Wi-Fi 6 is on the way, but it isn’t the fastest wireless technology you can get. WiGig is designed for super-fast speeds over short distances, and an improved version is coming in 2019.

WiGig Basics

HTC’s Vive Wireless Adapter connects a Vive headset to a PC wirelessly, using WiGig.

WiGig transmits data wirelessly on the 60 GHz frequency, unlike Wi-Fi 6 and other “normal” versions of Wi-Fi that use the 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequencies.

The 60GHz frequency is less congested than 2.4GHz or 5GHz, which means it can transfer more data at once. That translates into faster wireless data transfer speeds—in other words, faster Wi-Fi when using WiGig.

Specifically, the current version of WiGig is promising speeds of around 5 Gbps in the real world, while Wi-Fi 6’s real-world speeds will probably be more around 2 Gbps. And there’s a newer, better version of WiGig the way, which should be even faster at around 10 Gbps.

That sounds great, but there’s a downside. Those shorter wavelengths mean that WiGig has a much smaller range. The Wi-Fi Alliance says the current version WiGig can support distances of up to 10 meters thanks to beamforming. However, a WiGig signal will have trouble getting through walls or other obstacles.

WiGig devices can drop to the 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequencies when necessary. But, while on those frequencies, they aren’t getting WiGig’s super-fast speeds.

RELATED: Wi-Fi 6: What's Different, and Why it Matters

WiGig Is 802.11ad and 802.11ay

The ASUS ROG Phone wirelessly connects to displays using a WiGig-enabled dock.

WiGig was first announced in 2009 by the Wireless Gigabit Alliance, a trade association pushing this technology. In 2013, the Wireless Gigabit Alliance closed and the Wi-Fi Alliance—the same body that oversees Wi-Fi standards like Wi-Fi 6—took over. “Wi-FI CERTIFIED WiGig” is now a Wi-Fi Alliance standard, just like WPA3 security is.

The original version of WiGig, published in 2012, uses the 802.11ad standard. It offers speeds of about 5Gbps over a maximum distance of 10 meters.

A newer, faster standard named 802.11ay is scheduled for release in 2019, so expect to see faster WiGig products soon. Qualcomm’s Dino Bekis told The Verge that this new standard could be twice as fast, and communicate over distances of up to 100 meters. (Bear in mind, though, that it won’t be any better at penetrating through walls.)

Don’t confuse these standards with 802.11ax, which is Wi-Fi 6.

What Will WiGig Be Used For?

Nodes on Facebook’s Terragraph network communicate at high speeds via WiGig.

WiGig won’t replace Wi-Fi 6. Even with the expanded range in the newer WiGig standard, WiGig won’t be able to go through walls and other obstacles. You’ll want to have two devices using WiGig in the same room with no obstacles between them to take advantage of WiGig.

Here are some technologies that could take advantage of WiGig, though:

  • A computer could power a high-resolution virtual reality headset in the same room, wirelessly. HTC’s Vive wireless adapter uses WiGig for this today.
  • A phone, tablet, or computer could wirelessly stream content to a high-resolution TV or another monitor in the same room. Asus’s ROG Phone can use WiGig along with its display dock to wirelessly connect your phone to a big-screen TV.
  • Wireless access points outdoors could communicate over WiGig for super-fast speeds, enabling wireless delivery of Internet connections—just like how 5G can deliver home Internet. Facebook is using this for its Terragraph project, which delivers Internet wirelessly.

WiGig a much faster way to send data between two devices, as long as they’re close enough and there are no obstacles in the way. It’s a special-purpose wireless technology you would not use for every device, though—Wi-Fi 6 is more flexible.

RELATED: How 5G Could Transform Your Home Internet Connection

How Do I Get WiGig?

Think of WiGig as an optional add-on for Wi-Fi. Any devices supporting WiGig will also support basic standards like WI-Fi 6. But not every Wi-Fi 6 device will include WiGig technology.

If you’re interested in this technology, keep an eye open for devices that advertise WiGig support.

While the older 802.11ad standard has been out for a while, devices that support it are few and far between. Devices that support the 802.11ay standard will start coming out in 2019.

The big devices that do support WiGig are “self-contained” at the moment. In other words, you buy a Vive wireless adapter, and it communicates with its own receiver via WiGig. Or, you buy an ASUS ROG phone, and its dock communicates with its own adapter via WiGig.

In theory, you could one day buy a WiGig-enabled router and a WiGig-enabled laptop and get super-fast speeds while in range—but those devices haven’t appeared on the market yet.

Update: Qualcomm reached out to let us know that Netgear is already selling a few routers that support the older 802.11ad WiGig standard, like the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 AD7200. Netgear says a few laptops that support 802.11ad are available, but we haven’t seen many.

Image Credit: fractal-an/Shutterstock.com.

Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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