For new wireless network deployments and lifecycle upgrades, it’s hard to ignore the siren song of Wi-Fi 6. Everything, potentially, gets better with Wi-Fi 6, including functionality, performance and capacity. It’s all in there.
But, to enjoy a Wi-Fi 6 network, you can’t just install new access points (APs) and enjoy faster connectivity. Remember, Wi-Fi is only part of the overall network equation, whether it’s a home network or a corporate environment. The success of Wi-Fi always depends on the foundations of the network on which it is deployed.
Small environments still have problems
In the home and for many SMBs, a wireless upgrade may seem as easy as dropping 5 Wi-Fi routers and replacing them with 6 Wi-Fi routers. Easy, right? Maybe not.
Even in the smallest Wi-Fi 6 network, you have to see things holistically. To begin with, what is your ISP connection? Even though you can achieve data rates of several gigabytes between your wireless clients and your router, you may not notice any gain if your Internet connection is a bottleneck. If you have a strong ISP connection but also have long cabling between your Internet modem and your Wi-Fi 6 router, you will need to analyze this cable to make sure it is up to the standard support. a throughput of at least 1 GB. Again, you will have a potential bottleneck if you are using an older Cat5 cable.
Then there is the issue of your client devices. How many of them are Wi-Fi 6 compatible? That original Chromecast probably won’t benefit much from Wi-Fi 6, but your new laptop could, if it has a Wi-Fi 6 adapter.
In the consumer space, Netgear, TP-Link and Asus are among the providers offering 6 Wi-Fi routers. In this case, a router is an all-in-one residential box that is also an access point, a switch and a safety device. Take it to the prosumer level and you’ll find Ubiquiti and TP-Link selling Wi-Fi 6 hotspots as stand-alone dedicated wireless devices alongside their Wi-Fi 5 offerings.
Enterprise Wi-Fi 6 means an in-depth look at the entire local network
Almost all enterprise network vendors offer the first Wi-Fi 6 products. Arista, Aruba / HPE, Cisco, Extreme Networks, Meraki, and Mist all offer Wi-Fi 6.
Market leader Cisco is evolving its overall wireless local area network (WLAN) strategy in a way that existing customers will want to carefully consider. New licensing paradigms, new controller hardware required, a new operating system for the WLAN equipment – it all feels like a different vendor service. That said, Wi-Fi 6 can be a great opportunity to request a WLAN request for proposal if you are looking for a new provider. You can also not use the 6E Wi-Fi hardware.
In the home, all network services and components are usually found under the hood of the network router. But, in a corporate network, a wireless access point sits at the end of a cabling that connects to a switch for data and operational voltage from Power over Ethernet.
Since Wi-Fi 6 promises multiple gigabits of throughput, anything downstream from the access point should be audited for capacity. Moreover, even the existing WLAN design must be reviewed to ensure that the placement of the existing access point is suitable for the expected number of clients and distribution throughout the WLAN.
Now back to wiring and switching. Migrating to Wi-Fi 6 may ultimately mean rewiring and replacing switches to create larger pathways for Wi-Fi 6 traffic throughout the network. This is a ripple effect in that larger capacity switches may require larger uplinks, and even your closet UPS devices may need to be replaced to support the same. amount of backup for Wi-Fi 6 access points vs. Wi-Fi 5.
What about Wi-Fi 6 client devices?
Networks are designed to connect clients who use networked applications. This basic construction underpins all networking – and extends to Wi-Fi 6. But simply installing the network side of a Wi-Fi 6 deployment only fixes part of the problem. equation. It is important to understand the client devices that will use the new Wi-Fi 6 signals.
As with previous standards, Wi-Fi 6 promises backward compatibility with older client devices, but network administrators choose how far they want to go. For example, most administrators stopped supporting 802.11b a long time ago.
With Wi-Fi 6, Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access Modulation helps current and former customers with new efficiency per cell. In well-designed networks, you can expect higher data rates at the same transmit power levels with Wi-Fi 6 compared to earlier standards.
Common questions related to clients in corporate WLAN do not go away with Wi-Fi 6. How many clients can each access point handle? And what throughput should customers expect? As with previous WLAN technologies, answers will vary. If you have all 6 Wi-Fi clients on a given cell, the potential answers are different than if you have all legacy clients or a mix of old and new. To understand the health of your Wi-Fi 6 network, you need to understand what your customer mix is.
Read the fine print on capabilities vs. enabled features
You can find out what to expect from Wi-Fi 6 by reading industry white papers and other helpful articles. From there, be aware that some WLAN standards never reach their potential as written in the body of the standard document.
Wi-Fi 6 promises substantial innovation, but don’t expect everything to be enabled in the hardware you buy. On the consumer side, it can be difficult to get a good read of what Wi-Fi 6 features are enabled. For corporate equipment, these are code release notes and communication with reference accounts. Wi-Fi 6 will be chargeable for a while, and you can be sure that there will be no discount for the capabilities listed in the standard that are not enabled.