What's Missing From Your Wi-Fi 6 Router? OFDMA

ColinTaylor

Part of the Furniture
Hell, even Apple released the AX-enabled iPhone 6 in a relatively timely manner, although about a year behind Samsung.
iPhone 6 ? :confused:
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
@thiggins, great article! Thank you for still giving us this level of reporting on our consumer routers.
 

CrystalLattice

Senior Member
Thank you for elucidating this mysterious property for us. Will switch to an ASUS RT-AX88U, as do want working ofdma. If you see false technical claims in print, video or audio ads you can report the company to the FTC.
 

kamaran

Regular Contributor
Great article, very insightful. Thank you for taking the time to shine a light for the misguided consumer.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
OFDMA, a key Wi-Fi 6 feature, is still mostly absent from consumer routers and makers are not telling us.
As always, a well thought out and written article.

802.11ac Wave 1 made the most impact for 99 percent of the users in the real-world - items like MU-MIMO (11ac), 160MHz channels (11ac/11ax), and UL-MIMO, along with OFDMA, these are mostly around improving spectral efficiency within the channel, so to a single client, one might not see any performance improvement due to it being specifically 11acWave2 or 11ax

What's the point about getting a WiFi6 Router/AP then?

Just like how 11n clients did see improvement, 11ac (and 11n) may see better performance at a given distance - it's due to better radios, improved software in the WiFi chipsets, and, FWIW, more radios, which leverage MIMO properties in general.

Reading between the lines in the article - sounds like you've been keeping busy, and building on past contacts - wish you all the best in 2020.

sfx
 

RMerlin

Asuswrt-Merlin dev
What's the point about getting a WiFi6 Router/AP then?

Just like how 11n clients did see improvement, 11ac (and 11n) may see better performance at a given distance - it's due to better radios, improved software in the WiFi chipsets, and, FWIW, more radios, which leverage MIMO properties in general.
The problem is, do these limited enhancements justify the current pricing? You are paying the full price (300$+) to get, at this time, only marginal improvements, and a chance of MAYBE some further enhancements down the road. Unless you got screwed up by buying a Qualcomm-based device that will never offer UL OFDMA (like people got screwed when they bought a BCM4366 product that was never able to fully support MU-MIMO, requiring a product with a BCM4366E instead).

It might become more interesting this year as mid-range Wifi 6 routers are starting to appear.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
The problem is, do these limited enhancements justify the current pricing? You are paying the full price (300$+) to get, at this time, only marginal improvements, and a chance of MAYBE some further enhancements down the road. Unless you got screwed up by buying a Qualcomm-based device that will never offer UL OFDMA (like people got screwed when they bought a BCM4366 product that was never able to fully support MU-MIMO, requiring a product with a BCM4366E instead).

It might become more interesting this year as mid-range Wifi 6 routers are starting to appear.
I'm not sure actually, other than client capabilities will drive things, not the Router/AP's...

WiFi6 is a bit of a mess - promises much, but to the average joe on the street, they will not see benefits promised on the box.

Doesn't matter for MU-MIMO, UL-OFDMA, etc...
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
Because current Wi-Fi gear doesn't and can't support the 6 GHz band (it requires different hardware, not firmware), the WFA is creating a different marketing term. It's catchier and more succinct than "6 GHz Wi-Fi 6".

The thing the Wi-Fi industry is salivating over is that the new spectrum will make 160 MHz bandwidth available without radar detection gymnastics as well as the 320 MHz bandwidth being proposed for 802.11be Extremely High Throughput standard. I assume this will be dubbed Wi-Fi 7.
Tomorrowland - and wishful thinking with unlicensed spectrum...

WiFi6E - spectrum hasn't been allocated yet...

Missed opportunity perhaps with the 3.5 GHz band, and I haven't seen any traction in the 900MHz band
 

TheLostSwede

Regular Contributor
The problem is, do these limited enhancements justify the current pricing? You are paying the full price (300$+) to get, at this time, only marginal improvements, and a chance of MAYBE some further enhancements down the road. Unless you got screwed up by buying a Qualcomm-based device that will never offer UL OFDMA (like people got screwed when they bought a BCM4366 product that was never able to fully support MU-MIMO, requiring a product with a BCM4366E instead).

It might become more interesting this year as mid-range Wifi 6 routers are starting to appear.
Don't forget the first gen QCA9880 which had the same issue. A lot of people got burnt on early routers with that chipset as well, as only the revised BR4A version delivered all features.

This is also a good reason to never buy first gen Wi-Fi products.
 

TheLostSwede

Regular Contributor
Tomorrowland - and wishful thinking with unlicensed spectrum...

WiFi6E - spectrum hasn't been allocated yet...

Missed opportunity perhaps with the 3.5 GHz band, and I haven't seen any traction in the 900MHz band
Sub GHz Wi-Fi never took afaik. Remember Qualcomm promoting it years ago as the best home automation standard, but I can't say I have seen a single product using it.
802.11ah looks quite interesting as it can support half decent speeds and if the range is as good as it has been claimed, it could be a good protocol for things like wireless security cameras etc. as it offers much better bandwidth compared to other protocols in that frequency range.
 

TheLostSwede

Regular Contributor
I think the Wi-Fi industry needs to take a pause and figure out the next technology that will provide more practical benefit for most users.

It won't happen, of course, because the hype machine must be fed so consumers keep getting sucked into buying new stuff.
This is the same in the entire tech industry though. I think we need to take a good look at all this stuff and consider how much of an environmental that the tech industry has these days with it's throw-away style product cycle. I believe we need to get to a point where more of these products are user upgradable, especially at the prices a lot of these things sell at. Sure, technology has never been as affordable as it is now, but at the same time, high-end devices has never been as expensive, especially in the case of routers and phones.
What boggles the mind is companies like Sonos that has forced obsolescence with a "recycle" option in their app that disables older devices so they can never be used again, simply because they don't want a second hand market for their products. This is utter insanity, as speakers isn't a thing you replace every couple of years just because there's a new, slightly better model.
It seems router manufacturers have the same idea, or they simply stop offering firmware updates (which I thought was somewhat illegal these days after all the FCC cases against router manufacturers that aren't offering security patches) to force their customers to upgrade.
 

crashnburn

Regular Contributor
Pertinent question.

What Router tech is really worth buying and at what price point,
if one has a bunch of 2nd and 3rd gen Amazon Echo Dot & Fire Stick 2nd Gen/ 4K devices
and + 1 new XiaoMi 65" Smart TV?
 

RMerlin

Asuswrt-Merlin dev
What Router tech is really worth buying and at what price point,
Stick to Wifi-5 for now. Flagships from 3-4 years ago are great routers these days now that prices have dropped. Asus RT-AC66U_B1 or Netgear R7800 are two of the most popular models right now for the average home.
 

crashnburn

Regular Contributor
Stick to Wifi-5 for now. Flagships from 3-4 years ago are great routers these days now that prices have dropped. Asus RT-AC66U_B1 or Netgear R7800 are two of the most popular models right now for the average home.
Thanks. Those are still close to $100.

I am using a MikroTik HapLite to handle a 25M connect. In future I'd maybe consider getting MkTk AC Gig E (but they dont do Beam forming etc & WiFi focus ?? MU - MIMO?? )

Hoping to add 1/2 cheap routers as APs. So, 40/50$ or something as cheap as 15/20$ just to act as good Wireless APs to a Master HAPLite (N only) to handle Multi devices.

Thoughts?
 

thiggins

Mr. Easy
Staff member
I agree with Merlin. Stick with AC / WiFi 5 for now. The only reason to get a WiFi 6 router is if you have a WiFi 6 device and plan on using 2.4 GHz. You will see improved speeds there.
 

RMerlin

Asuswrt-Merlin dev
Thanks. Those are still close to $100.
They used to be around 200$ when they launched. 100$ is a pretty reasonable price if you want a capable router. You can get cheaper 30-50$ models, however the performance will be in line with their pricing. The two models I mentioned are currently the sweet spot in terms of pricing vs performance.
 

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