Say Hello to Wi-Fi 6

This internet upgrade offers several key perks—but has some drawbacks, too

Whether we’re using it for work or leisure, fast Wi-Fi is crucial. And for large-scale events with high attendance—and lots of devices competing for bandwidth—reliable internet service is nonnegotiable.

That’s why the rollout of Wi-Fi 6 might have some meeting planners dancing (or perhaps tweeting) with joy. As the next generation of wireless internet, Wi-Fi 6 marks the first upgrade since 2014, a move designed to ease network strain as well as improve user experience and security.

It’s speedy, too: One device can operate up to 40 percent faster with a Wi-Fi 6 router.

Beyond those benefits, the enhancement offers better branding. Wi-Fi versions used to be a vague soup of letters and numbers—Wi-Fi 5 is known as 802.11ac, for example—which made it hard for consumers to track upgrades and compatibility. (The Wi-Fi Alliance simplified the naming system last year.) 

Some experts are divided on whether the investment is worth it, but the technology could prove useful in crowded settings and homes with an ever-growing number of wireless products

Here are some pros and cons of Wi-Fi 6:

Pro: It’s great for big groups.

By packing more data into the same radio waves, Wi-Fi 6 can support more devices—whether in a large convention hall or a family home with multiple wireless tools in play.

Con: It doesn’t mean major speed gains.

Although the upgrade is touted to improve a user’s speed by “at least four times,” that’s when measured in dense environments prone to slower service or dropped signals. 

Pro: It offers greater security.

A Wi-Fi security update to avert hackers was rolled out last year. Known as WPA3, it hasn’t been required for devices and routers. But certified Wi-Fi 6 products must use it.

Con: It requires new equipment.

Current smartphones, tablets and other wireless devices can’t be upgraded to Wi-Fi 6. You’ll also need a Wi-Fi 6 router for your new tech tools to reap all the benefits. 

Pro: It can improve battery life. 

A feature called Target Wake Time allows Wi-Fi 6-enabled devices to “schedule” when and how often they wake up to send or receive data, thus reducing unnecessary drain. 

Con: It isn’t widely available—yet.

Already a part of some current wireless routers, Wi-Fi 6 isn’t yet available in many consumer gadgets. It’s expected to be more common later this year and in 2020.