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Wi-Fi 6 certification is here to make next-gen speeds a widespread reality

This "key milestone" in the adoption of next-gen Wi-Fi technology launches Monday.

The Wi-Fi Alliance wants you to look for the Wi-Fi 6 logo.

The launch of the official certification program for Wi-Fi 6 devices brings the speedy new standard that much closer to mainstream adoption.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Promising a "new Wi-Fi era," the nonprofit Wi-Fi Alliance industry group launched the Wi-Fi Certified 6 program Monday. The program aims to hold devices that use next-gen 802.11ax Wi-Fi radios to an established set of standards. Manufacturers that participate get to put a little certification badge on their packaging.

That badge is important because it lets you know that the device supports Wi-Fi 6 (the consumer-friendly synonym for 802.11ax) and all of the speedy new bells and whistles that come with it. Its availability also serves as a green light for manufacturers who might be watching for the right moment to jump in with the new standard -- especially now that we have multiple Wi-Fi 6 routers on the market, as well as Wi-Fi 6 support in flagship phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus and the iPhone 11.

"Today, we are proud to officially announce that the Galaxy Note 10 is the world's first Wi-Fi Certified 6 smartphone," says Inkang Song, VP and head of the technology strategy group of IT and mobile communications division at Samsung Electronics.  

wi-fi-certified-6tm-high-res

Look for this badge on the packaging for Wi-Fi 6 gadgets, a lot more of which should hit the market in the coming year.

The Wi-Fi Alliance

The Wi-Fi Certified 6 program verifies that devices support all of the individual upgrades that make Wi-Fi 6 up to 40% faster than Wi-Fi 5. That includes wonky features like orthogonal frequency division multiple access, which allows Wi-Fi 6 routers to serve multiple clients simultaneously within a single channel. You could, ahem, read my full Wi-Fi 6 explainer to better understand lingo like that -- or, you could simply trust the little badge.

Along with OFDMA, Wi-Fi 6-certified devices are verified to support the latest generation of WPA3 Wi-Fi security, multiuser multiple input multiple output (MU-MIMO) that lets your router send and receive multiple signals at once, 160 MHz channels that increase your router's bandwidth, 1024 quadrature amplitude modulation (1024 QAM) which lets your router send more data at once, transmit beamforming for better Wi-Fi performance at range, and target wake time, which puts Wi-Fi gadgets that regularly need to ping the router on a schedule in order to eliminate simultaneous pings and conserve their battery life.

A dense paragraph, I know -- just understand that all of the above adds up to better, faster Wi-Fi and that you get all of it from devices that are certified.

"With adoption of the latest Wi-Fi generation increasing, product vendors and service providers can trust Wi-Fi Certified will distinguish Wi-Fi 6 products and networks that meet the highest standards for security and interoperability," says the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The group goes on to cite industry support with a number of quotes from executives at participating companies, including Asus, AT&T, Boingo, Broadcom, Cisco, Comcast, Intel, Netgear, Qualcomm, Samsung, TP-Link and Xiaomi. In other words, expect to see a broad spectrum of Wi-Fi 6 adoption across a variety of devices in the coming year.

That said, the shipment of devices like those is expected to remain relatively small in 2019, says Yogita Kanesin, a senior research analyst who studies Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the internet of things for IHS Markit. Still, device certification should help pave the way for 2020 and beyond. 

"Once the two critical milestones -- Wi-Fi Alliance certification and standard ratification -- are reached, we expect a strong market adoption of Wi-Fi 6," Kaneshin told us earlier this summer. Wi-Fi 6 ratification from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the industry group that maintains and develops wireless standards, is expected to happen later this fall.

For now, here are the first products to get the Wi-Fi Certified 6 designation:

  • Broadcom BCM4375
  • Broadcom BCM43698
  • Broadcom BCM43684
  • Cypress CYW 89650 Auto-Grade Wi-Fi 6 Certified
  • Intel Wi-Fi 6 (Gig+) AX200 (for PCs)
  • Intel Home Wi-Fi Chipset WAV600 Series (for routers and gateways)
  • Marvell 88W9064 (4x4) Wi-Fi 6 Dual-Band STA
  • Marvell 88W9064 (4x4) + 88W9068 (8x8) Wi-Fi 6 Concurrent Dual-Band AP
  • Qualcomm Networking Pro 1200 Platform
  • Qualcomm FastConnect 6800 Wi-Fi 6 Mobile Connectivity Subsystem
  • Ruckus R750 Wi-Fi 6 Access Point

Originally published Sept. 16, 8:00 a.m. ET.
Update, 10:05 a.m.: Adds comment from Samsung regarding Wi-Fi 6 certification for the Galaxy Note 10 phone.