May 6 2019: I have been trying out one of the first Netgear WiFi 6 routers to reach India -- the Nighthawk AX-8 (RAX80) -- and it is a disrupter, not least in its aerodynamic shape that hides the antennae which create 8 separate WiFi streams -- four in the 2.4 GHz band and 4 in the 5 GHz band. It's not just the 4-fold speed boost it can offer: A clever new technology called OFDMA or Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access complements MU MIMO or Multi User Multiple In Multiple Out.
Forget the tongue-twisting jargon: the net effect is: no matter how many devices you tag on to your home WiFi network and how heavy their data demand, they will all get equal and simultaneous attention -- instead of waiting in queue to be served. Think of it as a congestion-free expressway instead of a log-jammed street.
One confession: I could not honestly test the WiFi6 speeds with the AX-8 in my home because no one offers WiFi 6 speeds -- yet. To confirm the speed, I went to the Bangalore office of Netgear and tried the router there. To check out a device, I used a Samsung Galaxy S10, the only phone in the world, that is WiFi6-ready. And sure enough, a speed meter that is helpfully provided by the Netgear app, showed the data speed crossing into the gigabit range... almost as exciting as seeing an aircraft crossing the sound barrier to hit Mach 1!
In other ways the Nighthawk AX-8 is as simple to set up as its slower cousins and is available for Rs 39,999. A 4-stream version, AX-4, costs Rs 10,000 less. Not peanuts -- but that's the price of future proofing for 5 years at least and I'm guessing many customers won't mind.
- Anand Parthasarathy