What is Wi-Fi 6?

What is Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6, which corresponds to an interoperability certification program managed by the Wi-Fi Alliance, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ 6, is the latest evolution in Wi-Fi technologies and is based on a draft of the forthcoming IEEE standard, 802.11ax. The key innovation with Wi-Fi 6 is the Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) feature and is focused on increasing the number of devices supported in tomorrow’s networks.

Diagram depicting the evolution of Wi-Fi

What Problems Does Wi-Fi 6 Solve?

Wi-Fi 6 was designed to get better efficiency out of the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums in order to support increasing bandwidth requirements of applications and a soaring number of mobile and IoT devices.


What Are the Benefits of Using Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 introduces a new carrier access mechanism — Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) — which increases the granularity and flexibility of scheduling data transfers to and from client devices. This, combined with an increase in the amount of information encoded in a signal with 1024-QAM and bi-directional Multiuser-Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) transmissions, delivers higher utilization of the RF spectrum and supports a higher density of client devices.

Several other new features combine with OFDMA to further boost utilization and throughput of a Wi-Fi 6 network including: 1024-QAM which improves the data rate, BSS Coloring which improves spatial/channel reuse in densely deployed Wi-Fi networks and reduction in the Carrier Spacing that decreases protocol overhead.

Wi-Fi 6 also boosts the capabilities of MU-MIMO transmissions by adding uplink transmissions to improve upstream performance.

Finally, as we see an increase in IoT devices connecting to customers’ networks, power utilization becomes a key concern for these low-power devices. The Target Wait Time (TWT) feature which Wi-Fi 6 brings to the industry helps reduce power usage for mobile devices by allowing them to better control their active and sleep power modes while enabling timely packet transmission and receipt. 

Table diagram comparing Wi-Fi 802.11ac and 802.11ax

How Does Wi-Fi 6 Work?

Wi-Fi 6, which is based on the IEEE 802.11ax standard, goes beyond boosting network speed and combines innovative technologies to improve overall network performance when connecting a large number of devices running high-bandwidth, low-latency applications.

Wi-Fi 6 networks will boost capacity by leveraging these new 802.11ax features:

  • OFDMA to improve the utilization of RF section by increasing granularity and scheduling flexibility to transmit and receive data from large numbers of wireless clients
  • 8x8 uplink/downlink MU-MIMO and BSS Color to provide up to four times more capacity to handle more devices
  • Target wake time (TWT) to improve network efficiency and device battery life, including that of IoT devices
  • 1024 quadrature amplitude modulation mode (1024-QAM) to increase throughput for emerging, bandwidth-intensive uses by transmitting more data in the same amount of spectrum


Juniper Mist AI Helps Simplify the Complexity of Wi-Fi 6

With the new features and flexibility that Wi-Fi 6 brings, it is even more important to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to eliminate the complexity of configuring and keeping a Wi-Fi 6 network running optimally. Only Juniper Mist is architected from the ground-up to deliver great performance and simplicity by leveraging AI for AX (802.11ax.

Mist AI enables:

  • Intelligent band selection
  • Sticky client mitigation
  • BSS color assignments for high-density environments


Mist AP43 Series Access Points

The Mist AP43 Series is the industry’s first enterprise unified access point that brings together 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6), virtualized Bluetooth LE, and IoT capabilities. It is a very high-performance Wi-Fi 6 access point that helps you realize a self-driving network with rich metadata, AI, data science, and machine learning.


Understand Wi-Fi 6 With Our Smart Guide

Download or order a copy of our Wi-Fi 6 Smart Guide poster to reference as you make the transition to designing, deploying, and supporting Wi-Fi 6 networks. This poster has the key reference information needed to understand the new capabilities and tips on how to analyze the protocol with a packet capture tool.

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Wi-Fi 6 FAQs

What’s driving the need for Wi-Fi 6 adoption?

The growing demand to connect more devices to the network increases network traffic. Additional devices require more bandwidth, and organizations everywhere want faster speeds to support business applications. With device proliferation on a global scale, the need improve the efficiency of the existing 5GHz and 2.4GHz spectrum becomes critical.

What are the advantages of Wi-Fi 6 deployments?

By leveraging the latest features of 802.11ax, Wi-Fi 6 will enable you to boost the performance and client density on your network to support new bandwidth-hungry applications and enable the digital transformation of your business.

What are the key capabilities of Wi-Fi 6 technology?

The key features unique to Wi-Fi 6 include: OFDMA scheduling, 1024-QAM data encoding, MU-MIMO transmission capability, BSS Coloring for boosting channel reuse, Target Wake Time (TWT) to reduce power utilization by client devices, support for 4–8 spatial streams of data, dynamic transmission fragmentation, and finer carrier spacing (78.125 kHz vs 312.5 kHz).

What is the difference between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E?

If you are looking to further boost performance by taking advantage of the recently approved 6 GHz spectrum and channels by a growing number of global government bodies, learn more about Wi-Fi 6E here, which builds on the features and technologies of Wi-Fi 6 while adding a 6 GHz radio.

What Wi-Fi 6 solutions does Juniper offer?

Juniper’s focus is on optimizing network operator and user experiences with Juniper Access Points, driven by Mist AI, which automates and boosts performance. Choose from one of the many available models, including indoor Juniper AP43(E), AP33, AP32, and AP12, as well as the outdoor Juniper AP63(E) to deliver reliable and high-performance wireless connectivity. Our access points integrate Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for indoor location and IoT interfaces/sensors to enable new applications and provide more insight for your business. Juniper’s AI solutions for Wi-Fi 6 simplify the deployment and operation of wireless networks while delivering improved operator and user experiences with secure client-to-cloud automation, insights, and AI-driven actions.