What’s Different About Wi-Fi 6?

Wondering what all the fuss is about when it comes to Wi-Fi 6? If you’re questioning what the differences are and whether it’s worth making hardware device changes, then read on.

The next generation of wireless standard is here (actually, it’s been here since the end of 2019). Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax has the following main differences:

  • It’s faster
  • It provides better performance in congested areas (think anything from your own device-packed home, to stadiums)

We know it informally as Wi-Fi 6 – Wi-Fi versions have now been assigned simple numbers to replace the more complicated code-like names that we saw before.

What are the Wi-Fi Version Numbers?

The new Wi-Fi version numbers are much more user friendly, but for the fellow geeks among us, here are what the new version numbers correspond to, plus (whilst not being officially branded) what all of the old versions would have been.

Wi-Fi 1 – 802.11b (released in 1999)

Wi-Fi 2 – 802.11a (also released in 1999)

Wi-Fi 3 – 802.11g (released in 2003)

Wi-Fi 4 – 802.11n (released in 2009)

Wi-Fi 5 – 802.11ac (released in 2014)

Wi-Fi 6 – 802.11ax (released in 2019)

You might start to see these newer version numbers appear in software when connecting your smartphone, tablet or laptop, to enable you to see which Wi-Fi networks are newer and faster. This is what the Wi-Fi Alliance announced that they would like to be seeing across networks. It’s worth noting that it isn’t mandatory for manufacturers to label their products with Wi-Fi 6 instead of 802.11ax, but we’re hopeful that most will. Re-naming products from 802.11ac to Wi-Fi 5 might be another matter though!

Wi-Fi That’s Faster

As with most technological advances, the latest development in Wi-Fi standard is faster in terms of data transfer speeds. In comparison to Wi-Fi 5, a Wi-Fi 6 router would provide one device with up to 40% higher speeds.

What Makes Wi-Fi 6 Faster?

The reason Wi-Fi 6 can achieve such faster speeds is due to more efficient data coding which thus results in higher throughput. Basically, the radio waves are packed with more data. With each Wi-Fi standard, the ability for the chips to encode and decode the data gets more powerful, hence why Wi-Fi 6 is faster than Wi-Fi 5, and can handle extra work.

You may be aware that we have 2 frequenceis used for networks – 5GHz and 2.4GHz. 5GHz is more commonly used as it is subject to less interference, however 2.4GHz is still a good option for being able to penetrate solid objects. Wi-Fi 6, the new standard, even increases speeds on these 2.4GHz networks.

How Will Wi-Fi 6 Affect the Battery Life on my Device?

Many Wi-Fi 6 enabled devices will have a new ‘target wake time’ feature. This means that an access point can define a specific set of times when devices connected to the internet need to have access to the wireless network. This new efficiency should mean that your Wi-Fi enables devices should have a longer battery life.

Let’s take your smartphone, for example. When the AP is talking to your phone, it can tell it when to put it’s Wi-Fi radio to sleep and when to wave it up to receive the next transmission. Because your device can spend more time in sleep mode, you should find your battery lasts longer.

It also means that devices that connect via Wi-Fi with lower power can benefit from longer battery life.

Wi-Fi That Performs Better in Crowded Areas

We know there hasn’t been much opportunity for it as late, but picture trying to get online at an airport, hotel or live event at a stadium. When an area is as congested with devices as these, you can suffer with slow Wi-Fi and even struggle to connect.

Wi-Fi 6 tackles just this problem. With new technology, superior to previous Wi-Fi standards, it’s purported that Wi-Fi 6 will improve the average speed of each user by at least 4 times. Even in crowded areas with lots of devices.

This isn’t just something that will benefit you when out in public places – It could be a huge help in your home as well. If you have a large family all with multiple devices connected to Wi-Fi, then this could be just the solution to stop the slow-down. Or perhaps if you live in a densely populated place, like a block of flats.

How Does Wi-Fi 6 Tackle Congestion from Multiple Devices?

There are various features that help Wi-Fi 6 better tackle the problem of heavily crowded networks. Just knowing that a Wi-Fi 6 device connected to a Wi-Fi 6 access point will work better may well be enough for you!

For those who want all the geeky details, here’s what’s going on to make Wi-Fi 6 better for networks with multiple or many devices.

Wi-Fi 6 technology is able to create a large number of sub-channels within one wireless channel. Date intended for each individual device can be carried by each sub-channel. This technology is called Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA). Essentially this means that a Wi-Fi 6 enabled access point can talk to more devices at once.

Wi-Fi 6 also has improved MultipleIn/Multiple Out (MIMO). Again, this lets the access point talk to multiple devices at once through multiple antennas. The difference between this and Wi-Fi 5, is that while the latter enabled an access point to talk to multiple devices at the same time, it couldn’t allow the devices to respond at the same time, thus slowing things down. The new improved MIMO on Wi-Fi 6 is a multi-user version (MU-MIMO) which enables devices to respond to the access point at the same time.

Let’s look at another potential scenario. Wireless access points that are locating close to one another may transmit on the same channel. This means that the radio needs to listen and wait for a clear signal before it can reply. Wi-Fi 6 uses spatial frequency re-use which allows you to configure Wi-Fi 6 wireless access points with different Basic Service Set (BSS) colours, which consists of a number between 0 and 7. The device can then determine whether a particular channel has a weaker signal, and thus ignore it and transmit without waiting. This is another way in which Wi-Fi 6 will improve wireless performance in congested areas.

These are just a couple of the improvements to be seen from the new Wi-Fi 6 standard. There are many more, smaller enhancements which will improve the speed and performance with Wi-Fi 6.

How Do I Know If Something has Wi-Fi 6?

Luckily, thanks to this handy article, you’re now familiar with all the technical names of the different Wi-Fi standards, so you’ll know exactly what to look for. Right? Don’t panic! We’re only kidding. Thanks to the new versions, it’ll be easy for you to find devices that are certified Wi-Fi 6 (rather than hunting around for 802.11ax!). Device manufacturers are able to say whether their product is Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5.

You may also start to see a logo saying ‘Wi-Fi 6 Certified’ on relevant devices. This means that the product has gone through the Wi-Fi Alliance’s certification process. The old Wi-Fi Certified logo simply told you it was Wi-Fi Certified, rather than what generation of Wi-Fi a product was. The new logo will make it clear if it is Wi-Fi 6. So there will be no need for trawling through product specifications!

When Can I Get Wi-Fi 6 Enabled Devices?

The new Wi-Fi 6 standard was finalised in 2019, with hardware being released in the latter part of the same year and into 2020. So you should be seeing Wi-Fi 6 enabled products in the market now. It’s shouldn’t be something you need to put too much thought into – As new routers, smartphones, tables and laptops are released into the market, they will just start to come with this new Wi-Fi 6 technology.

It’s worth remembering that to benefit from the improvements on the new Wi-Fi 6 standard, you need both the sender and receiver devices to support this latest generation of Wi-Fi 6. Whatever the connection, it will only operate in the mode that your device supports. For example, you may have a Wi-Fi 6 enabled router, a Wi-Fi 6 enabled smartphone, but a laptop that only supports Wi-Fi 5. You’ll see the advantages of Wi-Fi 6 on your smartphone, but the laptop will only work at Wi-Fi 5 capacity.

The Wi-Fi Lifecycle: How to Boost Wireless Performance at Every Stage

Managing a wireless network is a non-stop task. A wireless network is a lifecycle – It is constantly moving through the processes, and every stage gives you the chance to troubleshoot and optimise your Wi-Fi.

What is the Wi-Fi Lifecycle?

If you are responsible for deploying a Wi-Fi network and then doing the ongoing management, then you will likely be familiar with the stages you see throughout this process. It starts with the wireless network design, and then continuing maintenance, optimisation and troubleshooting, which can lead you back to those design stages. To ensure that your wireless network reliably performs at its optimum levels, you need to understand these stages and equip yourselves with the right tools.

Let’s have a look at each stage of the Wi-Fi Cycle.

Wi-Fi Design

First up, it’s design. Do not skip this step. It’s so important for your wireless network to carry out surveys and design according to the results. You likely won’t get a high-performing, reliable Wi-Fi network without doing this stage properly!

Designing your wireless network gives you the opportunity to translate the Wi-Fi needs of your business (or home) in a way that meets or exceeds all of your requirements. Do not just deploy and hope for the best – Wi-Fi is a vital first stage in any wireless network deployment.

If you’re not sure where to start, then get in touch with us here at Geekabit. Our Wi-Fi experts have all the knowledge needed to carry out a Wi-Fi survey and use the information identified to design a high-performance wireless network that provides reliable Wi-Fi for your business-critical applications. For more information on Wi-Fi surveys and what they entail, you might like to read this blog.

Network Validation

Once you’ve got your Wi-Fi network designed, taking things into consideration like walls, end user requirements, positioning, high footfall areas etc you need to validate it. The aim of this stage is to make sure that your Wi-Fi design behaves in the way you have predicted it to.

Using AP on a Stick technology, you can test out the locations for access points in your design and make sure that things like capacity and coverage are what you expected. This stage is also a bit of a safety net to catch any possible sources of interferences that didn’t pop up in your survey or design stage, for example differences in wall materials.

This stage is also vital if you want to make sure your network will be successful before complete deployment, saving you valuable time (and money) later on fixing problems. If you’re having to run new cabling, you really want to make sure that all your access points and antenna are in the best locations first.

You may find yourself returning to this stage multiple times. Perhaps you identify some potential issues with access point placing which sends you back to the design stage. You’ll find yourself re-validating those changes. Remember, this is a constant process and you will go through the Wi-Fi lifecycle time and again.

You don’t just validate post-design – You will also need to validate your network following its deployment. But hopefully, having done an initial design and validation stage, you will find your network running at its optimum performance for your end users.

Wi-Fi Optimisation

So you’ve designed your network, validated it and went ahead with deployment. Surely that’s it done? We’re afraid not! Even if your network seems to be working well and providing reliable Wi-Fi to your users, it’s something that needs constant monitoring and maintenance in order to optimise the Wi-Fi your business provides.

This isn’t a quick process or ‘box-ticked-next’ sort of stage. Continuously monitoring and tweaking your Wi-Fi network allows your to react in a timely manner to any changes. Perhaps you have an increase in staff members, or a rise in multiple device usage. Maybe there are physical changes made to the building, a reshuffle of office layout or a warehouse with wildly fluctuating inventory.

The Wi-Fi Optimsation stage allows for proactive wireless network improvements to be made for any known impending changes. Constant monitoring also enables a reactive approach to any adjustments that need to be made due to reported issues from end users.

Carrying out regular RF surveys of your Wi-Fi network will provide you with data that becomes invaluable when it comes to making adjustments and troubleshooting issues.

There may be times when a change of requirements is too large for just a few tweaks here and there, which will send you back to the design stage in order to create a new deployment.

Network Troubleshooting

No one wants Wi-Fi woes in their office if they can help it. Disgruntled employees that are complaining of slow Wi-Fi aren’t just demotivated and unproductive – They may not even be able to carry out business-critical tasks. If your business depends on reliable Wi-Fi, then you need to make sure your wireless network meets requirements by following the stages mentioned above.

But unfortunately, there will be times when issues slip through the net. Troubleshooting is probably the most stressful stage of the Wi-Fi Lifecycle. Everyone knows how frustrating it is to have dodgy Wi-Fi, and nobody wants to be on the receiving end of those complaints.

Thankfully, with the right tools you can keep these incidences to a minimum, ensure swift implementation of fixes and get straight back to the optimisation stage. Spectrum analysers are a big help during the troubleshooting process by helping identify Wi-Fi strength and interference.

 

Wi-Fi Design – Yes, we’ve gone full circle!

The nature of wireless networks is everchanging. Requirements change fairly regularly with the needs of the business. Sometimes these will be small, quick fixes and sometimes they will require complete re-design and deployment right from the beginning of the Wi-Fi lifecycle.

Luckily for you, you now know the process – Wi-Fi Design, Wi-Fi Validation, Network Optimisation and Troubleshooting.

 

Whichever stage your wireless network is currently in, Geekabit can help ensure your business Wi-Fi is high-performing and reliable for your end users. For more information or to discuss your requirements, get in touch with out one of our Wi-Fi experts today.

UniFi vs Meraki vs Aruba

If you’re in the market for a bit of wireless kit then you’re rather spoilt for choice nowadays. Whilst it’s great to have a choice of products, it does beggar the question, how do I choose the right wireless product for my business?

Some of the big players when it comes to wireless network products are Ubiquiti, Meraki and Aruba. But which one is right for your specific deployment? Let’s have a look at them one by one.

Ubiquiti Network Wireless Products

We’ve spoken a lot about Ubiquiti and their range of wireless products – They are a firm favourite with our Wi-Fi experts here at Geekabit. Ubiquiti provide a range of wireless networking products including access points, wireless controllers, antennas and wireless bridges. Whatever your Wi-Fi requirement, they’re likely to have a product solution.

Product Portfolio

  • Ubiquiti have the product range to meet a complete enterprise network
  • They cover both wireless and wired products
  • They have the management and security systems to go alongside

The Benefits for Small to Medium Sized Business Networks

  • They are easy to deploy and use
  • Lots of features
  • One intuitive User Interface to make the human-computer interaction as simple as possible
  • Unbeatable value

The Benefits for Enterprise Networks

  • All access points, switches and routers are easy to manage from one Use Interface
  • It has central management capabilities and troubleshooting
  • It is straightforward to use for network admin staff, with no certification needed
  • Cloud and on-premises management available
  • Very high access point performance
  • Good HD Wi-Fi control capabilities

The Benefits for Arena / Stadium Networks

  • They can provide arena access points with integrated high gain antennas
  • One access point can have up to 3 5GHz client serving radios
  • Multi 5 GHz radio access points save in installation and cabling costs
  • Outstanding performance in a high traffic environment

User Experience

  • Quick and easy deployment with no licenses required
  • A single, intuitive user interface for all Ubiquiti elements with secure remote access
  • It’s easy to expand the network if and when needed without additional licenses
  • They provide free support (without needing a support agreement) plus a community of Ubiquiti users for extra support, buffered by Ubiquiti employees

Price-point

  • The price-point for Ubiquiti wireless products is low compared to other brands, offering fantastic value for money

Meraki Wireless Products

The Meraki MR series from Cisco delivers Wi-Fi 6 access points, faster access point deployment, simplified administration, and richer visibility.

Product Portfolio

  • Meraki have the product range to meet a complete enterprise network
  • They cover both wireless and wired products
  • They have the management and security systems to go alongside

How it Fares for Small to Medium Sized Business Networks

  • They are easy to deploy and use
  • You have to pay a subscription fee, which renders the product useless if not paid
  • It works well for smaller businesses and enterprises, apart from it being expensive
  • For better prices, you need to commit to several years and pre-pay

How it Fares for Enterprise Networks

  • It is easy to deploy and use cloud infrastructure
  • There is no on-premises option
  • Performance falters with high traffic
  • Ongoing licensing is expensive

How it Fares for Arena / Stadium Networks

  • There are no capabilities specifically targeted to venues of this size or type
  • For focused radio frequency, external antennas are required which will incur extra costs and will need mounting
  • There are no multi 5 GHz radio products, and RF tuning capabilities are weak
  • HD Wi-Fi performance is weak

User Experience

  • Quick and easy deployment but a lack of flexibility may cause problems
  • Licensing is required, but all features are included
  • It has a single, intuitive user interface
  • Support services are available from Meraki, but a service subscription is required. Without it there is no support
  • Additional support is available at an additional cost

Price-point

  • The price-point for Meraki MR wireless products is high compared to other brands, with licensing and subscription fees pushing it up.

 

Aruba Wireless Products

The range of Aruba Access Points deliver a fast, reliable Wi-Fi solution with great performance levels and a boost to network efficiency. They will also support the growing mobile and IoT density demands on your network.

Product Portfolio

  • Aruba have most of the product range to meet a complete enterprise network need
  • They cover both wireless and wired products
  • They have the management and security systems to go alongside

How it Fares for Small to Medium Sized Business Networks

  • Controller based products can be difficult to deploy and use
  • Instant access points lack features unless you have other Aruba products such as Aruba Central or Aruba AirWave licenses
  • Aruba Central has a good cloud-based product for small to medium sized business, but it is very expensive

How it Fares for Enterprise Networks

  • Large configurations can handle large networks
  • The base product is a traditional single tenant hardware controller which can make it difficult to deploy and use
  • For adequate reliability, you will need redundant controllers which are pricey
  • The Aruba instant access points are not sufficient for larger enterprises or multisite premises
  • Aruba Central provides a cloud alternative but uses separate licenses for features. This means that you may require additional licenses for future functionality which could prove very expensive
  • The ongoing admin of handling expiring licenses is time consuming

How it Fares for Arena / Stadium Networks

  • As with Meraki, for focused radio frequency with Aruba products, external antennas are required which will incur extra costs and will need mounting
  • There are a maximum of 2 5 GHz radios per access point
  • The Aruba multi 5 GHz access points have filtering
  • HD Wi-Fi performance is weak

User Experience

  • Deployment is difficult, with added complexity of ensuring you have the right licenses which can be time consuming
  • Depending on the products used, you may require multiple user interfaces
  • Expanding your network or adding new features may require additional licensing and subsequently more costs
  • Aruba does provide support within a 90-day product failure warranty. Additional support after that requires a paid support agreement. If you don’t pay, you don’t get support

Price-point

  • The price-point for Aruba wireless products is lower than Meraki but medium compared to other brands. As with Meraki, the costs involved with licensing and subscription fees with Aruba pushes the price up.

 

Still not sure what wireless products you need for your network?

If you’re unsure what wireless products would be suitable for your network – Whether it be small or arena sized – Our Wi-Fi experts would be happy to chat through the options. Our experienced Wi-Fi engineers can match the right wireless network products with your requirements to get you the most reliable Wi-Fi possible. Let’s strengthen your connections today – Get in touch now.