We’ve known that Google is likely working on a Nest Wifi successor since details about it were unearthed in a teardown. However, a recent report reveals a bit more about the upcoming hardware, including how it might function more like the old Google Wifi than the newer Nest Wifi, and how it will include Wi-Fi 6 – and maybe even Wi-Fi 6E should.
According to a source who shared information with 9to5Google, Google’s upcoming mesh Wi-Fi system will use a Google Wifi-like hardware configuration. This means that every node in the system has the same hardware, with no difference between the primary router and the satellite units. With the current Nest Wifi, the satellite nodes and the base were physically different hardware and could not be used interchangeably. It’s a subtle difference, but it makes it easier to set up and expand your network later. If all the hardware is the same, getting an additional node to extend the reach of your network is easy and doesn’t require you to go through the trouble of buying a specific version, and you may not have to worry about which one you get you connect your router during setup.
This could also fix one of Nest Wifi’s biggest weaknesses. All hardware being identical means that each satellite node will physically have at least one ethernet port, as this is the minimum required for the primary node to connect to a router. The “unused” Ethernet ports on satellite units could be able to connect wired devices to the network, as in the case of Google Wifi and many other mesh network systems. Nest Wifi’s satellite nodes frustratingly lacked Ethernet ports and couldn’t allow connection to hardwired devices.
The source hasn’t been able to verify whether the new router will include a Google Assistant smart speaker like the previous Nest Wifi does, but they were able to confirm there will be Wi-Fi 6 support, and possibly even Wi-Fi 6E (although 9to5 couldn’t seem to confirm this explicitly). It can also be available in multiple colors.
The previous Nest Wifi came in several different colors.
Google is a little late with the Wi-Fi standards party. Its smartphones didn’t even support Wi-Fi 6 until the recent Pixel 6, when it jumped all the way to Wi-Fi 6E support and finally caught up with the competition. Home networking enthusiasts have probably even noticed that Wi-Fi 7 is already making headlines with other improvements, and there’s something called Wi-Fi 6 Release 2 that’s further muddling the waters of the existing numbered standards.
If you are unfamiliar with these different versions of Wi-Fi, the short version is that Wi-Fi 6 is the current “standard” that brings improvements in security, network capacity (as in: more devices like smart home gadgets ), and speed, with a theoretical maximum of 9.6 Gbps, which you will never see in the real world. Wi-Fi 6E is essentially the same technology but extends into the relatively underutilized 6GHz bands. It’s filled with big empty channels that can get even faster but have limited range like 5GHz (a lot of more limited than 5 GHz, in my experience).
One of the biggest advantages of Wi-Fi 6E is that it can be used specifically in mesh networks and offers noticeable performance improvements even if you don’t have 6E compatible client devices. In the physical structure of a mesh network, satellite nodes must connect to a primary node. Some people do this with dedicated Ethernet connections (called “wired backhaul”), but far more people simply allow the satellite nodes to connect wirelessly. Well, these nodes need to connect to the same sets of frequencies that client devices need to use, and that can increase congestion, especially in densely populated metropolitan areas where your network is struggling to be heard over everyone else nearby. Wi-Fi 6E opens up a whole new range of short-range frequencies for satellite nodes to connect to, leaving the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands for client devices.
Ultimately, Wi-Fi 6E can be a big upgrade for mesh networking even if you don’t have 6E-compatible hardware at home, so I’m hoping it’s a feature that Google will include in its next mesh networking system.