802.11ax (WiFi6 ) Technical Explanation

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WiFi6 is the most recent generation standard in WiFi technology. WiFi 6 also known as “802.11ax WiFi” builds and faster than 802.11ac WiFi standard ( Take a look at WiFi Standards Brief Explanation ). More than speed, it will provide better performance in congested areas, from stadiums to your own device-packed home.WiFi6 was originally built in response to the growing number of devices in the world.

Technically, WiFi6  is the successor to the WiFi 5 (802.11ac) standard and operates in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrums.  WiFi6 enables devices ( WiFi Routers / Clients )to send more data in one transmission, resulting in speed improvements of up to 20% to 40%  with higher order modulation (1024-QAM). Higher order modulation increases the efficiency and speed of data transmission on your network.

The 2.4Ghz band is available in WiFi6 standard, while the industry has shifted to 5GHz Wi-Fi for less interference, 2.4GHz is still better at penetrating solid objects. And there shouldn’t be as much interference for 2.4GHz as old wireless (non-WiFi but 2.4 GHz) equipment like cordless telephones and wireless baby monitors are retired.

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How Fast is WiFi6?

If you’re using a WiFi6 router (Modem) with a single client, maximum potential speeds should be up to 40% higher compared to WiFi 5 router. WiFi6 technology accomplishes this through improving :

  1. The number of spatial streams
  2. Guard interval and symbols
  3. Encoding scheme
  4. Number of valid subcarriers

1- Number of Spatial Streams

There is one Spatial Stream for each access point’s or WiFi Router ‘s (Wireless Modem ) antenna, if your Access point has 4 antennas , you have 4 spatial streams . Technically, the spatial streams can be used to increase the throughput or to increase the quality.

802.11 Standard Maximum Number of Spatial Streams
802.11n 4
802.11ac 8
802.11ax 8

2- Symbol and guard interval (GI)

Symbol is the transmission signal in the time domain and Guard Interval (GI) is a gap between two adjacent symbols to avoid interference with each other.


Before 802.11ac 802.11ax
3.2 us 12.8 us

Guard Interval (GI):

Before 802.11ac 802.11ax
0.8 us
0.4 us (Short GI)
0.8 us
1.6us (2*GI)
3.2 us (4*GI)

3- Encoding Scheme :

The encoding scheme is the modulation technology, that is, the number of bits that can be carried in a symbol.

802.11 Standard Higher-Order Modulation Number of Bits in a Symbol
802.11n 64-QAM 6
802.11ac 256-QAM 8
802.11ax 1024-QAM 10

4- Number of valid subcarriers

Carriers are similar to symbols in the frequency domain. One subcarrier carries one symbol, and the number of subcarriers varies according to the modulation mode and frequency bandwidth.

    Number of valid subcarriers Frequency Bandwidth 802.11n 802.11ac 802.11ax
HT20 52 52 234
HT40 108 108 468
HT80 234 980
HT160 2 x 234 2 x 980

in conclusion , maximum data rate of 802.11ac standard is 433Mbps and maximum data rate of 802.11ax is 600Mbps, with 1 Spatial Stream at HT80

WiFi 6 Technology features:

OFDMA Technology: This feature enables your WiFi Router and devices to use your bandwidth more efficiently by allowing the access points to serve multiple clients at the same time (unlike OFDM which serves one client at the same time).

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Improvements by 8*8 MU-MIMO : This technology enables your router to communicate with many devices simultaneously. Wi-Fi 6 also allows 8×8 APs to use all eight streams to transmit information.

Improvements through uplink MU-MIMO: Uplink MU-MIMO allows more of your devices to transmit data to your AP, improving network efficiency.

BSS coloring for spatial re-use: BSS coloring enables devices operating in the WiFi6 standard to differentiate between signals from their own network and signals from other networks. This feature increases the efficiency and capacity of your network.    

Extended battery life for mobile and smart devices with Target Wake Time (TWT): TWT makes communication between your devices and your router’s Wi-Fi channels more efficient. Devices that support TWT enter a sleep state until their scheduled wake time. TWT reduces energy consumption and bandwidth use.

6 GHz spectrum: The development of a 6 GHz band in the future (WiFi6E standard) means more unlicensed bands available for high-bandwidth applications.


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