What is Wi-Fi 6 or 802.11ax?

Technologies Wi-Fi 
What is Wi-Fi 6, 802.11ax and Wi-Fi Max?
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Editorial Team - everything RF

Oct 6, 2018


Wi-Fi 6 or Max Wi-Fi or 802.11ax is designed to operate in the existing 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi spectrum. The 802.11ax standard is engineered to increase capacity by up to 4x, along with improving efficiency and coverage, to benefit both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands in a variety of environments including homes, schools, businesses, hotspots, airports, and more. It addition to using MIMO and MU-MIMO, this Wi-Fi standard uses OFDMA to improve overall spectral efficiency, and higher order 1024-QAM modulation to provide an increased throughput.

Wi-Fi 6 has been developed to handle the increase in the number of Wi-Fi devices connected to a single access point and it can also handle interference from other access points in its vicinity. It is required in environments such as homes, schools, businesses, hotspots and airports where there are a large number of Wi-Fi devices connecting to each access point.

Wi-Fi 6 is part of a new naming approach by the Wi-Fi Alliance that provides users with an easy-to-understand designation for both the Wi-Fi technology supported by their device and used in a connection the device makes with a Wi-Fi network. So 802.11ax is now called Wi-Fi 6.


Key Features for Wi-Fi 6:

  • Operates in the existing 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Standard. There are plans to incorporate additional bands between 1 and 7 GHz as they become available.
  • This standard uses OFDMA technology, which allows multiple users with varying bandwidth needs to be served simultaneously.
  • 802.11ax supports up to 8x8 MU-MIMO in both downlink and uplink, which allows it to serve up to 8 users simultaneously for a significant capacity boost. MU-MIMO also benefits the performance of legacy devices (such as 802.11ac Wave 2 and older devices) to improve every device’s experience.
  • Uses Spatial Reuse - In the traditional unmanaged approach, users compete with one another to send data in uplink but 802.11ax works in a managed approach by scheduling users so that they don’t clash with each other. This standard improves traffic flow and channel access by avoiding interference while sharing the airwaves and letting routers intelligently decide when to transmit.
  • 802.11ax allows devices to negotiate when and how often they will wake up to send or receive data. TWT increases device sleep time and, in turn, substantially improves battery life.
  • Data rates and channel widths similar to 802.11ac, with the exception of new Modulation and Coding Sets (MCS 10 and 11) with 1024-QAM.
  • Larger OFDM FFT sizes (4x larger), narrower subcarrier spacing (4X closer), and longer symbol time (4X) for improved robustness and performance in multipath fading environments and outdoors.
  • Uses Beamforming - It uses an explicit beamforming procedure, similar to that of 802.11ac.