Just when wireless engineers got used to Wi-Fi 6 and all of its improvements like OFDMA, BSS coloring and Target Wait Time (TWT) …we have a brand-new wireless LAN, Wi-Fi 6E, on the horizon.
What does the “E” stand for? The answer is “Exciting”. Or, at least that’s how every Wi-Fi enthusiast should feel about Wi-Fi 6E.
The Schedule: Don’t Hold Your Breath for Years – Start Preparing Now
We will likely see the first enterprise Wi-Fi 6E access points enter the market during in the 2021-2022 timeframe. Europe and the US are likely to differ a bit in times of products to market, with the US market getting the devices earlier. Still, it will take a longer time for the client devices, such as phones, laptops and tablets, to reach critical mass to gain most of the Wi-Fi 6E benefits. This will happen sometime in 2023-2024 when most of the enterprise client device population are refreshed with Wi-Fi 6E. This, of course, depends on the organization.
The Foundation: Massive Spectrum Increase, Old Devices No Longer Slow Things Down
The EU and UK are expected to get 500 MHz more Wi-Fi spectrum in the 6GHz band, in addition to the current 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum ranges. This will roughly double the Wi-Fi capacity overall.
In the US, a whopping 1,200MHz (1.2GHz) more spectrum will be added, resulting in almost three times of the Wi-Fi spectrum than before.
Being on the brand new frequency space, Wi-Fi 6E will not have to support older, slower devices. Wi-Fi on the pre-existing 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands suffers from having to support legacy devices from 20 years ago. Supporting older devices slows down the entire Wi-Fi network for every single device. Wi-Fi 6E will make the change.
Let’s look at how these benefits are likely to materialize with Wi-Fi 6E, and what we should consider:
1. Better Voice and Video, Less Connection Cut-Offs
Real-time applications like video and voice calls are picky about the wireless environment, and have often been Wi-Fi’s Achille’s heel. Voice call quality rarely has matched the traditional mobile phone calls – until now. The massive amount of spectrum, the increased efficiency achieved from not having to support legacy Wi-Fi devices from 20 years ago, and lesser numbers of interfering devices will improve the call quality – for both voice and video calls.
A massive amount of spectrum often has more clean channels to use for communication. Thus, those irritating cut-offs due to interference caused by your own access points, heavily utilized neighboring networks or interfering non-Wi-Fi devices (non Wi-Fi phones, cameras, motion detectors, etc.) will be much less of a concern.
2. Wi-Fi 6E Preparation Starts Today
When Wi-Fi 6E, or 6 GHz Wi-Fi, hits, it’s going to be a major change one should prepare for today.
- Elimination of legacy bottlenecks:
If there are legacy technology bottlenecks in the network, such as Wi-Fi controllers, re-architecting the network today would help the 6E upgrade in near future.
- Transition to cloud Wi-Fi today
When Wi-Fi 6E hits, fully cloud managed Wi-Fi will be the norm. If your enterprise Wi-Fi still heavily relies on on-prem boxes in the NOC, plan a strategy for transition today.
- Fresh Pair of Eyes
If you could choose your Wi-Fi network today, what would you go with? When was the last time you evaluated the vendors?
The Wi-Fi industry has changed quite a bit over the last few years. There’s no better time to take a fresh look at the innovative Wi-Fi solutions than now, before Wi-Fi 6E hits the market in coming years. Ask the industry leaders (Twitter is great for this) and your trusted peers the question: What Wi-Fi solutions provide the best user experience for enterprises or consumers? What’s the most modern choice? What do network engineers prefer today, given the choice to freely choose?
3. Improved WLAN Experience in Crowded Areas
Ever encountered bad Wi-Fi in hotel lounges, airports or stadiums? If you answered no, I’d recommend you visit one of those places once in your life.
Wi-Fi has been really hard to do well in very crowded spaces. The more users and the heavier the Wi-Fi usage per user, the more spectrum you need. The 6 GHz band gives us plenty more of spectrum. No more excuses for choppy Wi-Fi at your gate!
4. Get the Most Out of Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi standards have long supported massive data rates easily exceeding one gigabit per second – but reaching those speeds has not been possible due to limited spectrum available. We’ve been forced to use the narrower 20 MHz for high density deployments, instead of the 40, 80 or even 160 MHz channel width. The math is simple: a 40MHz channel provides twice the data rate of a 20 MHz channel.
5. Today, Take a Very Close Look at Your Wired Network
Now that we’re reaching more than one gigabit per second per access point, switches capable of multiple gigabits per second are becoming the new normal. Today is the perfect day to take a close look at your wired network.