Apple has launched its 2019 iPhone models, which as expected, come with a host of new features and performance improvements. One of the new additions, which barely got a mention during the keynote, was the addition of Wi-Fi 6 support in all the models. The iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max support the next generation Wi-Fi 6 standard. The new standard, which started gaining popularity earlier this year, promises higher data rates, increased capacity, and better power efficiency. So far, the Samsung Galaxy S10 series were the only other phones to support this standard.
During the launch keynote, the focus was more on the new design of the phones; the new processor and the cameras. We caught a glimpse of Wi-Fi 6 in one of the feature summary slides of the iPhone 11, but it wasn’t explicitly talked about. Wi-Fi 6 is based on the IEEE 802.11ax standard, which is the next version after Wi-Fiac or Wi-Fi 5. Around a year ago, the Wi-Fi Alliance ditched the traditional ‘802.11xxx’ naming convention for a simpler numerical naming scheme. So for instance, Wi-Fiac is now Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fin is now Wi-Fi 4, and so on.
What is Wi-Fi 6 and why should I care?
The main appeal of the new Wi-Fi 6 standard is that it promises to speed up the network in heavily congested environments. This could be public places such as shopping malls or airports but even today’s homes are getting heavily congested thanks to increasing number of IoT devices, such as smart bulbs, smart speakers, etc. The secret sauce in Wi-Fi 6 is orthogonal frequency division multiple access or OFDMA, which allows all devices connected on the network to run at their maximum speed. This means, slower devices will not restrict the overall speed of the network. The new standard will run on the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands but will eventually operate on other bands too between 1GHz and 7GHz.
Of course, to take advantage of the new Wi-Fi chip in the iPhone 11, you’ll also need a compatible router. Thankfully, router manufacturers have been steadily upgrading their product line to include new models with Wi-Fi 6 support. At CES earlier this year, Netgear updated its popular Orbi mesh router (Review) line with support for Wi-Fi 6; TP-Link launched five new routers baed on the new standard and so did Asus, a few months later. The price points will be a little high right now but just like Wi-Fi 5, it won’t be long before Wi-Fi 6 access points become ubiquitous around us.