WiFi 6, also known as 802.11ax, is the latest buzzword in the telecommunications industry and not without reason. The newest standard of WiFi technology uses the 6 GHz spectrum and is much faster with the capability to serve a greater number of users and things. It is poised to benefit enterprises in multiple ways.
Earlier this year, the WiFi 6 technology got an upswing after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allowed the use of a 6 GHz spectrum band for unlicensed use. It is also working with the Indian government to facilitate the 6 GHz spectrum’s opening up for commercial use.
Since WiFi 6 enables ultra-high-speeds and provides a low-latency experience to the end-user, it is often compared to 5G, the next-generation wireless technology. Like 5G, the WiFi 6 technology includes beamforming capabilities, which go a long way in enhancing the in-building experience. This is of particular relevance to the enterprise segment, which demands a best-in-class indoor experience.
Further, with the Orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) modulation scheme, the technology allows service providers to connect many more devices at the same time and enhance network operational efficiency.
Another critical feature of WiFi 6 is the enhanced version of Multi-User Multiple Input/Multiple Output (MU MIMO), which allows up to eight devices to transmit simultaneously using the same channel per device. This means that it is better equipped to handle streaming high-definition video and applications on many devices without facing any network issue. At the same time, the OFDMA feature ensures better efficiency for IoT devices and voice traffic.
WiFi 6 benefits include consistent data throughput in a dense environment, wider coverage area, the additional frequency spectrum for the Internet of Things (IoT), and enhanced power savings for wireless devices.
What further makes it relevant for the enterprise segment is that it comes with a more robust WPA – 3 security protocol. This also makes it apt for enterprise use, which demands enhanced security.
Just like previous WiFi standards, WiFi 6 utilizes an unlicensed spectrum, making it more cost-effective than 5G. In the long run, the WiFi 6 and 5G are likely to co-exist and complement several innovative use cases.
Addressing the changing traffic patterns
Over the last few years, several factors have led to a dramatic increase in the traffic generated at branch offices. With the greater use of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) to deliver applications to the branch offices, an increasing number of branch offices are using cloud services in addition to the corporate data centers.
Further, improved adoption of IoT applications will generate massive volumes of data that need to be analyzed for insights in the cloud or data centers. Increasingly, edge devices analyze this data to improve response time and bring down WAN traffic. Typically, a greater use of the IoT application will lead to the growth of the WAN traffic. Usage of edge computing will be needed to analyze the data locally.
WiFi 6 can help enterprises better address this traffic while maintaining security, reliability, and quality issues. Once the enterprises upgrade to WiFi 6, they will experience massive improvement in performance, latency, quality of service, and battery life compared with earlier versions. It will lead to an improvement in the security and reliability of the traffic over multiple WAN links. The impact would be more significant when 5G becomes more pervasive and will provide ubiquitous coverage.
WiFi 6 will be able to support a greater number of devices at the same time without facing any network congestion issues. This will be especially beneficial when enterprises start to use 4K video and Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality-based services and products. These capabilities can also be used to provide end-to-end Service Level Agreement (SLA) grade application assurance for traffic that extends to the WAN.
Over the last few years, SD-WAN has emerged as one of the fastest-growing segments of the enterprise networking market. It is likely to become a $5.25 billion market by 2023, according to IDC.
The integration of SD-WAN and WiFi 6 can enable edge computing, IoT, and complete visibility of the traffic at the branch. Combination of high-speed WiFi 6 with SD-WAN will give more cost-effective options but will also lead to a surge in edge computing.
The coming year will see the availability of more WiFi 6 access points and will witness a greater use of the technology to enable SD-WAN. In India, there is a strong case for the government to allow the unlicensed use of the 6 GHz spectrum, at least till the time 5G is available. This is especially important as the enterprises across the business verticals struggle to enhance indoor connectivity.
The WiFi 6 offers much-improved performance, low latency, increased reliability and high-speed indoor connectivity when compared with previous standards. It promises to enhance the performance of applications and IoT systems.
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