Don’t hold your breath!

We’ve done a couple of blogs before on Wi-Fi 6, or to use it’s technical name, 802.11ax. This year sees the debut of this new version with the key improvement being it’s ability to send information to multiple devices simultaneously with one transmission. It also has better energy management for batter-powered devices. These imrovements will mean that consumers who have lots of home gadgets under one roof – Which, let’s be honest, is many of us! – will see less competition for bandwidth.

This Autumn will see the Wi-Fi Alliance begin offering certification for new Wi-Fi 6 devices followed shortly thereafter with the formal consent of this new standard.

However, despite this still being months away, router manufacturers have gone ahead and embraced the new standard already. You may have already seen the likes of Netgear offering new Wi-Fi 6 routers on vendor websites or in stores. Also on the way are Wi-Fi 6 mesh options.

So do you need to rush out and replace your router in eager anticipation of this coming Autumn?

Probably not. These flashy new routers might be backward-compatible with older versions of Wi-Fi, and thus able to still support your old devices but until you’ve actually got new Wi-Fi 6 smart home devices it’s not actually going to speed anything up. Your current devices using older versions of Wi-Fi aren’t capable of taking advantage of next generation Wi-Fi features (for example OFDMA and Target Wake Time) and gadgets that can, don’t actually exist yet nor have any been announced.

However, this is only true for the world of smart home gadgets like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. In the wonderful world of smartphones, the new Samsung Galaxy S10 already supprots WI-Fi 6 and it won’t be long until other new phones join the next-gen Wi-Fi club. It’s likely too that you’ll start to see new laptops that are capable of supporting Wi-Fi 6 by the end of the year . Some computers are even compatible with a Wi-Fi 6 adapter which is currently on sale already.

Alexa, when are smart home gadgets coming?

“Nothing on this that I can share, sorry!”

Odds are that the new year will see the beginning of brands attempting to grab headlines and stand out from the crowd by touting their new gadgets that support Wi-Fi 6.

Currently though, there’s not really much demand for these devices. Those who are extremely tech savvy and are keen to future proof their smart homes might be already on the market for them, but these early adopters are probably quite few and far between at the moment to warrant brands to bring out their next generation Wi-Fi 6 smart devices.

The market for these devices will likely spike once the Wi-Fi Alliance gives it’s certification and formal consent for the new standard. It’s predicted that early 2020 will see the start of a major global embracing of Wi-Fi 6 technology by manufacturers and it will then begin it’s establishment as the standard feature for all high-end WLAN enabled products.

As with most technological advances, once once brand or manufacturer takes a leap and offers the newest tech, others begin to follow. The more noteworthy manufacturers could decide to get ahead of the curve and introduce these Wi-Fi 6 devices sooner than anticipated. Products that support current standards with the ability to update to Wi-Fi 6 once it’s been certified could be a particular popular way to go.

No signs of anything just yet though. There are new versions of this and that popping up all the time, but still utilising the old standard of Wi-Fi 5. For example, just last month Amazon introduced a new Alexa smart display called the Echo Show which connects with your router wirelessly – This devices runs on Wi-Fi 5 with no mention of Wi-Fi 6 in the specs.

There might be a few early birds creeping onto the market but there are some pretty big names that aren’t just yet and you can understand why.
The average Google Wi-Fi user has 18 devices connected to their home network, but to notice a significant difference between Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 you would need to have 50 connected devices. Not only that, they would need to have an 11AX chip and be no more than 15 geet away from the router.

The other thing to bear in mind, is that new technology inevitably comes with a larger price tag. Over time, this tends to come down and with the price for Wi-Fi 6 routers currently at about £100 more that Wi-Fi 5, it makes sense to wait until the price is worth the impact it will have on those using it.

In general, most brands tend to embrace new technology but it will likely take a little bit of time.

The biggest takeaway from all this at the moment, is that it’s pretty silent on the whole Wi-Fi 6 front when it comes to smart home device manufacturers. It would seem that it will be smartphones and laptops that will move things along with the new standard and encourage compatibility with new home devices but it is still very early days.

So in short, don’t rush out to replace your router with one that supports Wi-Fi 6. There’s plenty of time for all that yet.