The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) is championing the results of a wifi-6 trial with Mettis Aerospace as proof the technology can be a viable alternative to 5G.
Wifi has largely been ignored in recent months as the 5G euphoria hits deafening levels, though the WBA is keen to ensure this technology can grab a slice of the Industry 4.0 pie with this trial.
Taking place in the 27-acre Mettis Aerospace facility in the West Midlands, the WBA has touted several use cases, including 4K streaming from a webcam mounted on machinery within the factory and augmented reality testing of machinery, suggesting speeds of 700 Mbps as well as latency below 6 ms.
“The completion of this initial phase marks a significant milestone for the adoption of wifi-6,” said WBA CEO, Tiago Rodrigues. “The Mettis facility is an especially challenging environment for wireless communications with furnaces, presses and heat, a lot of moving heavy machinery and the presence of dust and in-air particulates.
“Nevertheless, the field tests in this highly charged atmosphere have proven that wifi-6 technology works well and can play a vital role within the industrial enterprise and IoT ecosystem. If wifi-6 can deliver highly reliable, high quality and high bandwidth communications in this type of factory environment, then it can deliver it almost anywhere.”
With mobile communications stealing much of the thunder in recent years, wifi has become an increasing unpopular technology during conference presentations. During a London event in recent weeks, Shell IT CTO & VP TaCIT Architecture Johan Krebbers suggested the team would not consider wifi as an option during Industry 4.0 trials due to the time and cost implications. According to Krebbers, it simply isn’t worth it.
That said, this trial might give decision-makers something new to think about.
“The wifi-6 infrastructure installed as part of the trials has exceeded our expectations in terms of performance, reliable connectivity and consistent coverage across the target area,” said Dave Green, Head of IT at Mettis Aerospace.
“We are seeing immediate benefits in terms of the data we’re now able to collect and use. Moving forward, we will be able to vastly increase the data we collect from devices across our business, enhancing our manufacturing processes, reducing variability and increasing productivity.”
The WBA claims the trial proves wifi-6 is able to provide total connectivity across the factory floor and enable improved synchronization of factory floor machinery and equipment with centralized monitoring and control systems. As part of the trial Cisco provided 11 Catalyst 9100 access points, iBwave undertook a site survey of the manufacturing floor, while Broadcom and Intel provided the chipsets.
While 5G is dominating all the headlines for the moment, wifi might still have a place in the industry for those companies who are more risk-adverse. Trials such as this might well provide confidence to those who avoid the unknown perils of 5G technologies.