With a 1,500-horsepower engine featuring four turbochargers, the Bugatti Chiron has a top speed of nearly 305 mph, making it the fastest production sports car in history. Put it on a two-lane road with bumper-to-bumper traffic and intermittent speed bumps, however, and all that speed becomes pointless.
That’s a rough approximation of the basic problem with Wi-Fi networks in recent years. Evolving standards that focused on increasing peak speeds did not effectively address growing issues of network congestion and capacity limitations.
The new Wi-Fi 6 standard, also known as 802.11ax or High-Efficiency Wi-Fi, is designed to improve speed, increase efficiency and reduce congestion in heavy bandwidth usage scenarios. However, these performance increases aren’t entirely due to added horsepower — the nominal data rate is just 37 percent higher than the current Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) standard. Instead, 802.11ax networks will leverage more efficient wireless spectrum utilization to achieve speeds up to 10 times faster than existing wireless networks.
Get Off to a Fast Start
Most industry analysts say it likely will be another year before a full array of Wi-Fi 6-certified products come to market. However, it isn’t too early to begin making plans. We’re telling our clients to investigate and become knowledgeable about the benefits of 802.11ax now.
To help with the fact-finding process, Verteks is collaborating with Ruckus Networks to conduct a web briefing and informative panel discussion on the technology. During the June 23 event, we will discuss key changes from previous standards, Wi-Fi 6 deployment scenarios and major challenges network managers must address. You can register for the event here.
Reducing Traffic Jams
Steadily increasing amounts of wireless users, devices andtraffic have been straining Wi-Fi networks for several years. Degraded service resulting from increased interference and congestion has been particularly acute in “device-dense” environments such as airports, malls, stadiums and manufacturing facilities.
Wi-Fi 6 was built for these environments.
Several new techniques and innovations — some borrowed from the cellular world — enable 802.11ax networks to handle dense usage, increased data traffic and a diverse mix of applications and services with differing needs.
One change is the use of a wider spectrum channel at 160MHz, which is four times larger than the channels used by 802.11ac. A recent FCC decision to open up additional spectrum for Wi-Fi usage will also reduce congestion. The standard currently operates in both 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums, but the FCC move allocates additional channels in the 6GHz band. Wi-Fi 6 also uses spatial multiplexing technology known as MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) and MU-MIMO (multiple-user MIMO) to allow multiple streams of data to travel across different physical paths.
One of the more significant performance enhancements borrows from the cellular standard for mobile Internet connectivity. Like cellular networks, 802.11ax uses orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA), which can break a Wi-Fi channel down into hundreds or even thousands of subchannels. This allows up to 18 clients to send data simultaneously without creating signal contention or congestion.
Consider a Network Tune-Up
An upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 upgrade will almost certainly drive increased efficiency and productivity, but most organizations will need to do considerable upfront work to prepare. The increased traffic may lead to cascading problems with the wired network. It’s a good idea to conduct an assessment to ensure that switches, routers and cabling can handle the increased data rates. You may also need to rethink access point placement.
Our networking professionals will be happy to help you explore the issues you should address before tackling a migration. The June 23 webinar will provide an excellent starting point for the process, giving you a chance to ask questions and watch deployment demonstrations. That information can fuel a fast start to your Wi-Fi 6 journey.