We’ve known that Google was probably working on a Nest Wifi successor since details about it were dug up in a teardown. But a recent report reveals a little more about the upcoming hardware, including how it might work more like the old Google Wifi than the more recent Nest Wifi, and how it should include Wi-Fi 6 – and maybe even Wi-Fi 6E.
According to a source that shared information with 9to5Google, Google’s upcoming mesh Wi-Fi system will use a Google Wifi-like hardware configuration. That means every node in the system has the same hardware, with no difference between the primary router and satellite units. On the recent Nest Wifi, the satellite nodes and base were physically different hardware and could not be used interchangeably. It’s a subtle difference, but it makes it easier to set things up and expand your network later on. If all the hardware is the same, picking up an extra node to extend your network’s range is simple and does not require you to go out of your way to buy a specific version, and you may not need to worry about which you plug into your router during setup.
This might also fix one of the biggest pain points of the Nest Wifi. If all the hardware is identical, that means every satellite node will physically have at least one Ethernet port on it since that required at a minimum for the primary node to connect to a router. The “unused” Ethernet ports on satellite units: might: be able to connect wired devices to the network, as in the case of the Google Wifi and many other mesh networking systems. The Nest Wifi’s satellite nodes frustratingly lacked Ethernet ports and could not allow hardwired devices to connect.
The source was unable to verify whether the new router will include a Google Assistant smart speaker, as the prior Nest Wifi does, but they were able to confirm that Wi-Fi 6 support will be present, and potentially even Wi-Fi 6E (though 9to5 was apparently unable to explicitly confirm that). It may also be available in multiple colors.
The prior Nest Wifi came in multiple different colors.
Google’s been a little late to the Wi-Fi standards party. Its smartphones did not even support Wi-Fi 6 until the recent Pixel 6, when it jumped all the way to supporting Wi-Fi 6E, catching up finally with the competition. Home network enthusiasts have likely even noticed that Wi-Fi 7 is already making headlines with other improvements, and there’s something called Wi-Fi 6 Release 2 which further muddies the waters of the existing numbered standards.
If you are not familiar with these different versions of Wi-Fi, the short version is that Wi-Fi 6 is the current “standard” that offers improvements to security, network capacity (as in: more devices like smart home gadgets), and speed, with a theoretical maximum that you’ll never see in the real world of 9.6Gbps. Wi-Fi 6E is basically the same technology but extended up into the relatively unused 6GHz bands. It’s filled with big empty channels that can get even faster, but, like 5GHz, they have limited range (much: more limited than 5GHz, in my experience).
One of Wi-Fi 6E’s biggest benefits is how it can be used specifically in mesh networking, offering tangible improvements to performance even if you do not own any 6E-compatible client devices:. In a mesh network’s physical structure, satellite nodes have to connect to a primary node. Some people do that with dedicated Ethernet connections (what’s called “wired backhaul”) but far more people simply allow the satellite nodes to connect wirelessly. Well, those nodes have to connect using the same sets of frequencies that client devices have to use, and that can increase congestion, especially in dense metropolitan areas where your network is struggling to be heard over all the other ones nearby. Wi-Fi 6E opens up a whole new set of short-reaching frequencies that the satellite nodes can connect to each other using, 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 do not have 6E-compatible hardware at home, so I hope it’s a feature Google does opt to include in its next mesh network system.