Wi-Fi somewhat explained.
Speeds + Frequencies. IEEE 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g, 802.11n, 1.8Ghz, 2.4Ghz, 5Ghz and Wi-Fi6?
As Wi-Fi standards have developed over the last 20+ years, The naming conventions, have varied depending on manufacturer or product. And they all describe, the frequency of the Wi-Fi broadcast, and the potential speed of data transfer.
Wi-Fi 1 ( IEEE 802.11b, 2.4Ghz) 1 -11Mbps (data speed)
Wi-Fi 2 ( IEEE 802.11a, 5Ghz) 6 – 54Mbps
(These three are in limited use currently and the majority of products released are not always backwards compatible to Wi-Fi 1 + 2.)
Wi-Fi 3 ( IEEE 802.11g, 2.4 + 5Ghz) 1 – 54Mbps
Wi-Fi 4 ( IEEE 802.11n, 2.4 + 5Ghz) 1 -150Mbps
+ MIMO 2×2 connections (explained below)
Wi-Fi 5 ( IEEE 802.11ac, 2.4Ghz+ 5Ghz) 1 – 6,393Mbps
+ MIMO 4×4 connections (explained below)
Wi-Fi 6 ( IEEE 802.11ax, 2.4Ghz+ 5Ghz) 1 – 9,6078Mbps
+ MU-MIMO connections (explained below)
There are more standards and features of each of the Wi-Fi types, that help with the improvement of each type, but I have picked some fundamental functions in which to broadly compare and explain.
So, looking at the above standards, and how does each compare and how does it affect daily use?
Firstly each iteration is an improvement on speed, and signal distance. The practical difference will vary drastically. In a standard construction home, with a standard incoming internet connection Wi-Fi 5+6 will outperform the speed of an incoming connection drastically.
In your home, both devices need to have a matched standard for that speed to be reached. For example, a Wi-Fi 6 router, and a Wi-Fi 4 laptop will only max out at 150Mbps. Also worth note some of your most commonly used devices are lower spec than what you might assume most TV’s are Wi-Fi 3 or 4, and Phone Wi-Fi capabilities vary drastically.
MIMO vs MU-MIMO
MIMO (Multiple input, Multiple Output)
In a MIMO system, an AP (Wi-FI access point) can communicate with only one device at a time. This is why MIMO is sometimes also known as single-user MIMO (SU-MIMO). In a MIMO system the number of aerials dictates the number of connections to the one device as well as the maximum speed capable. MIMO typically uses MxN, where M indicates the number of Tx antennas and N indicates the number of Rx antennas.
eg. a Wi-Fi 5 AP that supports 4×4 MIMO ( 4 send & 4 receive aerials) can provide a maximum theoretical speed of 1.732 Gbit/s. When it communicates with a mobile phone (1×1 MIMO), the maximum theoretical speed can reach only 433 Mbit/s, one quarter of the AP’s speed peak.
MU-MIMO (Multi User, Multiple input, Multiple Output)
MU-MIMO can improve the throughput of a wireless network by two to three times compared with a wireless network using SU-MIMO. MU-MIMO enables more antennas on an AP to play their roles, thereby providing more space resources and delivering higher throughput.
MU-MIMO allows multiple aerials to transmit data concurrently, allowing multiple devices to be sending and receiving (up to 8).
For MU-MIMO to be effective, connected devices need to be MU-MIMO compatible, or the AP reverts to SU-MIMO.
A basic explanation would be to describe a WI-FI network as a car park. The number of Parks is dictated by the router and addressed as such.
In a SU-MIMO scenario the WI-FI AP ‘connects’ to one parked car, and that one unit gets the data requested. Before moving to the next parked car. This bouncing between cars(devices) happens so quickly it appears the connected devices are all connected and send and receiving at the same time.
In a MU-MIMO scenario, 4 cars might be simultaneously sending and receiving information.
The more devices running on your Wi-FI the more this will have an effect on wireless speeds around your home. As technology develops this number of devices in a home is drastically growing.
Even with WI-Fi 6 + MU-Mimo
We would always recommend, any device that is in a permanent location or could be cabled is. This means 1, these devices don’t take up unnecessary Wi-Fi parking slots. 2, they always get the maximum speed available, without waiting on other devices or sharing speed to other devices.