Wi-Fi 6: Everything Your Enterprise Organization Needs to Know

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By R2 Unified Technologies

Wi-Fi turned 20 in 2019 which for all intents and purposes, makes it a full-fledged adult. With all of the hullabaloo around its newest release, Wi-Fi 6, you may be wondering where along the way you missed Wi-Fi’s 1 through 5. Don’t worry, you didn’t.

Just as we were getting used to the 802.11 naming convention that the IEEE bestowed upon the world two decades ago, the Wi-Fi Alliance swooped in to simplify what industry insiders know as the new 802.11ax, to the more consumer-friendly moniker: Wi-Fi 6. A move borrowed from the cellular industry’s terming of technologies like 4G and 5G.

When Wi-Fi 5 was released in 2014, there was an average of five wireless devices per household in the U.S. In 2019, the device count jumped to nine with experts predicting we will hit 50 by 2022.

Closeup image of a female hand holding smartphone with tablet computer and laptop background-1

That’s 50 wireless connected devices, per household. As our homes become permeated with the latest cell phones, tablets, and AI-driven smart appliances, each connected sensor will latch onto our LAN, testing its speed, security, performance, and endurance. As history has shown us, growing consumer reliance on wireless devices inevitably spills over into the workforce, Wi-Fi 6, also called High-Efficiency Wireless (HEW), is estimated to be four times faster than Wi-Fi 5. Let’s unpack that promise and discuss what this really means for you and your business. 

How is Wi-Fi 6 different from earlier generations?

As any next generation of technology is released, faster speed is typically the first factor people look for to compare it against its predecessors. While it will be faster—9.6 Gbps compared to 3.5 Gbps—there is more to the Wi-Fi 6 story than speed. Other benefits include:

  • greater network efficiency,
  • enhanced security,
  • lower latency,
  • increased bandwidth (speed) and range (coverage),
  • longer battery life, and
  • better performance in remote or crowded environments.

At-A-Glance: Key Features of Wi-Fi 6

Source: Wi-Fi Alliance

  • Orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) more effectively shares channels to increase network efficiency and lower latency for both uplink and downlink traffic in high demand environments
  • Multi-user multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO) allows more downlink data to be transferred at once and enables an access point to handle a larger number of concurrent clients
  • 160 MHz channel utilization capability increases bandwidth to deliver greater performance with low latency
  • Target wake time (TWT) enables scheduled sleep and wake times for better network efficiency and longer device battery life
  • 1024 quadrature amplitude modulation mode (1024-QAM) enables throughput increases by encoding more data in the same amount of spectrum
  • Transmit beamforming improves signal power resulting in significantly higher rates at a given range

Cisco’s 9130 Series access point has been the first in its line to become Wi-Fi 6 Certified.

“Best-effort wireless for enterprise customers doesn’t cut it any more. There’s been a change in customer expectations that there will be an uninterrupted unplugged experience. It is now a wireless-first world.” –Scott Harrell, SVP and general manager of enterprise networking, Cisco

Wi-Fi 6 presents business leaders with an opportunity to reimagine business as usual. What can be enhanced, or even transformed, with a stronger, faster, smarter connectivity solution in play? We advise reflecting on the following questions:

  1. Have you been utilizing your business use case to match the wireless capability you have deployed today?
  2. Are you taking advantage of all the features and functionalities available on your wireless infrastructure today?
  3. Are you currently using your wireless network to extract, analyze, and act on data?

Only after identifying your current and desired states can you determine how to best bridge the gap. At R2, an assessment is always the first step. Whether it’s a site survey to analyze the RF environment and provide a new hardware design, or a risk security analysis which holds up your wireless environment against your security policy requirements—you must first start with the business case and then drive back to the right technology solution.

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