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Earlier generations of WiFi technology were primarily focussed on increasing peak throughput. With WiFi 6, which is based on the IEEE 802.11ax standard, the focus is on improving the efficiency of the radio link. However, there is a relatively modest increase in peak data rate too.

With rapid growth in the use of WiFi in the enterprise, at public venues, and for Mobile Data Offload, WiFi technology needed to evolve to meet the new requirements. The limited amount of unlicensed spectrum in both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands means that each Access Point (AP) needs to concurrently serve more users in high-density scenarios. Moreover, cell sizes are shrinking,
resulting in reduced inter-AP spacing for ultra high-density deployments. From a radio resource management perspective, another major bottleneck has been the loss of valuable airtime due to contention on the uplink, which significantly degrades the end user experience. Lastly, with the increasing diversity in client devices and user applications, the one-size-fits-all approach of resource allocation cannot be relied upon to deliver consistently good QoE.

The challenges presented by the existing WiFi technology led to the formation of the High Efficiency Wireless (HEW) Task Group in the IEEE 802.11 Working Group. The HEW group developed the IEEE 802.11ax standard for Wireless LAN (WLAN). WiFi Alliance (WFA), an industry consortium that certifies WLAN products, decided to create a new label, ‘WiFi 6’, for IEEE 802.11ax devices. WiFi 6 certified devices will support a subset of the features defined in IEEE802.11ax. The WFA has selected these features keeping in mind the market requirements and the need to develop WiFi 6 products at a fast pace.