Wi-Fi 6E trials claim to show what a good idea wifi over 6 GHz band is

The Wireless Broadband Alliance is claiming that recent trials of Wi-Fi 6E over 6 GHz have delivered 5G-like performance.

Broadcom and Intel have been mucking about with the latest flavour of wifi during enterprise trials in San Jose, California. They have apparently hit 2 Gbps of throughput during those trials, as well as a consistent two-millisecond low-latency connection. Since the whole point of 5G is faster speeds at lower latencies, the obvious comparison is being made.

“Opening the 6 GHz spectrum will change the game for Wi-Fi 6 by delivering faster speeds, lower latency, and more reliable connectivity for a wide range of consumer and professional applications,” said Eric Mclaughlin GM of the Wireless Solutions Group at Intel. “Intel is committed to partnering with the industry to drive innovation and enable leadership connectivity experiences, and we look forward to bringing our Wi-Fi 6E products to Intel PC platforms that can harness the full benefits of the most advanced wifi technology available.”

“We are excited to enable real world trials conducted by the WBA that demonstrate the power of Wi-Fi 6E,” said Vijay Nagarajan, VP of Marketing at Broadcom. “Wi-Fi 6E will provide reliable high-throughput, low-latency wireless services by deploying Wi-Fi 6 technologies in the soon-to-be-unlicensed and uncongested 6 GHz band.”

“Wi-Fi 6 networks extended into the 6 GHz spectrum represent a multi-generational shift in wifi services and the user experience,” said Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the WBA. “This trial is an important step in the process of effectively demonstrating the benefits that wifi networks can deliver in the 6 GHz spectrum band. The Wi-Fi 6 standard and the 6 GHz spectrum in combination can play a powerful role to deliver advanced mobile services to consumers, business and industry.”

If you still doubt them, check out this table that shows how much throughput and how little latency you get from wifi at 6 GHz, compared to 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz. It should be noted that only half the amount of spectrum was used by 5 GHz and an eighth the amount by 2.4 GHz in the table, but then again that’s sort of the point of higher frequency bands – there’s more of them.

One of the reasons the WBA and its members keep banging on about 6 GHz for wifi is because it doesn’t want it to be licenced for 5G and thus taken away from it. So much extra spectrum has been freed up for 5G that it seems only fair for wifi to get a bit more too.

Wifi-6 goes toe-to-toe with 5G claims

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.

Wireless Broadband Alliance extols the virtues of 802.11ax

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) has released a whitepaper promoting the benefits of the latest version of the ugly sibling of the telecommunications world, wifi.

With the world of 5G approaching, wifi enthusiasts have taken the opportunity to pitch relevance for the technology. Despite being often overlooked as a critical component of todays connected world, nearly 70% of smartphone data is carried over wifi networks, covering up for weak cellular signal due to distance from cell sites or weak indoor coverage.

The introduction of the latest generation of wifi technology, 802.11ax, is set to ‘revolutionise’ the industry, according to the WBA, by enabling a new range of opportunities that benefit operators, enterprises and end users. Both as standalone business and facilitating the early delivery of many 5G use cases, the WBA claims 802.11ax will open up the wifi market.

“Investment in 802.11ax offers operators and enterprises a compelling proposition to dramatically accelerate the delivery of 5G use cases, at a much lower cost,” said Tiago Rodrigues, General Manager at the WBA.

“However, it shouldn’t be viewed as ‘just the next evolution in Wi-Fi technology’ that can complement cellular. The WBA has developed this paper as part of its venture to raise awareness of 802.11ax as a standalone technology, providing new capabilities which can be used by the entire industry to address a whole new set of opportunities and use cases.”

Looking at the new features, the WBA believes 802.11ax can solve a number of business challenges operators and enterprises are facing today. Firstly, multi-user MIMO uplink and downlink to increase channel capacity when servicing multiple, simultaneous devices. Another interesting feature is Target Wake Time which would allow IoT devices to sleep to reduce access contention and wakeup in scheduled time slots to improve device battery life. Finally, flexible channel sizes and resource units will allow operators to offer more efficient IoT support, such as connections that require lower data rates.

Wifi is a very important aspect of the connected world, though one which does not receive a significant amount of attention. Some might hope this will change and we transition into the 5G economy, though we suspect it won’t.

Wireless Broadband Alliance backs wifi roaming to tackle digital divide

For a technology which has been around for a while, few breakthroughs seem to occur in the wifi world, but tackling wifi roaming the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) believes the digital divide can be narrowed.

With World Wifi Day taking place this week, it seemed like a perfectly appropriate time to catch-up with Tiago Rodrigues, General Manager of the Wireless Broadband Alliance to discuss the work taking place to take wifi to the next level. Despite being a critical component of the connectivity ecosystem, public wifi has never seemed to meet expectations, Rodrigues hopes this is going to change in the future.

“Wifi is a technology which has the potential to connect the unconnected and close the digital divide,” Rodrigues said.

The main issue here seems to be customer experience. Public wifi is clunky, frustrating and cumbersome. Many users, your correspondent included, choose to turn off wifi on devices while out and about, relying on 4G for a more reliable experience. For those who have unlimited or generous data tariffs this is a perfectly feasible option, though for some, it is not. Clearly something needs to be done. Rodrigues points to wifi roaming as one of the ways to improve the experience.

Here is the scenario. When you leave the office, you disconnect from the private wifi and enter the big wide world of connectivity options. When you walk into the pub, you have to sign-up to access the wifi, or resign in. The same process has to be done when you get on the tube back home, and also for the public wifi when you hit the high street. The handover between networks is not consistent, not seamless and not user friendly. This is where the WBA is directing one of its projects.

Rodrigues asks why users can’t have one set of credentials which can grant access to public wifi networks across the world. Why shouldn’t you be able to sign-in in London, but then use a network in Barcelona, or even as you move from Hackney to Fitzrovia? The same handover theory can be applied to mobile broadband so why not wifi connections?

Trials have already been taking place in New York, a city which has more than 15 public wifi networks around the city, and also in Barcelona this year during Mobile World Congress. Rodrigues said in Barcelona more than 20,000 people connected to public wifi, though only signed-in once. Devices were automatically connected to wifi at the Fira, or in downtown Barcelona, and at the airport. The user experience was improved and there were also benefits for the city as well.

The data which was collected by the city was also shared with the local police force for example, to aid with more proactive patrols. For example, should an unusually large number of people be connected to a single site, it might indicate some nefarious activity and warrant investigation. Such insight can help the police force be more efficient in patrolling the streets. The data can also be used to track movement of people around the city, aiding city planners with transport infrastructure. It is the smart city dream coming real.

Of course, in light of very public scandals, privacy is a key point to raise. Rodrigues said the user will be known to the owner of the network which provided the initial credentials, geo-location data can be assigned to individual users, but when roaming onto guest networks, the records would be anonymised. The guest network would gain the insight and therefore the data, though the user will remain protected and the networks remain compliant under GDPR. With new ePrivacy Regulations set to build on GDPR next year, Rodrigues does not foresee any additional complications, though who knows when it comes to the temperamental European Commission.

Question regarding the performance of public wifi have not been addressed here, but the WBA does seem to be tackling an area of frustration for the user. It’s a useful step forward.