Article Wi-Fi 6 Brings Faster, More Reliable Networking
By Insight UK / 2 Dec 2019
By Insight UK / 2 Dec 2019
Wireless networking is now the de facto standard for connectivity in the office and beyond. Wi-Fi has liberated the PC from the constraints of Ethernet cables, allowing users to work anywhere thanks to the widespread availability of public hotspots.
Even in an age of near ubiquitous mobile coverage, Wi-Fi is prized for its greater reliability, capacity and lower power consumption when compared to cellular networks.
Although wireless networking has existed for a number of decades, the term Wi-Fi only came into existence in the late 1990s as way to make the technology more consumer friendly. Each generation of Wi-Fi has brought significant improvements, but the use of technical terminology has created some confusion.
The industry has decided to change this nomenclature for the next generation of Wi-Fi, meaning Wi-Fi 802.11ax, will be known simply as ‘Wi-Fi 6’. Not only does this change make it easier to market the new standard, it also signifies that Wi-Fi 6 is a major generational shift for businesses.
Wi-Fi 6 delivers a range of performance improvements, including faster speeds, greater capacity and lower latency. It supports a more diverse range of devices and applications, delivering benefits for high density Wi-Fi environments such as offices and the Internet of Things (IoT).
The more efficient use of spectrum increases the number of devices that can be simultaneously connected to an access point. Wi-Fi 6 boasts channel sharing capabilities and has greater interference mitigation characteristics to ensure a reliable, low latency connection.
Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) improves network efficiency and lowers latency, MU-MIMO allows networks to support more simultaneous users and data transfers, and Transmit Beamforming improves signal quality for individual devices.
As high capacity 6GHz spectrum – currently unused by any other Wi-Fi standard – is made available for Wi-Fi 6, the impact of these features will be augmented significantly.
Wi-Fi 6 has nearly four times the capacity of Wi-Fi 5 and promises speeds of up to 10Gbps – allowing organisations to connect more devices to a network and benefit from advances made in telecoms infrastructure.
Security is also improved with support for Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3). WPA3 promises individualised data encryption, stronger brute force attack protection and enhanced authentication.
These characteristics will also transform connectivity at public venues such as airports and sporting arenas. More customers will be able to get online, transforming their experience and also enabling new revenue opportunities for businesses. Wi-Fi 6 will also guarantee a minimum level of quality to ensure applications such Virtual Reality (VR) can be accessed.
It’s not just about high capacity and faster speeds. Wi-Fi 6 improves battery consumption in compatible devices, making it more suitable for IoT. Target Wake Time (TWT) allows each device to “negotiate” with access points how long it will sleep in between transmissions, reducing the need to expend energy.
According to one survey, 37% of organisations believe IoT and vertical industry applications will become the leading revenue driver for Wi-Fi within the next three years.
The jump in performance between Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 is analogous to the increase between 4G and 5G cellular networks and the two are viewed as complementary technologies.
Mobile operators and equipment manufacturers believe the combination of the two will lead to the creation of converged networking services.
Convergence will see the lines between wireless and cellular connectivity blurred, allowing operators to seamlessly move traffic between networks, while maintaining a high level of control and visibility. The end user should benefit from a superior experience and ubiquitous connectivity.
There is significant industry momentum behind Wi-Fi 6, with the Wi-Fi Alliance launching a certification programme. Certified devices are required to support several characteristics and technologies that assist the promised boosts in performance, so consumers and businesses can be confident when making a purchase.
Wi-Fi 6 Access Points and mobile chips are already in the pipeline, and analysts believe that half of all wireless kit will be compatible by 2024. According to the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), 9 in 10 service providers, technology vendors and enterprises plan to deploy Wi-Fi 6 and 78% consider the standard to be very important or important to their future network strategy.
It’s not hard to see why. Organisations are increasingly dependent on continuous connectivity to support mission critical applications and embark on connected workforce initiatives that drive efficiency, open new revenue streams and increase productivity.
The combination of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G is set to revolutionise the world of workplace communications and help fulfil the potential of Digital Transformation.