some adopted wild conspiracy theories involving Chinese supercomputers, Hugo Chavez, and state-level Republican officials. These beliefs culminated in an attack on the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead. To make sense of these events, many officials have argued that platforms such as Facebook and Twitter allowed conspiracy theories to spread unimpeded, leading to erroneous beliefs and deadly behaviors. In other words, they blame misinformation for the violence.

6 mins read
Reason magazine
April 2021

Window Opens for Tribes to Seek Licenses for Internet Access

The Federal Communications Commission opened a window for federally recognized tribes to apply for licenses that could help establish or expand internet access on their lands.

3 mins read
Techlife News
February 8, 2020

Tech to Make Guests Feel at Home

My company has installed whole-house, distributed audio systems since literally the day we opened our doors back in 1995, and over the years we’ve witnessed generational improvements in technology.

3 mins read
Sound & Vision
December 2019 - January 2020

Internet Of Things: Innovations Happening In Every Space

IoT is changing the way we live. Virtually every aspect of our lives has been digitized; from turning on our lights before we arrive home to prescribing medication without a doctor.

6 mins read
January 17, 2020

The Arctic High-Speed Internet Scam

Elizabeth Pierce promised to bring superfast internet cables through the Northwest Passage and managed to scam a billionaire oligarch the CEO of Warner Music Group, and the FCC chairman.

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
October 14, 2019