Here’s a fascinating question to start this with: do you think about oxygen when you breathe? Now, you might be wondering how is this question related to WiFi6.
Just like oxygen, a blanket of data envelops the world today. Almost. And just like oxygen, it is difficult to imagine life without the comfort of always-on data connectivity – whether at work or play or just sitting idle (think waiting to board the metro). In urban areas, as long as you are within four walls, you are mostly connected to a WiFi network.
According to CISCO, more than half of the internet’s traffic will be on fixed WiFi by the end of 2021. And by 2023, there will be over 628 million public WiFi hotspots globally. That’s almost one hotspot for every 12 people! That’s what we are talking about here. For something so ubiquitous and incredibly vital to our digital way of life, we rarely seem to be talking about where we are in terms of next-gen WiFi technology.
So, while you’re thinking about upgrading to 5G, you should come and say hello to WiFi6 – the
oxygen of the next generation of wireless connectivity. Why? Because it promises enhanced capabilities to:
- Effectively handle increasing traffic demands, capacity, coverage, and network intelligence
- Delivers futuristic 5G applications and Industry 4.0 use cases
Let’s dive in.
Decoding WiFi 6 – Why should you upgrade?
In essence, WiFi 6 is the latest standard in WiFi technology, denoted by 802.11ax. It was introduced in 2019 and goes hand-in-hand with 5G technology to facilitate the in-depth application of IoT and seamless augmented and virtual reality AR/VR experiences. Since then, it has gained significant traction from network equipment manufacturers and service providers. As such, WiFi6 is not just a more advanced version of WiFi5 – but an entirely new and disruptive experience altogether.
Today, in an increasingly data-hungry and performance-oriented world, digital networks at home,
work, in public, and across industries need to support greater device density, near-zero latency,
wider reach, and blazing fast speeds. This is where WiFi 6 comes to the rescue with a
potentially 40% higher performance increase:
Faster speeds – Theoretically, WiFi 6 can go up to 9.6 Gbps – over 3.5 Gbps more than WiFi
5. While a minute percentage of that speed is enough for efficient real-world WiFi usage, a
greater upper limit means that a network of devices can share the speed more seamlessly.
Greater bandwidth – Think higher data transfer rates and reduced download times. WiFi 6
offers increased network capacity and efficiency by bringing in 5925-7125 MHz channels into
the fold. That’s an almost 2X increase in bandwidth and 4X increase in network capacity over
Supporting more connected devices at once – Enabling multiple devices to connect to the
network simultaneously with a drop in performance was one of the reasons for the
introduction of WiFi 6. It achieves the same using 8×8 multi-user multi-input, multi-output
Energy efficiency – WiFi 6 has the advantage of a modified Target Wake Time (TWT)
mechanism that gives connected devices the freedom to schedule communications and stay
inactive when not in use. The result? A significantly improved battery life and reduced power
Better security – Certified WiFi 6 devices and routers are equipped with the latest most
secure wireless called WPA3. This makes it incredibly difficult for malicious entities to
intercept and decrypt sensitive data.
But these augmented factors are not the only reason why there will be more than 13
billion cumulative Wi-Fi 6-enabled devices by 2026. More than the numbers, WiFi 6 is poised to
deliver an entirely new user experience in tandem with 5G and Industry 4.0 applications.
Not just an upgrade but a new user experience
WiFi 6 is not simply a periodic jump from the 802.11ac wireless standard to 802.11ax. It’s more of a technological leap considering the next-gen connected experiences the world is steadily embracing.
Here’s what we can expect from industrial and domestic WiFi 6 networks in terms of unlocking much more immersive and highly efficient user experiences:
- TWT ensures extended battery life of IoT sensors as per usage and activity schedules – both at network-dense home spaces and industrial environments. This enables better energy management and much more reliable inputs from condition-monitoring devices.
- Low latency for much more efficient AR applications as well as more robust video, voice, and real-time data visualizations.
- Efficient and faster transmission of data to more connected devices at once, right from
minute sensors to automated industrial robots, using the Orthogonal Frequency Division
Multiple Access technology
- Increased network transmission range and higher network speeds through 2X beamforming capabilities. Beamforming enables routers to transmit a more localised data stream when triggered by a specific device requesting data
Imagine a WiFi network for an entire sports stadium that can support thousands of devices as they record videos, share Instagram posts or go live on social media. No more jostling of bandwidth! Think better and more efficient QoS to multiple smart city networks at the same time. Imagine not getting eliminated in your latest online multiplayer mobile gaming session because of a millisecond lag. Think various sectors including e-education, e-healthcare, and smart manufacturing being able to move towards a fully wireless infrastructure.
What’s the latest in WiFi 6 industry?
So, what’s been cooking in the WiFi 6 domain since 2019?
In 2020, the 6GHz bandwidth channel was also opened by FCC for use under WiFi 6, leading to the birth of WiFi 6E. This has provided the industry with an opportunity to further realise low-latency, high-performance indoor connectivity in dense industrial environments. In 2021, there’s even been talk of a new standard that’s 2.4X faster – WiFi 7 – with Mediatek planning to showcase a capable device at CES 2022.
Leading digital network aggregators, equipment manufacturers and network operators have been quick to scale up the segment with a slew of innovations and releases. For example, Qualcomm’s latest flagship processors, the Snapdragon 855 and 855+, both support WiFi 6 capabilities that will be intrinsic in the upcoming flagship mobile devices. If you’re buying an Intel-chipset based PC soon, make sure it includes the latest Intel Wi-Fi 6 (Gig+) technology.
You can also look at upgrading your existing PC WiFi 6 USB adapters or bringing home WiFi 6 routers such as Netgear Nighthawk AX12 12-Stream Router or the TP-Link Archer AX11000.
For enterprise-grade solutions, leading digital network integrators like STL have also come out with cutting edge products like STL Hamsa – a carrier-grade high-capacity outdoor Wi-Fi 6 access point that promises no coverage holes in the network.
All in all, WiFi 6 has emerged as a compelling upgrade over its predecessor thanks to its ability to support 5G services and Industry 4.0 use cases. It’s time the world gets hyped and jumps aboard the train to an ever-connected future.