The Next Wi-Fi

It was the late 1990’s and wireless internet seemed like something out of sci-fi. I remember those first devices that I connected to the internet without a cable. It was not perfect, but it worked. No wires! Battery technology was not great, and power consumption was not good, but it introduced us to the possibilities of a mobile world. I was still recovering from the dawn of the internet, and now we could be wireless? My mind was blown.

There was so much excitement about the possibilities. This video lets you relive the excitement. Watch Steve Jobs, the master presenater, share the excitement of this technology. This is a 1999 MacWorld in NYC.

If you want to read details on the history of how this came to be, check out this article.

Then it gets messy

Since it’s inception, the naming of Wi-Fi technology has been a little crazy. I remember when I first started using Wi-Fi. At that time, the standard was named 802.11b. It worked, but not great. It was always slow, and not very secure. It was not long before a string of new standards followed: 802.11a, followed by 802.11g, and on and on (802.11 history).

I use Wi-Fi every day, it has become a critical part of my connected life. (I even own a domain called ‘ 😳🤔🤯). I connect to the internet with my iPad, my iPhone, my mac, my doorbell, my door lock, my thermostat, and the list goes on. Some of these devices still connect with 802.11g, others use the faster 802.11ac. And then we have security, passwords, interference .... serious complexity here!!! Keeping track of it all can be a full time job.

What’s coming next

Technology never stands still, and Wi-Fi is not expection. A new ‘version’ of Wi-Fi is about to become the next new thing. You may hear some geeks talking about 802.11ax, but it will be called, Wi-Fi 6. I like the new name. Simple, ‘Wi-Fi 6’ sounds so much better than 802.11ax. (Click the 802.11ax link above if you want to get really geeky).

In a blog post a few days ago, I mentioned the importance of 5G. Wi-Fi 6 is part of that future too. Here is a couple of examples.

Capacity and other key issues

Pick up your phone, and check to see how many Wi-Fi networks are within range of you right now. On an iPhone, it’s: Settings - Wi-Fi. At times, I have seen 10 to 20 network show up. Multiple hotspots in a small geographical area creates network issues and conflicts. Enterprise users have many other issues. Wi-Fi 6 will improve capacity, epspecially in dense situations.

Power and speed

Wi-Fi 6 will also help with power management, speed, and just make for an improved connection experience. Most of us care about how long our phones can be used on a charge. A little extra battery life is a welcome thought.

Then there is speed. I welcome any speed improvements. In theory, expect something on the order of 9.6 Gbps, or an increase of 3.5 Gbps over the current speeds of Wi-Fi. The reality is that most of us will not see that kind of speed improvement, but I’ll take what I can get.

When will you and I see it?

Of course, you may not see any of the advantages of Wi-Fi 6 until both hotspots and device hardware catch up. Wi-Fi 6 has been targeted for 2019. It is here. If you search on amazon you will find Wi-Fi routers that supple the technology. It is not in last years mobile phones, but it will not be long. I have seen reports that claim that Samsung’s Galaxy S10 has Wi-Fi 6. There will be more! Lucky for us, it’s not just hype, this is a real technology.

Learning more

If you I want to read more about Wi-Fi 6, here are a couple of good links:

The Verge: Wi-Fi 6: is it really that much faster

Making the Grade: How Wi-Fi 6 addresses key networking problems for enterprise


~ Rick

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©2019 Rick Cartwright