What Can WiFi 6 do for Distributed Enterprises?

We’ve been hearing about WiFi 6 (802.11ax) for some time, and now that it’s finally on-the-scene, you’re probably in one of two camps:

  1. This is everything I ever wanted from next-generation WiFi! 
  2. It sounds good, but what does it do for me?

While we’re all for excitement, we actually think it’s not a bad thing to be in Camp 2.  Before upgrading your networks, you should be asking yourself how WiFi 6 will improve the wireless experience of your distributed enterprise, and if it’s worth upgrading now, or if it’s prudent to wait a year or two.

To help you make the decision, here are a few benefits you will see from the new technology.

Minimized Wait Times and Interference

At its core, WiFi 6 was designed to address wireless issues in high-density environments.  That was the driving force behind all of its fancy new capabilities, like OFDMA and MU-MIMO.  These capabilities provide some secondary benefits, though, that can be especially worthwhile for distributed enterprise.  For example, OFDMA is used to send data to multiple clients using  smaller width channels, while MU-MIMO enables the same using spatial stream multiplexing. Another new technology, BSS coloring, helps prevent interference by color-coding frequencies to allow APs to identify competing requests in densely populated environments.  Working together, these complementary technologies allow each WiFi 6 AP to handle far more client devices than WiFi 5 APs. 

Using smaller channel widths (RUs) means more devices can communicate at the same time and with less interference.

Improved Battery Life

WiFi 6’s Target Wake Time is a handy technology that allows client devices to schedule their communications with an AP.  This reduces the time that these devices are powered on and searching for a signal, which means there’s less drain on their batteries.

This technology won’t be used by all devices – laptops for example need constant WiFi access when they’re in use – but it will be incredibly useful for the devices that do use it.  Think of all the IoT devices that are in your facility – printers, thermostats, smart assistants, RFID readers, health monitors, etc. – and think of how beneficial it would be to have each of their batteries last longer.  

Tougher Security

Are you familiar with WPA3?  It’s a security protocol that is required by any WiFi 6 device that wants to receive certification from the WiFi Alliance.  Users can choose between WPA3-Personal for individual use and WPA3-Enterprise for, you guessed it, enterprises, governments, and financial institutions.

All WPA3 networks will disallow outdated legacy protocols and require use of Protected Management Frames (PMF).  In addition, WPA3-Enterprise offers optional 192-bit minimum strength security protocols and cryptographic tools to protect sensitive data.  This includes:

  • Authenticated encryptions
  • Key derivation and confirmation
  • Key establishment and authentication
  • Robust management frame protection

For distributed enterprises dealing with BYOD networks and thousands of emerging IoT devices across multiple facilities, increased security always brings peace of mind.

Increased System Capacity

Let’s talk about MU-MIMO again.  Thanks to its multiuser technology, it increases overall system capacity, allowing the AP to communicate with multiple devices at the same time.  With this  capability, all devices on the network have less wait time, and the AP is able to handle more requests from IoT devices like Amazon Alexa.  With more businesses making use of video-streaming versus in-person conferences, MU-MIMO is a good thing.  It means increased productivity, better moods for all employees, and fewer problem tickets for IT. #Winning

A quick note: MU-MIMO is present in WiFi 5 devices, but WiFi 6 takes it up a notch, making it possible for APs to talk to eight devices simultaneously, rather than four.

Centralized Management

While WiFi 6 works to make networks across locations more efficient and secure, IT still needs complete visibility into each network to prevent any issues and facilitate quick resolutions when issues do arise.  We recommend using an AI-driven WiFi Automation solution like the award-winning Wireless Intelligence Platform (WIP) to centralize management, and monitor all new and existing technologies.  

WIP was first-to-market with its support for WiFi 6.  It provides:

  • Complete Wireless Ecosystem Visibility
  • Historical Forensics
  • Automated Detection and Notification of Issues, as well as Suggested Actionable Items for Resolution
  • Security Breach Detection
  • Remote Network Test Suite

WIP is entirely remote-capable, allowing IT to troubleshoot and optimize networks from any location.  It is also vendor agnostic, providing future-proofing against ever-changing wireless technology.

See the datasheet for more details.

Power Up the Network 

One final piece of advice – don’t forget that upgrading to WiFi 6 means upgrading all client and IoT devices, not just network infrastructure.  You can use WIP to gather analytics on each of your networks, and then determine which location is the most ready for an upgrade and/or which most needs the upgrade.

Once upgraded, continue monitoring to ensure you are getting the benefits you thought you would.  With WIP providing detailed insights every day, you have all the information you need to optimize your network and keep it optimized – even when it’s time for WiFi 7.

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