ARE YOU reduced to gibbering fury when important emails take forever to download, or urgently required work documents refuse to upload while the timer icon goes round and round for ages? The problem is getting worse, and our addiction to life online is
If your internet connection is unbearably slow, one of the most common reasons is that everyone else in the house is online, streaming videos, playing games or chatting by video with their friends, clogging the WiFi network.
To make matters worse, many of these activities get priority because you wouldn’t want any of your children to get killed playing Counter Strike just because of a lag in the WiFi, would you? And heaven forbid that anyone’s movie watching should be interrupted at the emotional high spots of Alive on Netflix.
And you want to be able to offer house guests a good WiFi experience, of course.
The situation is getting rapidly more acute. When the current generation of WiFi came out five years ago, the average house had five internet-connected devices. Now there are nine, and when smart homes begin to really take off there may be as many as 50 devices clamouring for wireless access in every part of the house.
Happily, help is at hand. WiFi 6 has the capacity to put everyone online at the speeds they need. To do this, the network can communicate with up to eight devices simultaneously instead of four at present, and it can allocate spare capacity to particularly demanding users, such as games players.
The maximum speed available is also up from the current 3.5 gigabytes per second to 9.6, but very few devices need that kind of speed. Even if they did, the average broadband connection will not be able to support it – and it is important to stress that if you have a slow and unreliable broadband link, a spiffy new WiFi network will do nothing to improve it.
However, WiFi 6 will bring extra benefits such as greatly improved security through WPA3, which is available on some devices now but is mandatory on
WiFi 6 – WPA3 protects against hackers connecting to your wireless network and running software that repeatedly guesses passwords until they happen on the right one.
Your next move
To upgrade your WiFi network, you will need a new
WiFi 6 router and possibly some satellite units to cover the house. The best way of doing this is a ‘mesh’ network in which the satellites can all communicate with each other and the router to allow signals to take the fastest path. Most of the latest wireless devices including phones, tablets and laptops are now compatible with WiFi 6, and it is backwards-compatible so all your existing kit should be able to get connected with no problem.
Should you rush out and upgrade to WiFi 6?
If you are unhappy with your current wireless network, yes, but if not there is no rush. For many people Wifi 6 will arrive automatically when they change broadband supplier or move house. This is not the last word for wireless, however. The next step is WiFi 6E, which operates on a higher frequency that provides blistering speeds with no lags, ideal for gamers who need instant action if they are to win online. WiFi 6E is likely to feature in virtual reality and augmented reality gaming consoles emerging in the next few years.
WIFI 6 Devices
I love the original Motorola Edge 5G smartphone with its great camera and curved ‘waterfall’ screen edges, and now its successor the Edge+ has WiFi 6 as well as 5G so it can send and receive data at blazing speeds both at home and away. The triple camera is even better with a 3x telephoto and a 108MP main sensor, and the battery lasts for two days of normal use. Other WiFi 6 devices: Apple iPhones 11 and the iPhone SE; the new iPad Pro and iPad Air; All the latest Samsung Galaxy phones; Asus Chromebook Flip c436 laptop; Lenovo Yoga c940 laptop.
WIFI 6 ROUTERS Netgear’s Orbi WiFi 6 RBK752 mesh system is powerful enough to cover a 5,000 sq ft house through its base unit that attaches to your broadband modem and one satellite unit (there is another product with two satellites if you live in a palace.) Netgear claims it can handle up to 60 connected devices, which should be enough for all but the gadget-obsessed. It is dead easy to set up, helped by a useful smartphone app, and the units are stylish enough not to let down your decor if they have to be visible. The Orbi delivers a WiFi 6 system that should meet your needs for years to come. Also consider: Linksys Dual-band Mesh WiFi 6 router and the TP-Link Archer AX6000.
Words: Chris Partridge