Wi-Fi 6 and the smart home



Wi-Fi is set to get a whole lot faster, with a new generation of wireless technology being introduced later this year.

Known as Wi-Fi 6, it’s set to double the speed of data transfer, while also allowing a more devices to connect over a single wireless network.

So, let’s dive a little deeper into Wi-Fi 6 and look at what it means to the smart home.

What is Wi-Fi?

First invented in the late 1990s, Wi-Fi allows devices to connect to the internet wirelessly and it’s brought massive improvements to how we communicate and access the internet in the modern digital age.

It works like this…fixed internet arrives into a home or office via a broadband connection. A modem/router then plugs into the fixed internet port and the router converts this connection into a radio signal.

This radio signal covers a small area and devices within it can access the radio signal to connect to the internet.

So, in a nutshell, Wi-Fi allows you to connect to the internet without the need for cables.  

Now up to generation 6

Wi-Fi first arrived on the scene in 1999 and since then it has consistently improved over the years, offering greater speeds and the ability to connect more devices to a single network.

This year will bring the latest incarnation of the technology in the form of Wi-Fi 6. As this new technology rolls out, the global association tasked with overseeing it (the Wi-Fi Alliance) is also looking to simplify how we refer to the different versions of the technology.

Previously, the different incarnations of Wi-Fi were denoted with some confusing names like 802.11n, and 802.11ac. In a bid to offer better clarity, the most recent versions will be renamed as follows:

  • 11n (released in 2009) will be called Wi-Fi 4
  • 11ac (released in 2014) will be called Wi-Fi 5
  • 11ax. (scheduled for release this year) will be called Wi-Fi 6

The Wi-Fi Alliance is also calling for devices to now include a Wi-Fi version label, so consumers know exactly what type of Wi-Fi their new devices support.

Meanwhile, Wi-Fi 6 won’t change how wireless internet is delivered but rather incorporates extra technology to improve the performance available, and it’s set to offer some very real benefits.

The benefits of Wi-Fi 6

Improved speed and better performance are just two of the benefits that Wi-Fi 6 is expected to bring. Meanwhile, it will also allow for a network to accommodate more devices, which is becoming increasingly important with all the internet-connected devices the average household now has.

So let’s look at the benefits in detail…

Greater speed

In theory Wi-Fi 6 will double the data speed available with Wi-Fi 5, allowing a data transfer rate of 9.6 Gbps compared to 3.5 Gbps on Wi-Fi 5.

However, it’s important to note these are the maximum speeds achievable. As How-to Geek notes, in practical terms it will mean: “If you’re using a Wi-Fi router with a single device, maximum potential speeds should be up to 40 per cent higher with Wi-Fi 6 compared to Wi-Fi 5”.

More devices

According to research firm Telsyte the average Australian household had 17.1 connected devices in 2018, up from 13.7 the year prior. But that’s just a drop in the ocean of what’s expected to occur in the next few years.

Telsyte tips that by 2022, the number of connected devices will grow to 37 per household or 381 million Internet-connected devices nationally.

Wi-Fi 6 will play a major role in accommodating all this connectivity. It is specifically designed to better support this increased use by talking to more devices while also offering improved speed to each.

It will do so via two key technologies known as MU-MIMO and OFDMA. In short, greatly simplified terms, OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) lets the router talk to more devices at once by dividing them into a series of sub-channels.

MU-MIMO (Multiple User – Multiple In/Multiple Out) then incorporates additional antenna so the router can acquire the response from the multiple devices at the same time.

Less congestion

This upgrade will not only allow more devices to talk to the router at the same time, it will also reduce congestion, and that’s becoming increasingly important in business, in homes and in public networks.

Better battery life

An interesting benefit is that Wi-Fi 6 will likely improve the battery life of your devices, as How-to Geek explains:

“When the access point is talking to a device (like your smartphone), it can tell the device exactly when to put its Wi-Fi radio to sleep and exactly when to wake it up to receive the next transmission. This will conserve power, as it means the Wi-Fi radio can spend more time in sleep mode. And that means longer battery life.”

What Wi-Fi 6 means to the smart home

Wi-Fi Is just one form of connectivity used in the smart home and improving it will offer benefits when connecting over this type of network. But it’s important to note other types of connectivity like Z-Wave are also common and often preferred when it comes to connecting smart home appliances.

Unlike Wi-Fi which connects through a central router, Z-Wave is a mesh or decentralised system in that no central router is required.

Instead, devices talk to each other, with no need for a middle man. Best of all, this communication doesn’t have to be direct, information can be passed along from one device to another “hopping” along the network to get where it needs to go.

The Z-Wave mesh network can have up to 232 nodes on it, meaning you can run 232 devices at a time. Importantly, the Z-Wave network gets stronger as you add more devices, because each addition creates a new route where information can be transferred. This is the opposite of Wi-Fi where additional devices can create congestion.

Z-Wave also operates at a much lower frequency than Wi-Fi but with a much greater range than Bluetooth, and has the added benefit of drawing very little power. Without exception, every single device running on Z-Wave can communicate with each other and runs at such a low frequency it’s not subject to interference.

About Lera Smart Home Solutions

Lera Smart Home Solutions is a leading installer of smart home technology in the greater Sydney region. Our team boasts over 20 years’ experience in IT networking, programming and the electrical industry.

We have sourced the most reliable and cost efficient solutions from around the world to provide the very best in smart home solutions, and work with our clients to understand their needs.

You can learn more about transforming your house into a smart home here, or contact us directly for further advice.