Wi-Fi 6 is here and it’s faster and more secure than ever before!

802.11ax promises greater capacity and capabilities – ideal for data-hungry users

You may be forgiven for thinking the tech experts have incremented their version number and there’s something new to buy again. But the jump from Wi-Fi 5 to 6 is a significant development and one that paves the way for smoother, faster connectivity in smart buildings for years to come.

Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) became readily available last year, due for full ratification by November this year. It has been four years since 802.11ac WAVEII was adopted. The Wi-Fi industry does not change for the sake of it – its ratified standards are methodical, and each time bring substantial change to this vital technology.

Changes

One of the biggest changes on the surface of Wi-Fi 6, using even a run of the mill 4×4 APs, speeds of up to 1.5 Gbps to single device, 9.6Gbps aggregated are possible. Hardware progression has seen 8×8 streams and multi radio appliances are now common place, so how fast could we get? Even conservatively, these speeds outpace most of today’s physical connectivity to the desk. The implications for smart buildings are staggering – no more cables to desk and greater throughput to the end-point device even with the user on the move. These changes could enable augmented reality headsets, dynamic audio visual, live 4k digital signage and other bandwidth intensive applications.

“But that’s theoretical speeds of course” you say, “Out in the wild it’s unlikely you’ll get such speeds” – but the technology is indeed, capable of delivering faster speeds for data-hungry users.

Whilst data rate and throughput capacity are improved, the key benefits realised through Wi-Fi 6 are high density and the efficacy with which devices use the finite bandwidth available for Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi 6 leverages new data modulation and transmission protocol capabilities to improve the throughput and signal on the physical medium, particularly in regards to sensitive voice, video and multi-media platforms. Again, huge implications for new buildings and their Netflix obsessed occupants!

With current market options, the access point is less likely to be the bottleneck, rather the connectivity to the network and backhaul connection to head-end services comes into question – Is your network ready? Wi-Fi 6 offers up to four times capacity on previous standards facilitating more device connections and receiving faster service at the same time.

On the security front, there’s support for WPA3, with all the inherent benefits, forward secrecy, opportunistic encryption, unique session-based encryption.

With the rise of the Internet of Things, not everything has a screen – WPA3 promises to help simplify the process of securing device connections that have limited or no display interface.

WPA3-Enterprise brings with it greater levels of encryption, key hashing and connection security, whilst certainly appealing to government, defence and industrial customers who demand the very highest level of security, it also brings a greater deal of comfort to the private sector user alike, who may fear a KRACK based vulnerability.

Finally, there are even power benefits to be gained with a device “wake function” conserving battery usage.

In Summary

In summary, Wi-Fi 6 provides significant advances on previous standards. It will make Wi-Fi faster, more secure and more stable, particularly in scenarios where there are a large concentrations of devices and/or a high density of users.

It will take some time for user devices to begin to implement Wi-Fi 6. However, it’s important to start planning ahead so that the correct infrastructure is in place for that time.

Whilst Wi-Fi 6 is a leap in wireless capability, this “Standards” uplift, combined with recent Ofcom and other global telecom regulatory authority announcements around spectrum release, will combine to make Wi-Fi a transmission medium of significant change in the near future.

Ultimately though, Wi-Fi performance relates to the environment you operate in, your unique business requirements and the types of application you are going to rely on for business. To that end it becomes a question of whether your Wi-Fi coverage has been designed correctly and if your platform of choice is configured correctly.

If you are planning a project now or in the future, it’s not too late to look into Wi-Fi 6 and ensure you are ready to reap the benefits that it will bring to your users. This is the time to make sure your network is ready to support the lofty port speeds, PoE and other security measures linked to this new Wi-Fi standard.