If you have NBN, you can pay for one of four Mbps tiers (Download and Upload)
- 12/1 (expect perhaps 8Mbps)
- 25/5 (expect 20/1)
- 50/20 (expect 40/15)
- 100/40 (expect 90/30)
Now, remember all your network devices have to share this bandwidth.
Security cameras will chew up a fair bit of that; music streaming is about .32Mbps (not too bad), voice over IP (VoIP) is about .064Mbps etc. But if you have 20-30 devices on your network it all adds up.
The real problem is that Wi-Fi signals are half-duplex (think a one-lane road shared by two-way traffic that must pull over when someone else is using it). The router can only send or receive to one device at a time.
So, if your router has 866Mbps and you have four devices it can send or receive at 866Mbps, and it is monogamous – it can only talk to one device at a time. It must use ‘magic’ to via multiple radios/antenna, beamforming, or time slicing to service those four devices. But on average these devices will get 100Mbps speeds.
Most routers have 1Gbps (1000Mbps) dedicated ethernet LAN ports, and these can communicate at full-duplex – two-way traffic with no hold-ups. Ethernet is the key to a well-designed home network.
OK to the Wi-Fi 6 jargon
- Uplink and downlink orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) increases efficiency and lowers latency for high demand environments. In English it allows several users to share data transmission rate instead of one user at a time and it is more efficient in the use of Wi-Fi 5 and 6 bands. It may increase the battery life of Wi-Fi clients.
- 1024 quadrature amplitude modulation mode (1024-QAM) enables better efficiency for bandwidth-intensive use cases. It allocates bandwidth as needed using combined data streams.
- Improved medium access control (MAC) control signalling increases throughput and capacity while reducing latency.
- 2×2 or 4×4 MU-MIMO means the number of antennae that can stream simultaneously to different devices. More antenna = more devices
- VHT80 or 160 allows bonding or aggregation of two 40GHz or 2 80GHz bands for 1.27/1.69Mbps on Wi-Fi AC devices -that just means the traffic hog gets all the attention
- Dual or Tri-Band – Basically this relates to the number of radios that can transmit at the same time. Tri-band is better.
- QoS – the quality of service means you can allocate priority to certain streams like Video or audio or games at the expense of quality of other connections.
- Increased symbol durations make outdoor network operations more robust – better line of sight performance
- Premium routers may have onboard security from AV partners, automatic fall back to 4/5G, LAN/WAN port Ethernet aggregation, Voice Assistance, USB 3.0 and Bluetooth connectivity to enable streaming to multi-room devices.
- Mesh versions will come sometime after the normal versions.
Prices are likely to start at A$599 (AX6000) and go up from there. Manufacturers see lots of life left in Wi-Fi 5 AC routers so don’t panic thinking you need to upgrade.
GadgetGuy’s take. It is safe to buy Wi-FI 6 but you will pay a premium
In simple terms buy the fastest router with as many bands as you can afford. The two real advantages of Wi-Fi 6 is OFDMA and MU-MIMO. You may not need all that capacity now but add security cameras, smart speakers, smart TV/Blu-ray/soundbar, Netflix et al., and it does not take long to overwhelm a cheaper router.
Over time we will update this tutorial as we get to test more Wi-Fi 6 AX routers.