Tackling a WiFi 6E challenge- newer routers not supporting older WiFi devices

May 08, 2023

You finally upgrade your home WiFi system to a WiFi 6 or 6E router, and at first everything works great. Your new laptop and your iPhone 14 connect fine. But then you find out another device- such as an older laptop, TV, or USB WiFi adapter can see your new WiFi signal but it just won't connect. But those devices did connect just fine to your old router, so you know they aren't broken.

You're certain it's not a password issue and you've tried connecting 100 times. You've restarted the PC, updated the TV's firmware, or reinstalled your USB WiFi adapters drivers, but nothing fixes it. What can you do?

In the early days of dual band WiFi, things were simple. You bought a dual band Linkys brand router, powered it up, and you'd see two WiFi signals: Linksys and Linksys5G. The first one was your 2.4 Ghz signal, and the second was the 5 Ghz. If you had any devices that were 2.4 GHz only, they would only see one of the two signals.

Today, it's more complicated. Most newer WiFi routers and mesh systems use something loosely referred to as a "smart connect" feature, which is special technology that sends out only one single WiFi network. Then your devices are put on the specific band the router deems is best for your device. Newer WiFi 6E routers that offer 6 GHz signal will put 6E compatible device on the 6 Ghz band, and other devices on 5 or 2.4. 

But "smart connect" can also cause compatibility issues, especially with older devices. And in tech, older can mean something you bought six months ago, like a previous generation iPhone or TV.

Fortunately, most WiFi routers have a setting in their administrative console or app where you can turn this feature off and broadcast separate SSIDs (or WiFi network names) for each band of your router. This will reduce connection issues related to the smart connect technology. Some routers will have a "compatibility mode" feature, which broadcasts one SSID for newer devices, and a separate single network for older devices. 

Check with your router model's manual or consult the manufacturer's technical support to find out more. 

Note that some routers- like the Anazon EERO Pro 6E, do not have the ability to disable the smart connect technology or set a compatibility mode. If you will have a mix of different age devices on your network, we recommend checking to be sure the new router you plan to purchase will have these settings. 

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