Life Tech Australia is not ready for benefits of wi-fi 6

Australia is not ready for benefits of wi-fi 6

Australia isn't ready to experience the benefits of wi-fi 6 due to substandard NBN, expert warns Photo: Getty
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A leading telco expert has warned consumers that Australia is not ready for the next generation wi-fi 6 technology, which promises users 8K video streaming.

According to Dr Mark Gregory, electronic and telecommunications associate professor at RMIT University, Australia’s notoriously slow NBN is not up to scratch to deal with wi-fi 6. 

“Wi-fi 6 is a big improvement but the reality is services such as Netflix and Amazon aren’t streaming in 4K or 8K now because of poor compression rates over the NBN,” Dr Gregory said.

“The ideal speed to fully experience 8K should be 100 megabits per second, if not more, and for 4K it should be 50 Mbps.

“But most people are currently experiencing NBN speeds averaging much lower than 50 Mbps, so there’s no way we could cope with 8K at this stage.”

He said the current NBN infrastructure couldn’t cope with congestion.

“In the next decade households will have 20 or more devices connected to one wireless router and this means the NBN needs to be built to provide reliable gigabit connectivity.

“Other factors affecting wi-fi speeds also depend on the location of the router, configuration of the house, walls – which act as barriers – microwave ovens and anything that’s metal.”

Dr Gregory said Australia needed to move from fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) to keep up with the rest of the world.

NBN roll out
Australia is behind in internet speeds compared to the rest of the world. Photo: AAP

We’re so behind with our internet speeds – we rank mid to high 50s and we’re meant to be a highly industrialised country.

“We should be in the top 10, but we’re a long way from achieving that and this hinders our ability to embrace new technologies.”

The fact that the United States now has a higher percentage of FTTP connected homes, and their telcos are based on private enterprises, shows how far behind we are, he said.

“Australia is not seen as being a destination to embrace the global digital economy and this limits what entrepreneurs and developers can do here because we don’t have access to these types of connectivity.”

Wi-fi 6 explained

The Wi-Fi Alliance announced in October it would introduce the next generation of wi-fi, based on 802.11ax technology.

The alliance said it would use a simplified naming system to indicate major wi-fi technology versions.

For example, previously wi-fi 5 identified as 802.11ac technology and wi-fi 4 as 802.11n technology.

Wi-fi 6 promises higher data rates, better performance in dense environments, increased capacity and improved power efficiency.

For example, the technology should offer blistering download speeds with transfer rates of 1.1 gigabytes per second (Gbps) over the 2.4GHz band and 4.8 Gbps over the 5GHz band.

Another benefit it will bring is a lower power draw, meaning less of a strain on battery life. 

It will also be backwards compatible with all the existing wi-fi technology, so if you buy new gear it will work fine with your current setup. 

Wi-fi 6 is expected to begin its first rollout stages in 2019.

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