For over 20 years, Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) has been a popular and widely used wireless networking technology which allows devices such as laptops, smartphones, tablets, printers and many more to communicate with other devices via internet access. On the technical side, Wi-Fi uses a radio wave which enables the communication between Wi-Fi enabled devices including wireless routers and wireless access points by transmitting data over a certain distance using 2.4GHz or 5GHz high frequencies.
In recent years, the growth in the number of clients and types of application usage meant that wireless standards need to evolve and align with increasing demands of voice traffic, video traffic, data traffic and IoT devices. For instance, a few years back, the use of video was subject to downlink traffic only, however, with the introduction of social media, eLearning, collaboration and IoT applications are generating huge uplink traffic due to real-time streaming videos and data.
In order to solve this problem, we need a more efficient way to handle this growing and diverse amount of traffic as well as bandwidth needs. In 2019, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Wi-Fi Alliance have introduced to us a new Wi-Fi standard called 802.11ax, also known as Wi-Fi 6. The main objective of Wi-Fi 6 is to enhance the efficiency of how access points handle devices simultaneously.
Key Features and Benefits of Wi-Fi 6 Technology
One of the most important features in WiFi 6 is an enhanced multi-user feature called Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA). What does OFDMA do is that it takes a Wi-Fi channel and split it into smaller frequency allocations known as resource units (RUs) thus enables communication with multiple clients by allocating to their specific RUs. By doing this, more user data and types of traffic are allowed to be transmitted between clients and the router simultaneously. OFDMA will reduce latency, boost capacity and improve efficiency.
Originally the Multi-User, Multiple Input/Multiple Output (MU MIMO) feature was introduced in the previous IEEE 802.11ac or WiFI 5 to handle traffic from multiple devices. In 802.11ax or Wi-Fi 6, MU-MIMO features have been upgraded by allowing up to 8 devices to transmit simultaneously using a dedicated channel per device. This enables applications to use high bandwidth such as streaming high-quality video can be handled more efficiently.
To help you visualize OFDMA and MU-MIMO features, instead of one truck serving a single line of customers individually as in Wi-Fi 5, the combination of OFDMA and MU-MIMO as in Wi-Fi 6 can be considered as having many trucks and lines with each truck capable of serving multiple customers at once.
Target Wake Time (TWT)
Target Wake Time (TWT) feature will enhance device contention and the battery life of the client’s devices. It lets the device to remain inactive, in other words, it sleeps until the particular device turns to transmit data using the scheduling scheme negotiated with the access points, thus this allows the devices to save battery life during the inactive/sleep mode. TWT ensures there is less congestion, energy savings and an overall better experience.
IoT devices such as sensors, medical devices and automation operate in low-power and low bandwidth mode. Wi-Fi 6 has enhanced the IoT handling by using a 20 MHz only channel that works either in the 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequency bands. This separates the IoT devices from the 802.11ax Access Points, similar to providing a dedicated lane without any interference with latency-sensitive traffic.
Wi-Fi 6 will increase as much as 25% data throughput over Wi-Fi 5 by implementing higher Quadrature Amplitude Modulation, or QAM. Wi-Fi 5 employs 256 QAM schemes meanwhile Wi-Fi 6 with 1024 QAM schemes. QAM is a technique for packing digital bits into radio signals thus higher the QAM number the more data rate. This feature helps to ensure quality-of-service (QoS) in high-density locations.
Uses Cases for Wi-Fi 6
The Wi-Fi Alliance mentions various use cases for Wi-Fi 6:
- IoT Hardware
IoT hardware will benefit from Wi-Fi 6 through improved battery performance, better outdoor operation, and improved range. This will highly benefit industries that are heavily reliant on IoT for their operations. Some industries that stand to benefit from IoT hardware tools enhanced with WiFi 6 include Finance, Transportation, Manufacturing, Healthcare.
- Home or Office Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi will be faster and more reliable thanks to increased throughput and superior coverage. This will help manage the hiccups of burdened networks and improve the level of productivity regardless of where the employees are based.
- High Dense Environment
High Dense Environment with Wi-Fi will see increased performance thanks to OFDMA’s client transmission control and MU-MIMO’s up/downlink capabilities. High-density environments include convention centres, auditoriums, hotel meeting rooms, lecture halls, sports stadiums, and concert halls. Providing high-density wireless coverage in these areas can pose a challenge in wireless network design due to the number of uncontrollable variables, including the overall number of active users and space.
- In-Vehicle Wi-Fi
A refreshing technological advancement on this will be improved in-vehicle Wi-Fi and A/V systems thanks to reduced latency that comes with OFDMA.
Explore Wi-Fi 6 with us
Wi-Fi 6 will be next-generation network connectivity in WiFi technology for years to come. It spectacularly builds and improves beyond the Wi-Fi 5 qualities. Wi-Fi 6 was initially built to cater to the sheer volume of devices present in the technology space. To explore more about Wi-Fi 6 and how it can boost your network connectivity, get in touch with us for an in-depth discussion on this new development.