Next-gen 'Wi-Fi 6' arrives, bringing with it faster wireless connectivity

(Image credit: Netgear)

The Wi-Fi Alliance has officially kicked off its Wi-Fi 6 certification program. This means you will start to see Wi-Fi 6 certified routers and other devices (or "Wi-Fi Certified 6," if using the organization's nomenclature) in the marketplace. Inevitably, these will become some of the best gaming routers.

"Wi-Fi Certified 6 is ushering in a new era of Wi-Fi, building on Wi-Fi’s core characteristics to provide better performance in every environment for users, greater network capacity for service providers to improve coverage for their customers, and new opportunities for advanced applications," said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO, Wi-Fi Alliance. "Wi-Fi Certified 6 will deliver improvements in connectivity, including in high density locations and IoT environments."

The Wi-Fi Alliance announced the new simplified labeling scheme last year. It's an attempt to remove some of the technobabble from wireless connectivity standards. As such, we have the following:

  • Wi-Fi 6 = 802.11ax
  • Wi-Fi 5 = 802.11ac
  • Wi-Fi 4 = 802.11n

The Wi-Fi Alliance did not go back any further, presumably because 802.11g, 802.11a, and 802.11b are all too old at this point, dating back up to two decades. However, 802.11n and 802.11ac devices remain commonplace.

We posted an article earlier this year on why gamers should care about Wi-Fi 6, and the Cliff Notes version is it introduces more bandwidth and better handling of multiple connected devices on the same network, with lower latency to boot.

Taking full advantage of Wi-Fi 6 starts with having a Wi-Fi 6 router. There are a handful on the market already, such as Netgear's Nighthawk AX8 shown at the top of this article. However, there are not many devices with a Wi-Fi 6 adapter inside.

That is starting to change, though. Samsung's Galaxy S10 lineup all feature Wi-Fi 6 adapters, and so does Apple's iPhone 11 family. On the PC side, Intel and Killer both now offer Wi-Fi wireless adapters, which can be found in some laptops.

Fortunately, Wi-Fi 6 routers are backwards compatible with the plethora of Wi-Fi 5 and previous generation devices and adapters. And now that the certification program is official, we expect to see a bunch more Wi-Fi 6 routers, PCs, and so forth on the horizon.

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).