Next Gen Wi-Fi for Crowded Home Networks

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Fifth-generation cellular technology (aka, "5G") boasts blazing speeds, which is great news for many, especially those who live in rural areas where internet connections can often be slower and unreliable. But despite what some providers are suggesting, 5G is not going to replace the router and Wi-Fi system in your home — at least, not yet. That's because 5G will only work on 5G-ready equipment, and most consumers aren't likely to run out and immediately buy all-new devices. To clarify, 5G (cellular) is not the same as 5GHz (Wi-Fi) which has long been a band frequency used in short-range home routers. So for those who are not overhauling their entire family of gadgets, finding ways to improve — or at least maintain — network speeds and reliability is a growing concern. Consumers are increasingly adding devices to their Wi-Fi networks beyond just phones and computers (think tablets, gaming systems, media players, speakers, thermostats, appliances etc.) which can make those networks less stable.

Solving Network Congestion

For now, many see "Wi-Fi 6" as the solution to their overcrowded network. "Wi-Fi 6 is the latest version of Wi-Fi and offers improved speed, capacity and battery consumption," said Geoff Meads of Presto Web Design and a former network integrator. "The enhanced frequency bands can create more channels, and more users can share a single channel." The name "Wi-Fi 6" is part of an ongoing rebranding effort to rename standard Wi-Fi speeds. Previously, they were expressed using a confounding string of digits and letters that started with "802.11." Old names like 802.11n, 802.11ac and 802.11ax have been replaced with the names Wi-Fi 4, Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6, respectively, which are now starting to appear on all new routers and Wi-Fi devices. Meads says Wi-Fi 6 offers the benefit of improved signals without having to upgrade to all-new devices. It can also enable a technique called "beamforming." Compared to traditional Wi-Fi that spreads a signal everywhere like a small radio tower, beamforming uses multiple directional antennas to direct a much stronger connection to a specific location. But ultimately, as Eric Bodley of Future Ready Solutions notes, "The most reliable connection right now in any home is still cable, whether it’s copper or fiber." This guest post is from Ed Wenck, content director for CEDIA, the industry association representing those professionals who manufacture, design and integrate goods and services for the connected home. 

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