Very high speed fiber is on the rise in France and concerns more and more homes. Even if the fastest connection speeds are not always accessible to all, this rise in downlink speeds is a logical incentive to ensure that the wireless LAN that shares these speeds is up to the task.
For this, obviously, Wi-Fi 6 is the best current solution, no offense to Xavier Niel who is already looking at the Wi-Fi 6E, without knowing for sure whether this is a real future promise or a current business excuse.
Internet access providers such as Bouygues or SFR * have already taken the step of Wi-Fi 6 (dual-band, in both cases) by integrating it into their high-end fiber box. These are respectively the Bbox Ultym offer and the Fiber Power 8 box, from SFR. With its Livebox 5, Orange has stayed on Wi-Fi 5 (dual-band). Free, meanwhile, offers either tri-band Wi-Fi 5 with its Freebox Delta, or dual-band Wi-Fi 5 with the Freebox Pop.
Can only Wi-Fi 6 boxes do Wi-Fi 6?
These Wi-Fi 5 fiber boxes would therefore be de facto eliminated from a selection to determine which box is the best to offer a serious Wi-Fi 6 connection? False.
First of all, whatever the wireless standard, the solutions embedded in the boxes are never the best on the market and it is always wise to turn to dedicated equipment – especially because routers Mesh Wi-Fi can cover all or part of your home easily and efficiently.
Then, since a network is never as good as its weakest element, the integration of a Wi-Fi 6 module is not the only criterion to watch especially if the Wi-Fi network is really important for you.
The best solution – not the cheapest – very often is to purchase a 6 third party Wi-Fi router. Therefore to prepare the ground as well as possible, you must take into account at least two criteria:
- the incoming speeds, those of the connection of the box with the Internet, which the ISP praises to you.
- the wired connection at the back of the box, which allows this connection and these speeds to be redistributed.
Be careful to pay attention to these two criteria at the same time. The one without the other having little interest.
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Incoming flows and connectivity at the
The first observation to be made is that not all fiber offers are equal in terms of inbound speeds. On paper, the Freebox Delta is leading the way in this area (and that’s why we have chosen it), followed by the Freebox Pop, then the Bbox Ultym, the Fiber Power 8 box, from SFR, and finally the Livebox 5. But we must not stop there.
The second observation is to note that to promise large incoming flows and then only offer small Ethernet pipes amounts to wasting great potential. A bit like building a motorway which then leads to a small country lane.
Up to Wi-Fi 6
Because the most efficient current Wi-Fi 6 routers can provide speeds that theoretically flirt with 11 Gbits / s (cumulated and distributed over three frequency fields and up to twelve streams), it is counterproductive to connect this kind of router to a wired Gigabit Ethernet connection. Especially since most of these high-end Wi-Fi 6 routers have a 2.5 Gbit Ethernet port. What, in theory, ensure that this flow reaches the Wi-Fi router …
What is the best fiber box for Wi-Fi 6?
In the table below, we have ranked the fastest fiber offers presented by the major ISPs.
In the first column, Out of the box, we have indicated the ranking of the boxes for their native Wi-Fi 6 service. Logically, the first two boxes are those of Bouygues and SFR, since they are the only ones to offer the latest generation of wireless networks.
Bouygues won first place because not only does it offer 2 Gbits / s in unshared incoming speeds (it is possible to concentrate this speed on a single device), but in addition, it is the only one to offer a 10 Gigabit Ethernet port. The ISP has obviously seen far and foreseen the subsequent evolutions of its network.
SFR has recently offered an incoming speed of 2 Gbits / s. Problem, it only offers Gigabit Ethernet ports … Which means that even when the ISP increases its inbound speed, wired connectivity will be the bottleneck to a possible external Wi-Fi 6 router.
Finally, all three Wi-Fi 5 solutions are obviously unable to deliver a Wi-Fi 6 network out of the box without the help of a compatible router. Which leads us to the second column.
If the table above is not displayed, click here.
Now let’s take a look at the column of the ranking of the best boxes to enjoy Wi-Fi 6 with an external solution. We immediately see that the order is not the same at all.
The Bbox Ultym remains in the lead thanks both to its current speed but above all to its 10 Gbits Ethernet port. There is no need to revisit this case.
To be fair now, the Freebox Pop could have been first. Its higher incoming speeds and its 2.5 Gbits / s Ethernet port must in fact ensure higher speeds … But in the long term, the scalability is less than that of the Bbox.
The Freebox Pop therefore climbs to second place, thanks to its high inbound speed (although shared) and its 2.5 Gbit Ethernet port. It will provide Wi-Fi 6 routers, generally equipped with an identical port, with an incoming bandwidth of more than 2 Gbits / s, which is very appreciable and is not the case with the third box.
The last place on the podium is occupied by the SFR fiber box. Why ? Despite its lower downlink speeds than those of the Freebox Delta, and despite its Gigabit Ethernet ports only, it is saved by being native Wi-Fi 6.
This means that in some cases, depending on the configuration of the accommodation to be covered, using a Wi-Fi 6 repeater could be a good solution to benefit from the best latest-generation wireless network with this box. Too bad, however, that the basic Wi-Fi network is dual-band only … By opting for tri-band, SFR could have chosen to dedicate a frequency band between its box and the possible router, which would have guaranteed better flows.
In fourth place, we find the Freebox Delta. Free’s high-end modem is theoretically capable of downstream speeds of 8 Gbits / s. A record in our selection. The only concern is that this tidal wave is quickly limited to 1 Gbit / s distributed to the router that will be connected via Ethernet. Your Wi-Fi 6 routers will therefore never be able to exceed this speed with the Internet – although locally connected devices may benefit from higher bandwidth for local downloads, for example.
Its impressive descending speeds are the only reason why the Delta is in fourth position, ahead of the Orange fiber box. The Livebox does too little to be categorized otherwise in our selection of super-high-speed modem cut out to serve Wi-Fi 6. Which isn’t to say that Orange’s offering doesn’t have other strengths elsewhere. In the meantime, maybe a new fiber box from the incumbent operator that is cut out for the new wireless standards …
* 01net.com is the property of NextRadioTV, a subsidiary of Altice Médias