WiFi 6 may reduce congestion of Internet traffic and also provide an improved level of security for users. — dpa It’s coming: WiFi 6. The new wireless standard scores particularly well in terms of efficiency. But how quickly do you have to switch? With all of the wireless devices connected to the Internet today – smartphones, computers, tablets, TVs, smart home appliances – it’s no surprise that the router often reaches its limits. The solution may come in a new wireless standard, WiFi 6. “This is a technology that can use the entire bandwidth much more efficiently,” says Ernst Ahlers from Germany’s c’t magazine. In the case of previous wireless standards, including the current one, WiFi 5, a router works through its tasks one after the other. In contrast, Wi-Fi 6 can do several tasks at the same time. “If you imagine the network as a multi-lane highway, the devices with WiFi 6 can each use their own lanes,” explains Olaf Hagemann from the US network technology specialist Extreme Networks. So with WiFi 6, traffic on the information highway is always flowing, whereas with previous versions, there could be traffic jams because there was only one lane. However, significant increases in speed are not to be expected from WiFi 6 at first, says Ahlers. “Under really optimal conditions, the new standard achieves one gigabit per second, but for this, all components must work with the latest standard and no other user is allowed to access the network,” he says. Another plus of WiFi 6 is an improved level of security, with encryption that’s much more difficult to crack, says professor Peter Richert from the Muenster University of Applied Sciences in Germany. He says that industry, rather than private users, are set to benefit from the new standard initially. “At the moment, industry in particular can benefit from this, for example in production chains, where many machines are controlled wirelessly. For private households, it’s more of a “nice-to-have” feature, Richert says. Ahlers believes WiFi 6 won’t come into full effect until 2022 and advises consumers against buying new WiFi 6-compatible devices now. “Anyone who has a well-functioning installation of the predecessor WiFi 5 today can take their time with the replacement,” he says. Experts see the new standard as being useful for campus networks in particular. These are closed radio networks inside which companies, institutions or event centres want to integrate many users at the same time. “Here, Wi-Fi 6 can significantly increase efficiency and also lead to an improved user experience,” Hagemann explains. “WiFi 6 is aimed at high-density scenarios, so situations in which a large number of devices want to establish a connection in one place at the same time,” says Max Pohl from WiFi provider Socialwave. Nevertheless, Pohl’s convinced that the new standard will sooner or later also reach ordinary consumers. They needn’t worry about having to replace their current devices though. “Since WiFi 6 is backwards compatible, devices that were previously in use and supported one of the previous standards can still be integrated and operated in the network,” according to Hagemann. However, those older devices won’t be able to benefit from the advantages of the new standard. – dpa
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