Public WiFi can be really naff.
Sometimes it works well, but other times it struggles to load up Google’s home page, let alone anything important.
When you’re a customer, it can be frustrating. But if you need it for work or mission-critical devices, then it’s even worse. It could mean lost revenue, missed opportunities and customer dissatisfaction.
But never fear!
WiFi 6 is here.
And with it comes a much faster and stable experience which is perfect for large enterprises and public spaces.
But what is WiFi 6? Why should you care? And what do you need to prepare your network for WiFi 6?
What is WiFi 6?
WiFi 6 is also known as 802.11ax. It’s the latest WiFi version released by the WiFi Alliance and standardised by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
It’s faster on paper than 802.11ac (now known as WiFi 5), but the way it handles connections is vastly different, meaning the theoretical speeds are more accurate in real-world applications.
But it has a few little tricks up its sleeve which will boost the world of Internet of Things devices. After all, IoT devices will represent half of all internet connections.
WiFi 6 benefits VR and augmented internet connections will grow twelve-fold.
Is WiFi 6 Compatible with All Devices?
Well, yes, but actually no.
Not all devices can handle WiFi 6. Newer devices are appearing on the market that are compatible with WiFi 6.
However, WiFi 6 is backwards compatible. So WiFi 6 Access points will be able to communicate with older devices just fine, but those devices won’t be able to take advantage of the newer features.
How is WiFi 6 different to previous versions?
Up until now, a standard Access Point could only talk to one device at a time.
A phone, a laptop and a smart TV can request information at roughly the same time, but the AP can only really send data to one device at a time.
Over time, this process got faster. But the number of devices stayed at one at a time, no matter how many devices connected to it.
The channel increased with each WiFi standards, meaning bigger bandwidth. Bigger bandwidth means more information can pass through. But the AP gave that channel to each device, one at a time, even for low bandwidth tasks.
But, while all this is going on, the AP has to battle through the data coming to it, which was clogging up the airways too.
So, it’s no wonder even the fastest WiFi struggles to cope.
But WiFi 6 is different.
WiFi 6 uses OFDMA or Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access.
This method allows the channel to be carved up so that the channel can be shared by multiple devices. Low Bandwidth devices suddenly don’t hog the whole channel.
Why is this Important?
The Internet of Things is growing bigger every single day.
Everything is connected to the internet: security cameras, smart assistants, even fridges.
Most of these devices use WiFi.
On the old system, this means that each one of these devices would be dealt with one at a time.
Imagine a shopping centre on Saturdays.
Or a large business conference.
Or a hospital.
So many devices, all wanting WiFi. No wonder that it’s impossible to load anything.
But WiFi is about so much more than giving guests access to cat photos 24/7. It can be a marketing tool, a data-gathering tool and so much more.
Even private networks will benefit. As IoT grows and Industrial 4.0 really kicks in, the number of devices demanding internet connection will skyrocket. Soon, entire factories will run of IoT devices. VR will slide into everyday life. Access points will need to handle a considerable amount of devices.
WiFi 6 is perfect for that.
What Other Features and Benefits does WiFi 6 Have?
Target Wake-up Time
A key benefit is Target Wake-up Time (TWT). Previously, IoT devices needed their WiFi radios to be always on, even if they only needed to update once a day.
That’s a big waste of battery life.
But, WiFi 6 different.
WiFi 6 access points can work out a schedule with connected IoT devices. This can “wake them up” when they need to connect and share information. So, across multiple devices, this can mean huge savings on your power bill.
This feature can be extended to mobiles too.
2.4Ghz Frequencies are Back
While excluded from WiFi 5, 2.4Ghz channels have been reintroduced into WiFi 6. Again, IoT is responsible for this.
2.4Ghz channels allow for IoT manufacturers to use smaller, cheaper WiFi radios which run on 2.4Ghz channels. Ultimately, this makes IoT a little more accessible for consumers.
Should You Upgrade to WiFi 6?
If you have recently upgraded all your kit to non-WiFi 6 devices, then no.
If you have a lot of devices and aim to update them in the next year, then probably yes.
If you run a busy public space or enterprise office with a lot of users, then definitely yes.
While WiFi 6 features can’t be used by older devices, most newer devices come with WiFi 6 capabilities.
As we mentioned earlier, older WiFi standards deal with requests one at a time, while WiFi 6 can handle multiple requests at once. So, when WiFi 6 devices join the party, the requests can be dealt with simultaneously, without affecting the older device’s bandwidth. So everyone wins.
How To Prepare Your Network for WiFi 6?
Hopefully, you have already set up a network for your business. If you have, then you can integrate WiFi 6 relatively easily.
If you haven’t then you will need to grab the basics.
Regardless of where you’re at with your network, you’ll need to have the following requirements.
Access Points and Wireless Routers
Unfortunately, WiFi 6 will require a hardware upgrade when it comes to access points. There are plenty of WiFi 6 enabled products on the market.
Cisco, as always, are brilliantly leading the charge when it comes to access points. The Cisco Meraki MR45 range comes with all WiFi 6-standard features, including backwards compatibility.
But, the MR45 series also comes with the excellent Cisco Meraki Dashboard, which allows you to monitor your entire network from a single pane of glass – even across multiple locations.
In terms of home networks, Netgear’s Nighthawk Ax8 is on the money. The router is super-fast and perfect for gamers. It even looks like a Star Wars Starfighter.
One of the most important considerations is your switching setup.
WiFi 6 offers bandwidth beyond what is capable of a standard gigabit switch. This could mean having to upgrade your switches to Multibit.
Thankfully, there are plenty of excellent 10G switches hitting the market at the moment. The vast majority of networking brands have 10G switch ranges now, so finding one compatible with your system should be easy.
WiFi 6 is going to remove a huge amount of limitations from our everyday IoT lives. With new technology coming thick and fast, upgrading sooner rather than later is going to be key. If you need help upgrading your technology, our team of experts are always ready to help.