The Evolution of Wi-Fi 6: Part 6

In part five of this series, we discussed the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) for new and legacy devices, as well as the expected Wi-Fi feature set arriving in Wave 1 and Wave 2. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at Wi-Fi Alliance certification and how Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) will benefit high-density wireless deployments in locations such as stadiums, convention centers, MDUs and student dormitories.

Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi Alliance Certification

Wi-Fi Alliance certification of Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is expected in mid to late 2019, with the standard due to be publicly ratified and released sometime in late 2019 or early 2020. It should be noted that Wi-Fi 6 devices presented at CES 2018 clocked in at a top speed of 11 gigabits per second. Commercial activity around Wi-Fi 6 has already started, with Ruckus and other companies announcing Wi-Fi 6 APs. As we’ve reiterated throughout this series, Wi-Fi 6 will bring about a profound change in the Wi-Fi industry with faster speeds, increased range and improved performance.

Wi-Fi 6 Device Rollouts

While there aren’t any certifiable Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) clients on the market today, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) AP residential router and carrier gateway announcements have already kicked off, with various companies announcing Wi-Fi 6 products throughout late 2017 and 2018. Moreover, several companies have begun shipping Wi-Fi 6 APs, including Ruckus, which was the first to market with the industry’s first 8×8 5g+ 4 x 4 2.4 G Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) access point.

Wi-Fi 6 Use Cases: Stadiums and Convention Centers

As we noted earlier, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) technology will benefit a wide range of wireless deployments. However, the new standard is particularly useful for high-density environments in which many users and devices are competing for limited spectrum. Examples include large public venues such as stadiums and convention centers. Indeed, stadiums are increasingly offering fast and ubiquitous Wi-Fi to improve fan or attendee experiences, bolster customer interaction and create value-added services (VAS) such as streaming instant replays on fan devices and allowing attendees to order food from their seats.

It should be noted that stadiums and convention centers typically host tens of thousands of users, many of who attempt to connect to Wi-Fi simultaneously. This scenario poses unique scale and density challenges for access points. Fortunately, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) advancements around OFDMA, 1024-QAM, BSS Coloring and the faster PHY rates will make it easier for large public venue owners to create new business opportunities by offering enhanced services to guests.

Wi-Fi 6 Use Cases: Transportation Hubs and Stations

Similarly, transportation hubs and stations offer public Wi-Fi to passengers and shoppers. Like stadiums, transportation hubs can host tens of thousands of users and devices that attempt to connect to the network simultaneously. However, transportation hubs face additional unique challenges posed by transient devices. These devices aren’t necessarily connecting to the Wi-Fi network, although they still send management traffic and contribute to spectrum congestion. Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) advancements such as OFDMA and BSS Coloring provide tools to manage the above-mentioned challenge.

Wi-Fi 6 Use Cases: MDUs, Dormitories & Classrooms

Multiple Dwelling Units (MDUs) and university dormitories are often challenged by hundreds of users competing for limited wireless spectrum to stream 4K video or play eSports. This is also the case for libraries, auditoriums, lecture halls and student union buildings. In addition, primary K-12 education trends such as video-based learning, one-to-one computing, connected classrooms and a mass deployment of IoT devices have created an airtime capacity crisis that stresses network reliability. 

Wi-Fi 6 Use Cases: IoT and Smart City Deployments

Like stadiums and transportation hubs, IoT and smart city deployments face a wide variety of connectivity challenges. For example, there may be a high volume of devices (sensors) at a manufacturing site that attempt to communicate simultaneously with a limited number of access points. Or, a small number of devices may be idle and programmed to ‘phone home’ once a day. This is precisely why the Wi-Fi 6 (802.11x) standard features a power saving feature known as target wake time (TWT), which enables devices to go into deep sleep mode and turn on their transmitter at predefined intervals to prolong field time without maintenance.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is designed for high-density connectivity and offers up to a fourfold capacity increase over its Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) predecessor. With Wi-Fi 6, multiple APs deployed in dense device environments can collectively deliver required quality of service to more clients with more diverse usage profiles. This is made possible by a range of technologies such as OFDMA, MU-MIMO with eight uplinks and eight down links, target wake time (TWT), 1024-QAM, Long OFDM Signal and BSS Coloring. As we discussed in this series, these technologies are all playing a critical role in helping Wi-Fi evolve into a collision free deterministic wireless technology. Moreover, the IEE is looking to integrate future iterations of the above-mentioned mechanisms into additional wireless standards to support the future of Wi-Fi and beyond.


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