Our specialist Field Networking Engineer, Tim Parkes-Rolfe talks WiFi 6.
WiFi 6, .11ax? What does it mean and why does it matter to me?
So, let’s start by answering the question a lot of Wireless Network Engineers are being asked on a regular basis. What is WiFi 6?
In basic terms, WiFi 6 is The WiFi alliance’s new standard for the next generation of WiFi. If you are a Techie (like me) you will understand this term more if we name it IEEE 802.11ax, with 802.11ac being its predecessor. WiFi 6 expands on past features of access point technology such as speed, capacity and the reduction of latency, alongside introducing new innovative features to enhance the consumer experience when using a wireless network.
How does it expand and improve on what 802.11ac offered?
A key feature of 802.11ax is the introduction of Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access or OFDMA for short. We have seen iterations of OFDMA in previous standards, however the amount of overhead latency caused by this feature is an issue with an increasing number of devices relying on WiFi connectivity. OFDMA dramatically cuts down latency and increases the number of transmissions available to take place at the same time from multiple devices.
MU-MIMO as part of WiFi 6 extends to upstream as well as downstream communications simultaneously. This means that network capacity can furthered due to the speed in which communications will take place, a benefit to customers deploying WiFi in large public spaces such as exhibition halls, sports venues and outdoor spaces, but also smaller businesses with highly saturated airspace.
WiFi 6 intelligently uses a new feature called TWT or Target Wake Time. TWT has not been available as part of earlier WiFi standards and allows devices to transmit at a scheduled time as negotiated with the access point to reduce network congestion. Another benefit of structuring device communication times that suits both the device and the access point means that power consumption is lessened, making your devices battery last longer.
Can it benefit you as a customer?
The number of devices that require network access is ever increasing. These days, companies are actively moving towards ‘smarter working’ which means more IoT devices being onboarded. However, the need to use legacy devices is still business critical, therefore 802.11ax should be explored if you are wanting to futureproof your network when converging old and new technologies as 802.11a/b/g/ac clients will still be supported.
The requirements for video conferencing and media collaboration are testing the capabilities of currently deployed wireless networks. If these services are integral to how your business operates, then 802.11ax could be the solution for you. Real-time application support combined with the use of both 2.4 and 5GHz WiFi spectrums will allow upstream and downstream traffic to pass with minimal latency overhead.
WiFi 6 has benefits that could directly improve your WiFi experience. Schools, offices and even warehouse customers could see a dramatic difference if your current technology is a few years old and in need of a refresh. Of course, this is only an introduction to a few of the features 802.11ax is advertising, so why not talk to one of our experienced sales engineers to talk further about how we can help design, optimise and support your new network?
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