Special Report: Wireless’ big moment

Next generation Wi-Fi 6 is yet to unleash the gigabit wireless era

Beyond speed, Wi-Fi 6 will provide better performance in congested areas.
Beyond speed, Wi-Fi 6 will provide better performance in congested areas.

We’ve all been there- you're in a crowded venue such as an exhibition attempting to get online. Pages are taking ages to load and videos are all but impossible to stream.

The current generation of Wi-Fi routers is very inefficient in connecting a large number of devices at the same time. In effect, your device has to wait in a virtual line behind everyone else who tried to get online earlier.

Relief is at hand, thanks to the newest wireless technology, 802.11ax or Wi-Fi 6. Through the use of Multi-User-Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) technology, the Wi-Fi 6 doubles the number of devices that can connect at any given time.

This latest iteration of wireless technology is expected to become especially suitable for ultra-dense environments such as transport hubs, urban apartment complexes, college campuses, concert venues and sports stadiums, said Muetassem Raslan, regional sales director for Ruckus Networks, Middle East and Africa. 

Raslan: We have entered a golden age of wireless in which a plethora of ultra-capable protocols ⎯ including 5G ⎯ will coexist and complement one another

“With 802.11ax, multiple APs used in dense device environments are collectively able to deliver required quality-of-service (QoS) to more clients with more diverse usage profiles due to the use of orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) and multi-user multiple-in multiple-out (MU-MIMO) technologies,” Raslan said.

More specifically, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is expected to boast a 4x increase in throughput for the average user. “This is primarily due to more efficient spectrum utilisation and various improvements for dense deployments,” Raslan said.

Beyond speed, Wi-Fi 6 will provide better performance in congested areas like shopping malls, stadiums, theme parks, etc. But also most importantly is the Increase in guaranteed throughput for clients based on the OFDM-A RF technology, said Saadi Kawkji, presales director, Middle East, Turkey and French Speaking Africa at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

Wi-Fi 6 can transfer data at higher speeds of up to 10 Gbps and is able to connect and communicate with four times more devices than its predecessors, explains Lucas Jiang, General Manager, TP-Link MEA. “It expands the WiFi channel to 160MHz which is a substantial upgrade from the current 80MHz. It is more like having two lanes of traffic instead of a single lane before,” he added.

“With its ability to improve the overall network performance and technologies like BSS Color which enables a router to avoid conflicts with neighboring networks, 4x4 MU-MIMO which facilitates faster communications with more devices, and TWT(Target Wake Time) which reduces power consumption by managing idle devices, Wi-Fi 6 offers a substantial performance upgrade for SMB and enterprise users,” Jiang said.

Wi-Fi 6 is more like having two lanes of traffic instead of a single lane before, said Jiang.

Although the standards for Wi-Fi 6 technology have not been published yet by the standards body, most of the major players have already launched products in the space to stay ahead of the curve.

Ruckus has the R730, an IoT- and LTE-ready, 802.11ax wireless AP. The high-capacity, 12 spatial-stream R730 works in concert with the new Ruckus Ultra-High-Density Technology Suite to deliver high-resolution, latency-sensitive video in ultra-high-density user environments such as stadiums, train stations and schools, explains Raslan.

From TP-Link, the latest Archer AX11000 and Archer AX6000 APs work on Wi-Fi 6, said Jiang. “Our plan is to move all new upcoming models to Wi-Fi 6 in the coming months to ensure that users are able to benefit from the latest technology and experience seamless wireless communications at home or at work,” he added. 


Wi-Fi 6 deciphered.

Infrastructure

On the infrastructure side, preparations are in top gear to get the foundation ready for Wi-Fi 6.

Siemon, a network infrastructure specialist, has published a new white paper that covers key design and media selection strategies to ensure that network cabling infrastructures are prepared to support high-efficiency Wi-Fi access point (WAP) connections.

Authored by Valerie Maguire, Director of Standards & Technology at Siemon, the new white paper entitled, “Preparing for Wi-Fi 6: Cabling Considerations for High-Efficiency Wireless Access Point Connections,” explains the technology behind the latest Wi-Fi 6 and what users can expect in terms of wireless speeds with this new technology.

“To take full advantage of Wi-Fi 6 technology, it is recommended to deploy two class EA/category 6A shielded or higher performing drops to each WAP or router and a minimum 25-Gig capable backbone to support Wi-Fi 6 uplink capacity,” said Maguire. “In addition, Wi-Fi 6 WAPs will need more power and require 30-watt Type 2 PoE, which calls for more thermally stable cabling systems and solid conductor cords.”

In the white paper, Maguire also covers the use of a grid-based zone cabling architecture, field terminated plugs and other key cabling design strategies to ensure support for Wi-Fi 6. 

Wi-Fi 6 technology will be a major player in region’s digital transformation efforts, said Kawkji.

The Middle East and North Africa have always been to first to adapt to new technologies in recent years. Expect regional businesses to be among the fastest to roll out the technology. 

Take 5G for instance where UAE is leading the way to bring 5G connectivity to the region, observes Jiang. “Introduction of Wi-Fi6 in the region will follow the same strategy ensuring that consumers and businesses have access to better and faster network speed and performance,” he added.

Worldwide data and video traffic are growing at double-digit rates, driven by an increase in connected devices. ABI Research predicts that Wi-Fi device shipments will grow to nearly 35 billion by 2022. Data and video traffic also will surge due to increased per-device data consumption driven by applications like 4K video streaming, virtual and augmented reality and live-stream gaming.

Across the Middle East, many countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia will depend on digital transformation to boost their digital economies. “High-speed connectivity has become essential to develop an infrastructure that is ready for the development of smart cities,” said Raslan.

The region is developing rapidly and we can see the digital transformation happening in all aspects of our lives. “Wi-Fi 6 technology will be a major player in this transformation due to its advanced features; therefore I expect Wi-Fi 6 to be adopted rapidly through the region,” said Kawkji of Aruba. 

Wi-Fi 6 WAPs will need more power and require 30-watt Type 2 PoE, said Maguire.

Wi-Fi 6 and 5G

5G and Wi-FI 6 are being rolled out around the same time and many experts see synergies between the two.

5G will operate on multiple frequencies some of which are hard to penetrate buildings and therefore will be complemented by Wi-Fi 6. Furthermore, the backward compatibility of 5G on certain licensed frequencies will be a challenge for the indoor deployment of 5G and the Wi-Fi 6 would be the best solution to cover the need, said Kawkji.  

We have entered a golden age of wireless in which a plethora of ultra-capable protocols ⎯ including 5G ⎯ will coexist and complement one another, with each matched to its appropriate use case, said Ruckus’ Raslan. “5G is only part of the connectivity technology that will exist as we move into the future. Wi-Fi isn’t going away, and therefore, organisations should look at how Wi-Fi forms the basis for their wireless strategy,” he added.

Wi-Fi 6 and 5G share more of a symbiotic relationship, said Jiang. “While 5G might seem to make Wi-Fi 6 redundant, this will NOT be the case. Wi-Fi 6 will be a perfect fallback where 5G’s long-range capacity will not be available,” Jiang said.

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