Comcast's big plans for 2020 include Wi-Fi 6 Xfinity routers
Starting this year, Xfinity internet subscribers can lease a Wi-Fi 6 gateway direct from Comcast -- and they won't have to pay a premium for it.
Ry CristSenior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
ExpertiseSmart home technology and wireless connectivityCredentials
10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Comcast Xfinity internet subscribers are going to have the option of upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 this year by way of the company's newly announced xFi Advanced Gateway, which makes it debut at CES 2020. Swap it in for your existing modem and router, and you'll have a home network that's equipped to take advantage of next-gen Wi-Fi speeds and features. Best of all, the new gateway will serve as the new default option for all Xfinity plans 300Mbps and faster -- which means that subscribers won't have to pay a premium for it.
"The xFi Advanced Gateway is truly the best Internet product we've ever built," said Kunle Ekundare, Comcast's Director of Product and Hardware Management. "We're thrilled to be bringing our customers into the future with Wi-Fi 6."
Synonymous with 802.11ax, Wi-Fi 6 is the newest generation of Wi-Fi technology. Its main upgrades are faster top speeds and better, more efficient Wi-Fi performance thanks to new features that allow it to do a much better job of communicating data to multiple devices at once.
In our own tests, we've clocked Wi-Fi 6 routers at top speeds of up to about 1,500Mbps (1.5Gbps), which is about 30% faster than the fastest previous-gen, Wi-Fi 5 router we've tested. We expect that number to go up this year as new devices hit the market.
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At first glance, Comcast's new gateway looks like a pretty decent piece of hardware. A dual-band router, the device boasts four antennas on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, which allows for incoming and outgoing 4x4 MU-MIMO connections. That means the router can divide its attention on either band between four client devices at the same time, or combine the strength of those antennas to aggregate faster speeds to devices with multiple antennas of their own.
Comcast doesn't list the theoretical top speeds of each band, but a company spokesperson tells me that the gateway is capable of hitting gigabit speeds on 5GHz. It also includes radios for Zigbee and Bluetooth LE, and promises to connect with "virtually any IoT device." Customers living in larger homes can add a three-pack of plug-in range extenders called xFi Pods for $119.
Another nice touch: The xFi Advanced Gateway features a multi-gig Ethernet port for the incoming internet signal, which raises the speed limit on the incoming internet signal from 1Gbps to 2.5Gbps. As internet speeds rise and gigabit-plus connections become more common, look for multi-gig ports like that to become the rule, not the exception.
You'll set the gateway up using Comcast's xFi app, which includes parental controls for scheduling Wi-Fi access and restricting access to inappropriate content on the web. The app also features xFi Advanced Security, which uses artificial intelligence to automatically protect devices on the network from online threats like viruses and malware. That service used to cost subscribers an extra $6 each month -- but now, Comcast is making it available at no additional charge to all subscribers with a compatible xFi gateway.