WiFi 6 (802.11ax) is the newest generation of WiFi. It provides significant improvements over WiFi 5 (802.11ac), but there are important things to consider before rushing in and updating your entire network. Let’s first take a look at how to determine if your network needs WiFi 6, and then see what the benefits will be if you upgrade.
Should you upgrade now?
This new technology was mainly created to address WiFi issues in high-density areas. This includes spaces like arenas and conference centers, not small office spaces or standard classrooms. So, the first thing to do is analyze your space and determine if it counts as high-density. For some, this will be easy to determine, but for others, it’s a bit more of a gray area. For example, perhaps a school auditorium isn’t always high-density, but a few times a year it is used for statewide testing for hundreds of students. Would this situation benefit from WiFi 6 (802.11ax)?
The best way to find out is by studying network performance and usage with the aid of an AI-driven WiFi analytics solution. These solutions monitor the network 24/7, providing invaluable insight. Wyebot’s award-winning, patented Wireless Intelligence Platform (WIP) provides:
- Complete Visibility: Utilizing device fingerprinting, IT teams can see exactly how many devices are connected to the network every day at all times and the capabilities and network requirements of every device including if they are WiFi 6 capable
- Historical Analytics: instant, visual updates on how network health, performance, and usage have changed over time
- Network Tests: proactively monitor network health with scheduled and manual tests, and compare the results from peak usage times with baseline performance
Using these analytics, organizations can easily determine if upgrading to WiFi 6 makes sense now, or if the upgrade should happen in the future. Use the data to answer questions like:
- What percent of clients are capable of using WiFi 6?
- What is the WiFi network utilization over time?
- How quickly are new devices entering the network?
Whenever the upgrade happens, it will be an investment of time and money. Besides needing the above analytics, organizations will also need to answer questions such as – what is the maximum data rate supported by your current infrastructure? Will you need to upgrade switches, cables, and more to support WiFi 6 speeds? Make sure you have all the answers before you start and the transition process will be much smoother.
WiFi 6 Benefits
Now, once you do upgrade, here are a few of the benefits found in the new technology:
- A better battery life for devices thanks to Target Wake Time: this capability tells a device when to expect the next data packet from an AP. With that information, the device can tell its WiFi radio to sleep until it’s needed. Even if there are only a few seconds in between packets, this will still help support a longer battery life in IoT devices and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
- WiFi 6 has a higher maximum throughput speed than WiFi 5 (802.11ac): most real-world scenarios won’t see this speed being reached (it’s close to 10Gbps), but that higher speed is still shared between every connected device, allowing more data to be sent in a shorter amount of time
- Reduced latency with Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA): this capability allows up to 30 clients to share a channel, which boosts overall capacity and improves network efficiency while reducing latency.
- Thanks to MU-MIMO (Multiple User Multiple In and Multiple Out) technology, WiFi 6 APs can talk and listen to multiple devices simultaneously. This means that fewer devices have to enter a queue and wait for their turn to send and receive data
- WiFi 6 also provides faster 2.4GHz performance and more enhanced Quality of Service (QoS) options.
Remember that both WiFi 6 clients and infrastructure are necessary if you want to experience any of these benefits. If your APs support WiFi 6 but your client devices don’t, or vice versa, you won’t notice any difference. Use WIP’s complete visibility feature to quickly and easily access the capabilities of every connected device in your wireless ecosystem.
I upgraded, now what?
Once you make the decision to upgrade, continue to monitor the network consistently. Most organizations will upgrade slowly over time, so consider the first three months after you first upgrade as a trial period. Compare data on network health and performance beforehand with data from during and after the trial. Gather analytics day and night to answer questions like:
- Were client devices adversely affected by interoperability challenges?
- Did the upgrade provide more efficient utilization?
- What was the end user’s experience?
- Did new devices enter the network during that time?
- How did network performance compare between peak hours and slow hours?
If WiFi 5 (802.11ac) isn’t sufficient to support your growing wireless network, WiFi 6 could be the answer. Use WIP today to get the business analytics that you need to determine when to upgrade, and to optimize the network afterwards.