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Wi-Fi 4/5/6/6E (802.11 n/ac/ax)
(make educated wireless router/AP upgrade decisions)
(cut through all the marketing hype)
duckware.com/wifi -- January 15, 2018
Version 6.2c (updated September 28, 2020)

Chapters
01. Executive Summary
02. The need for faster wifi
03. ►Wifi's weak link: your client
04. ►Client 'PHY' speed is key
05. Understanding Wifi Overhead
06. Router Marketing Hype
07. MIMO - a wireless revolution
08. Wi-Fi 1/2/3 - legacy 802.11
09. Wi-Fi 4 - 802.11n (HT)
10. Wi-Fi 5 - 802.11ac (VHT)
11. Wi-Fi 6 - 802.11ax (HE)
12. Wi-Fi 6E - 802.11ax in 6 GHz
13. DFS channels in 5 GHz
14. Router/Wi-Fi setup
15. How to improve speeds
16. A Reality Check
17. Recommendation
 
Appendices
A. Troubleshooting
B.Router/AP Reference
C.Netgear 'Mode'
D.Throughput testing
E.PHY is asymmetric
F.PHY speed tables
G.mW, dBm, dB
H.Maximizing range
I.Signal vs distance
J.Channel width vs range
K.SNR / Noise floor
L.Router Deep Dive
M.WiGig - 802.11ad
N.Beware tri-band hype
O.New construction tips
P.Terms / Learn more
Q.Contact Jerry


1. Executive Summary
UniFi nanoHD
UniFi nanoHD 4x4 802.11ac "Wave 2" AP

(connect via Ethernet to your main router)

Wifi speeds vs. broadband speeds: Wifi speeds have not kept up with increasing Internet speeds. As a result, there has been a very rapid switch in wifi from Wi-Fi 4 (2.4 GHz 802.11n) to Wi-Fi 5 (5 GHz 802.11ac), and now to Wi-Fi 6 (6 GHz 802.11ax), in an attempt to keep up. So what new router/AP should you consider buying today?

Router Manufacturers' Marketing Hype: Don't be fooled by the marketing hype of router manufacturers' advertising outrageously high aggregate (all bands added together) Gbps wireless speeds (like 7.2 Gbps). What really matters is realistic speeds achieved by your wifi client devices, that actually exist today.

The weakest link: Wifi throughput to a 802.11ac wireless device will likely max out at around 600 Mbps (±60 Mbps) for 2x2 MIMO, to 1000 Mbps (±200 Mbps) for 4x4 MIMO no matter what 4×4 router is used (when right next to the router). And the far majority of ALL wireless devices today (smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc) are still only 2x2 MIMO. So your client device is almost certainly causing slow wifi speeds (and maybe not your existing AP/router).

The best router/AP VALUE today: A high quality 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 "Wave 2" (2nd gen chipset) 4x4 router/AP supporting beamforming and ALL DFS channels is the way to go right now (as of July 2020), due to the incredible VALUE. One such 'Access Point' is upper right (wired/Ethernet to your existing main router), and one such router (to replace your main router) is in the next section below. Also, see the Recommendation and Router Appendix far below.
But what about 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6? If you can find a "Wi-Fi 6 Certified" router that meets your needs, go for it. But, the 802.11ax specification is still not an official IEEE standard yet (expected Sep 2020). It will be years before there is a sufficient number of Wi-Fi 6 client devices to make a Wi-Fi 6 router really worth it (benefits are only for Wi-Fi 6 clients now, of which there are few), and by then, the next generation of "Wi-Fi 6E certified" routers will be out -- so just be patient.

Wi-Fi 6E is just around the corner: Greatly complicating a decision is that Wi-Fi 6E is just around the corner (early devices expected late 2020) that will require (yet again!) new hardware -- existing Wi-Fi 6 devices will not support Wi-Fi 6E.
So, upgrade, or not?: The only question that really matters is: What are client PHY speeds now and what will client PHY speeds be after an AP/router update? Because, if (the majority of) client PHY speeds will not increase after a router update, what is the point in spending money on a new router that won't improve PHY speeds?


2. The need for faster wifi
Netgear R7800 Netgear R7800 4x4 802.11ac "Wave 2" Router