Wi-Fi 6 or AX is here – I have a NETGEAR Nighthawk AX8 (AX6000), eight-stream router in my hands now and I am aching to see what difference it makes.

Wi-Fi 6 or AX is the next standard after Wi-Fi AC and the aborted Wi-Fi AD. I mention AD (WiGig) because it attempted to get over all the AC issues but in doing so headed off on a non-backwards compatible road requiring new client devices to make use of it.

Wi-Fi 6

Take a step back – Wi-Fi 5 – AC is a base part of Wi-Fi 6 so start here

When Wi-Fi 5 AC came out in late 2013 pimply-faced sales people drank the Kool-Aid and made promises of performance and range that simply were not true. A badly designed AC network is no better than a badly designed Wi-fi 6 AX network or even a Wi-Fi 4 G network.

Why? Because AC was all about theory – 866Mbps 5GHz channels, 433Mbps 2.4GHz channels, Wave 1 and 2, 2×2 MIMO, 4×4 MU-MIMO, VHT80/160 Channel bonding (up to 1.27/1.69Gbps), 256-QAM …

What they forgot is that in practice brick walls, concrete floors, Colourbond roofs, windows, furniture, people and much more all affect the signal. Wi-Fi 2.4Ghz can run up to 46/92 metres indoor/outdoor and Wi-Fi 5Ghz up to 15/30 metres line-of-sight. In practice cut that in half!

Wi-Fi 6

In Wi-Fi 5 we have (table based on Wikipedia) (MCS 7=64QAM, 8/9=256QAM)

Type 2.4 GHz
(Mbps)
Config [40 MHz] 5 GHz
(Mbps)
Config [80 MHz]
AC450 433 1 stream @ MCS 9
AC600 150 1 stream @ MCS 7 433 1 stream @ MCS 9
AC750 300 2 streams @ MCS 7 433 1 stream @ MCS 9
AC1000 300 2 streams @ MCS 7 650 2 streams @ MCS 7
AC1200 300 2 streams @ MCS 7 867 2 streams @ MCS 9
AC1300 400 2 streams @ MCS 9 867 2 streams @ MCS 9
AC1300 1,300 3 streams @ MCS 9
AC 1350 450 3 streams @ MCS 7 867 2 streams @ MCS 9
AC1450 450 3 streams @ MCS 7 975 3 streams @ MCS 7
AC1600 300 2 streams @ MCS 7 1,300 3 streams @ MCS 9
AC1750 450 3 streams @ MCS 7 1,300 3 streams @ MCS 9
AC1900 600 3 streams @ MCS 9 1,300 3 streams @ MCS 9
AC2200 450 3 streams @ MCS 7 1,733 4 streams @ MCS 9
AC2300 600 4 streams @ MCS 7 1,625 5 streams @ MCS 7
AC2350 600 4 streams @ MCS 7 1,733 4 streams @ MCS 9
AC2600 800 4 streams @ MCS 9 1,733 4 streams @ MCS 9
AC3000 450 3 streams @ MCS 7 1,300 + 1,300 3 streams @ MCS 9 x 2
AC3150 1000 4 streams @ 1024-QAM 2,167 4 streams @ 1024-QAM
AC3200 600 3 streams @ MCS 9 1,300 + 1,300 3 streams @ MCS 9 x 2
AC5000 600 4 streams @ MCS 7 2,167 + 2,167 4 streams @ 1024-QAM x 2
AC5300 1000 4 streams @ 1024-QAM 2,167 + 2,167 4 streams @ 1024-QAM x 2

I had hoped that Wi-Fi 6 – AX would only have two speeds – AX6000 and AX11000. That includes the total channel aggregated/bonded speeds above, e.g. AX6000 only has 700Mbps more bandwidth (not speed) than AC5300!

But no, we will see AX1500, AX1800, AX2700, AX3500, AX5400 as well and the router chipsets coming from (numbered from lowest to highest power)

  • Broadcom 63158/6755/3390/4906/4908
  • Qualcomm 8070/8072/8074/8078
  • Intel 2732

We will also see Wi-Fi 6 client (device) chipsets from many companies and speeds achieved will depend on the number of 2.4/5GHz antenna and streams

One last thing before we get into the jargon

But before you rip out and buy (and our AX6000 review is still a couple of weeks away), I wanted to try to dumb down what Wi-Fi 6 is and what you need to look for. You know – to counter the effects of the ill-educated Hardly Normal Spiel.

Wi-Fi 6
NETGEAR AX6000 Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router

Myth: Wi-Fi 6 will solve all your problems, its super fast and it will even cook breakfast and make coffee – but you may have to buy some new Wi-Fi 6 compatible devices – bull-s*&t.

Wi-Fi 6 is fully compatible with Wi-Fi 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 – you don’t need to throw away any old IoT devices. It does this by keeping an older ‘wireless’ in the router and a newer Wi-Fi 6 wireless.

If AC5300 does not do it for you, the AX6000 probably will not either! Although it may make more efficient use of the AC bandwidth.

If you have a new Wi-Fi 6 device like the Samsung Galaxy S10 series (review here), these will achieve up to two times more Wi-Fi speed than Wi-Fi AC’s 866bps, but you can get that now with some AX5300 routers anyway.

Myth: Wi-Fi 6 will eliminate dead coverage spots – absolute Bull-s*&t

It will not give you better range (Hardly Normal has already tried to spin that porkie with me). If you have coverage black spots now, Wi-Fi 6 will not fix that. A properly designed network will, and the answer is usually not a Mesh network.

Myth: Wi-Fi 6 will stream 4K UHD content – 50% bovine excrement

No router can improve the speed of your internet. Wi-Fi 6 is all about internal network speed – not external internet speeds. At a minimum 4K content requires 25Mbps steady streaming or it falls back to 1080p (5Mbps) or 720p (3Mbps) or less. So, the 50% that is true is that Wi-Fi 5 and 6 can stream 4K content wirelessly from the router to the TV.

The 50% BS is getting 4K content to the router over the internet.

If you have ADSL, it will crawl along at somewhere between 5 and 20Mbps (megabits per second) download and 1Mbps upload. The average in Australia is 7.99Mbps – if you are extremely lucky. No router can improve your download speed.