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802.11ax – The future of Wi-Fi is here.
The demand for wireless access from users has shifted from a nice to have to a necessity. Due to this, network performance has become a business-critical requirement. Both workers and consumers have come to expect a reliable Wi-Fi connection – the absence of which can influence their decision to enter an establishment or to leave.
In order to attract and retain customers and employees, companies need to offer reliable Wi-Fi and an amazing experience, or risk losing business. And, to accommodate the growing number of mobile and IoT devices, improvements to the efficiency of a wireless network – and how it handles congestion and ever-increasing capacity demands has become a key factor of success.
A NEW STANDARD IS NEEDED
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Wi-Fi Alliance have worked together to identify areas of improvement to the current standard (802.11ac). The conclusion was to focus on performance under “typical” conditions to holistically raise the performance of the entire network. This is a departure from the previous model – where the focus was to look at advanced peak data rates under “perfect” conditions.
A new standard called 802.11ax was published in early 2018 and was recently renamed Wi-Fi 6 by the Wi-Fi Alliance. One of its main focus is to enhance the efficiency of how access points handle devices simultaneously. It’s no longer about comparing Wi-Fi speeds; it’s more about the capacity of the network to provide the optimal throughput for all clients.
Think of it as adding more lanes to a freeway, and each of these lanes is now an HOV lane. Using carpools or buses allows people to use the freeway more efficiently, and ultimately relieves congestion. For the purpose of this document, we will use the 802.11ax nomenclature and illustrate how this new standard is most beneficial and what to consider in regards to short and long-term deployment timelines.
This latest standard addresses today’s biggest Wi-Fi challenges: performance and the increasing density of devices and diversity of applications. To handle these challenges, 802.11ax increases throughput capacity by up to four times that of 802.11ac. Additional improvements include the ability to use both the 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) and 5GHz bands for a number of use cases
- OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access)
- Multi-user Multiple Input/Multiple Output (MU MIMO)
- Device contention and the battery life of clients is enhanced
- IoT handling
THE 802.11AX ADVANTAGE
Depending on the devices and applications being used, twenty or more devices may be considered high density. While looking at offices, classrooms or warehouses, things to consider are:
- Types of devices and applications being used, especially video
- Responsiveness of applications over the current 802.11n or 802.11ac deployments
- Number of IoT devices that are visible and those that are not
EVOLVING DIGITAL WORKSPACES AND SMART CLASSROOMS
- Smart office spaces and manufacturing where 2.4GHz IoT devices will exist and authentication security is a concern
- Healthcare environments where existing medical devices will remain 2.4GHz capable for the unforeseeable future
- Environments like schools and technology organizations where mobility, voice and video traffic is more prevalent