WiFi 6 and Its Benefits to Enterprises

A. Amir

Summary Bullets:

  • WiFi 6 is entering the market and will offer higher capacity, better security, and more efficient resource/device management.
  • As a successor to the current WiFi standard, it will be widely adopted in the mass market. There are also several benefits to enterprises.

What’s New

WiFi 6, which is based on the IEEE802.11ax standard, is a logical progression of the current WiFi technology (IEEE802.11ac). It comes with various new features and updated technologies to offer higher network capacity and security as well as better device management. WiFi 6 has a theoretical peak speed of 9.6 Gbps, almost triple that of its predecessor (WiFi 5). This is achieved through updated wireless technologies such as orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) and multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output (MU-MIMO) antenna systems. However, the gain in capacity is not just about offering a higher speed, but also about addressing the larger number of WiFi devices served by an access point (AP).

Apart from bandwidth, WiFi 6 offers device management features such as ‘target wake time’ (TWT), which wakes devices up at predefined intervals and thus reduces the device power consumption and extends the battery life. This enables low-power modules used in IoT applications such as smart buildings or connected factories. WiFi 6 also comes with refreshed security features such as WPA3, updating the currently 15-year-old WPA2. WPA3 offers a more secure authentication process through interaction with other connected devices (if the first attempt fails), in order to prevent password guessing, which is becoming more threatening with the use AI and bot technology in cyberattacks. The updated security also offers forward secrecy, which prevents cyberattacks from accessing older data in the network.

Benefits to Enterprises

WiFi remains the preferred technology for wireless local area networks (WLANs). Like its predecessor, it will become a basic feature in the majority of WiFi hardware and will be adopted widely in the mass market, replacing the older devices. WiFi 6 will also bring several key benefits to enterprises. The higher capacity addresses the rapid growth of WLAN bandwidth requirements, driven by the larger number of enterprise devices as well as bandwidth-hungry applications such as wireless telepresence and AR/VR. It also offers a wider coverage range than its predecessor, reducing the number of access points required by enterprises and thus minimizing the cost and simplifying network deployment and management. The TWT feature enables enterprises to have more efficient IoT deployments. For example, the low power usage enables enterprises to use battery-powered sensors instead of laying cables, accelerating deployment time and reducing electricity cost.

The higher security makes WiFi 6 an alternative to private 4G networks. However, the technology runs on unlicensed bands (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) and is prone to external interference. This drawback against the use of other cellular technologies (e.g., 3G, 4G, 5G, LPWAN) in private network or IoT is still prominent. Interference could cause interruptions to mission-critical applications and have significant business impacts. For example, remotely controlled trucks, machines or drones in high-risk mining areas require very high reliability and an ultra-low latency network. A slight delay or error in a data transmission could damage the equipment and sites, incurring significant loss to the operator.

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