Kevin Robinson, VP of marketing at the WiFi Alliance, recently noted that Wi-Fi has contributed approximately $2 trillion to the world’s economy – with more than 13 billion Wi-Fi devices in active use worldwide. According to Robinson, Wi-Fi is the primary medium for global Internet traffic, as more than 80% of traffic on the average smartphone is transferred via Wi-Fi.
Today’s Wi-Fi: A victim of its own success
“While Wi-Fi has been incredibly successful, its success has brought a number of challenges,” he states. “[Because] Wi-Fi [is] being used so broadly in different device types for different data applications, we see a very broad mix of data traversing Wi-Fi networks, which can ultimately lead to inefficiencies in how Wi-Fi is using a wireless medium.”
As Robinson explains, Wi-Fi is being utilized in ultra-dense deployments to provide coverage for stadiums and transportation hubs where the unscheduled, contention-based access paradigm of traditional Wi-Fi technologies can be problematic.
“We’re seeing Wi-Fi networks increasingly used to deliver connectivity between buildings in either enterprise or maybe city-wide deployments – and there are challenges that go along with that as well,” he adds.
Wi-Fi 6: Bridging the performance gap towards ten gigabit speeds
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), says Robinson, can help address the above-mentioned issues and limitations.
“The benefits of Wi-Fi 6 become more pronounced as you add more devices to the network. This is important for dense deployments in the enterprise, university campuses, as well as residential areas,” he elaborates. “Wi-Fi 6 delivers diverse capabilities. Because of the ubiquity of Wi-Fi, it is the primary connectivity means in everything from AR and VR headsets to IoT devices… Wi-Fi 6 [also] delivers a more deterministic experience, meaning a more consistent user experience, regardless of the environment.”
Indeed, as we’ve previously discussed on the Ruckus Room, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has ratified five major iterations of the 802.11 Wi-Fi protocol, culminating with Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) in 2013. However, despite a significant increase in speed, many organizations still find themselves limited by the Wi-Fi 5 standard, particularly in high-density venues such as stadiums, convention centers, transportation hubs, and auditoriums. To meet the challenges of high-density deployments, the IEEE recently introduced the Wi-Fi 6 standard.
From our perspective, Wi-Fi 6 will successfully bridge the performance gap towards ten-gigabit speeds. It delivers faster network performance, connects more devices simultaneously and effectively transitions Wi-Fi from a best-effort endeavor to a deterministic wireless technology, further solidifying its position as the de-facto medium for internet connectivity. Deployed in dense environments, Wi-Fi 6 supports higher service-level agreements (SLAs) to more concurrently connected users and devices with more diverse usage profiles. This is made possible by a range of features that optimize spectral efficiency, increase throughput and reduce power consumption. These include Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO), Target Wake Time (TWT), Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA), BSS Coloring and 1024-QAM.