The Samsung Galaxy S10 will be one of the first smartphones to support WiFi 6, the latest version of the wireless technology that promises more speed, range, and resilience to crowded networks. WiFi 6 is the new branding for 802.11ax, a WiFi upgrade so new, it’s actually rare to find a router that supports it.
802.11ax has a number of advantages over previous versions of WiFi. As with previous wireless networking upgrades, one of the primary advantages will be an improvement in throughput rates. Up to 10 Gbps will be supported, at least theoretically, using both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, and up to 8 spatial streams with 1024-QAM.
However it’ll also be far more adept at handling situations with multiple wireless devices attempting to coexist. 802.11ax routers will be able to transmit to up to eight devices simultaneously – twice as many as the old version – with a combination of beamforming, MU-MIMO, and OFDMA, among other things. That should pay dividends in homes and offices where more and more devices are trying to get online at the same time.
What it’s not is a particularly easy name to remember. That’s why the Wi-Fi Alliance announced new branding back in October 2018, rebooting how WiFi is known on the consumer side. While still officially 802.11ax, for marketing purposes companies like Samsung are being encouraged to use WiFi 6 as the brand name. WiFi 5 is the name retroactively applied to 802.11ac, meanwhile, and WiFi 4 is 802.11n.
WiFi 6, we were told, was set to show up commercially in early 2019, and now we’ve had confirmation of some of the first client devices to support it. When the Samsung Galaxy S10 crossed through the FCC earlier, it didn’t just confirm that there were at least three models of the phone. It also made clear, Droid-Life spotted, that there’d be WiFi 6 802.11ax support as well.
Considering Samsung is expected to use Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 855 for the Galaxy S10, and one of the headline networking features of that SoC is WiFi 6 support, all this doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Nonetheless it’s a good place for WiFi 6 to build from as it looks to gain traction this year.
For the best results, of course, both the client device like a smartphone and the router it’s connected to need to support WiFi 6. We’ve seen a few routers announced for home use with 802.11ax capability, though it’ll likely be some time before they’re prevalent in deployments. All the same, it’s a well known chicken-and-egg problem getting new networking standards adopted, and so it’s a positive thing for Samsung to be helping to lead that charge.
It won’t be alone, mind. Apple’s 2019 iPhone upgrade is expected to also feature WiFi 6 among its improvements, even as the Cupertino firm is widely predicted to hold off on 5G until 2020.