In January of this year, at the annual multithousand-square-foot madhouse of consumer electronics in Las Vegas, manufacturers started slipping a new claim into their spec sheets: Supports Wi-Fi 6. New laptops and routers from HP, Dell, Asus—they would all support this new standard. The following month, when Samsung revealed its Galaxy S10 smartphone, it listed Wi-Fi 6 support among the many whiz-band features of the fancy phone. “Wi-Fi 6” was now being included in a flagship product.
So … what is this new standard that everyone’s pledging to support? Wi-Fi 6 is the latest generation of wireless connectivity technology. It hasn’t really launched yet, but it will soon, so tech makers have been building support into devices this year as a means of future-proofing their products.
As with most new standards, its stewards say that Wi-Fi 6 will ultimately make our tech lives better and faster. That’s probably true. But keep in mind that the main objective with the launch of Wi-Fi 6 is to increase the performance and reliability of wireless connectivity at a network level, not necessarily on a single device or at a single access point. Sure, your Roku and your Nintendo Switch will see wireless speed gains, but a lot of the new computational intelligence behind Wi-Fi 6 will be devoted to handling streaming to multiple gadgets at once. It’s Wi-Fi for a world crowded with mobile gadgets, IoT devices, and connected equipment.
The standards for Wi-Fi are established by the Institute of Electrical