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 Robustel R5020 5G Router

We’ve talked a lot in recent weeks about 4G broadband and how it can solve many Wi-Fi issues in rural areas and homes with a slow BT Openreach connection.

But of course, the question on everyone’s lips when we talk about 4G routers and mobile broadband is ‘when will there be a 5G router?’

One product we’re feeling particularly excited about is the Robustel R5020. This router is touted to be offering next-generation cellular connectivity at a competitive price.

The R5020 will enable rapid deployment of high speed IoT applications in sectors such as Transportation, Enterprise Connectivity and Digital Signage.

In a compact industrial unit, the R5020 will offer 3G, 4G/LTE and 5G band coverage.

What are the key features?  

Here are the key features of the Robustel R5020 5G router.

A router with 5G capability

As Robustel’s first 5G capable router, the R5020 will also be capable of supporting 4G and 3G bands.

 

A stable operating system

Powered by their tried and tested CPU platform, the R5020 uses their mature and stable in-house Operating System RobustOS. This OS is fully programmable with a fully documented Software Development Kit. It also comes with a free cloud management platform (RCMS).

 

Applications

The R5020 is designed for use by various applications.

In-vehicle applications

  • Passenger Wi-Fi
  • CCTV de-brief
  • Ticketing
  • Other similar “onboard” requirements

Potentially increase internet speeds in these scenarios with the R5020, as well as future-proofing your current installations by making them 5G compatible. The R5020 has achieved E-Mark* certification for in-vehicle use, and supports GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) positioning. There is also a version to protect vehicle batteries with vehicle ignition sensing when the engine is turned off.

Broadband Failover

  • As well as a 5G Router, the R5020 can be configured to use Ethernet or Wi-Fi as the primary internet source. Should there be an outage on either of these, it can then failover to 4G or 5G.
  • If your business is a shop or small office, this can provide a good degree of connectivity resilience at a reasonable cost.
  • It can provide sufficient bandwidth for multiple users.
  • Core networks can utilise connections from IPSEC (Internet Protocol Security), DMVPN (Dynamic Multipoint VPN) and Open VPN (Virtual Private Networks) protocols.

Primary Broadband

  • You might think that using mobile broadband would be a pricey alternative, but mobile networks are now offering unlimited 5G tariffs at reasonable prices.
  • This means that hundreds of Mbps internet are available over the air.
  • There are many technical and commercial scenarios that make a wireless internet connection a favourable option, and mobile broadband offers another level of connectivity on top.

 

For more information on this product, or to register your interest in it when it’s available, head to their website.

If you would like more information on how 4G broadband could make a difference to your connectivity, please get in touch with our Wi-Fi experts here at Geekabit. We have a 4G antenna testing pole so we can assess whether 4G would be a viable option for your premises.

 

 

*An e-Mark proves your vehicle or component complies with the relevant EU/ECE regulations and can be sold in the EU, as well as other regions which have signed up to the ECE vehicle regulations. EU type approval is mandatory for whole vehicles as well as a range of automotive systems and components

WiFi Faces Technical Challenges

The emerging wireless standard promises better WiFi but the promise introduces significant complexity.

IEEE 802.11 standards (g, a, n, ac) delivered WiFi performance improvements out of the box. They focused on progressively increasing the data rate over the wireless link. All that was needed to take advantage of any new standard, was a radio chipset that incorporated the new radio and MAC enhancements.

The situation is different for the upcoming 802.11ax standard. The focus of 802.11ax is not on increasing the data rate but on improving the overall wireless network performance. This introduces significant new radio and MAC enhancements such as OFDMA and BSS colouring.

Ranking high among the issues is a transmission-scheduling mechanism. The downlink transmission scheduling in WiFi has been a simple FIFO (First In First Out) system. 802.11e introduced a small variation regarding the maintenance of multiple transmission queues for different priority classes.

However, 802.11ax introduces significant complexity in wireless transmission scheduling due to its OFDMA and MU-MIMO enhancements.

  •  With MU-MIMO, there is now an option to transmit a single wireless frame to a single client or concurrently transmit different wireless frames to multiple clients using multi-user beamforming.
  • With OFDMA, there is now an option to transmit a single wireless frame to single client using traditional OFDM or concurrently transmit different wireless frames to multiple clients using subsets of channel width.
  • 802.11ax introduces multi-user transmission in uplink direction too. The AP needs to schedule multiple clients for concurrent uplink transmissions according to their requirements.

These methods need to take into account service requirements of traffic flows, radio conditions on the channel, client capabilities and client state feedbacks. It is no easy feat to come up with scheduling mechanisms that will work in most practical scenarios with relative ease of configuration and fine tuning.

Wi-Fi Frequencies: An Overview

With all of the current and future Wi-Fi frequencies and technologies are really getting confusing, with that in mind theres actually more than you realise. So let’s take a look at what’s out there and what’s coming up, as well as trying to make it as simple as we can.

There are two common well known dominant Wi-Fi frequencies used by 802.11a/b/g/n systems, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Almost all modern Wi-Fi devices are made to operate in one or both of these frequencies. These frequencies now dominate most of our homes.

The same basic OFDM technology used by 802.11a in 5 GHz is also used in a 4.9 GHz public safety band. This band is 50 MHz wide it requires a license and is only available in some regulatory domains. There are specific and limited purposes for this band so you won’t see a lot of commercial interest or attention here.

The FCC also opened up 50 MHz of bandwidth in a 3.6 GHz licensed band. OFDM is used here as well. In the US this band requires a license but usage is not limited to certain technologies, so the band will be shared.  There aren’t many benefits to this frequency band and the interference avoidance requirements represent a moderate R&D requirement without much ROI.

You’ve most likely heard about this PHY spec in development. It builds on 802.11n MIMO technology in 5 GHz and seeks to expand on the HT PHY with a few developments that are a natural next step. 802.11n gave us 40 MHz bonded channels. 802.11ac will give us 80 MHz channels and, likely, 160 MHz channels.. 80 MHz bandwidth will get us past the gigabit rate threshold. MIMO will also be expanded to 8×8, but since client devices aren’t adopting that type of power hungry radio anytime in the near future (or ever), 8×8 will be used for MU-MIMO. MU-MIMO allows an AP to transmit simultaneous downlink frames to multiple users (MUs).

VHT 60 GHz (802.11ad) — This PHY opens up a fresh use case for Wi-Fi in the form of very high throughput at short range. There are a lot of challenges getting the kind of range that would be useful to enterprises. We’ll see short-range, high bandwidth applications, but there are still failings to see the exciting benefits that have been touted in the press.

White-Fi (802.11af) — The TV whitespace frequencies between 50 and 600 MHz have also created some exciting buzz in the past several months. There are many articles out there discussing the limitations and benefits of this band. The main issue with this frequency is that contiguous bandwidth is in short supply, so we see a handful of 6 MHz-wide channels, which will yield lower transmission rates than 802.11a/g. The merits of a low frequency are fairly well known; that is, despite the throughput-deficient bandwidth, the range and coverage is advantageous. Rural broadband applications are the evident winner with this technology where coverage is more important than bandwidth and high user density.

It is also worth mentioning 900 MHz. Back in the 1990s, 900 MHz was a popular pre-802.11-Wi-Fi frequency. It is an unlicensed ISM band. This is a semi-popular broadband frequency with decent range and limited throughput. Many vendors use proprietary PtP and PtMP solutions here for wireless distribution, but they are not defined by 802.11 and they are not designed for client access.

Wi-FI frequencies in brief:

  • 50-600 MHz TV Whitespace — Good range, low capacity.
  • 900 MHz — Proprietary PtP and PtMP. Decent range, slow rates.
  • 2.4 GHz — Well-known and used.
  • 3.6 GHz — Little-used, licensed band.
  • 4.9 GHz — Licensed public safety band.
  • 5 GHz — Well-known and used, the future of Wi-Fi.
  • 60 GHz — Short range, very high throughput.
Siklu EtherHaul-2X00 Series

1 Gbps connectivity between two sites is sometimes necessary and an E-band set of radios that work within a 70-80 Ghz frequency is a viable solution.  The benefits of these radios are vast and varied.  Being relatively cheap makes them popular and this coupled with the fact that they are easy to deploy and manage makes them a Wi-Fi winner.

Siklu have created a solution in an E-band set of radios that will provide 2 Gbps connectivity over up to 7kms.  This wider channel width solution is able to work at lower modulations which makes it a great option compared to others on the market.  The EH -2X00 delivers 2Gbps full duplex point to point wireless connectivity making it robust and futureproof.

Being small in size, the tiny footprint allows easy site acquisition and an easy installation.  Moreover, the E-band spectrum is uncongested and offers a quick licensing process compared to other options.  Spectrum protection is maintained whist the cost is still relatively cheap.

The EH-2X00 series offers a great price per MB but alongside this its lower installation costs make it unbeatable in price.  The new model is based on an evolved version of a Siklu’s field proven platform making it extremely reliable.  This reliability cuts the cost of site visits which contributes to its exceptional value for money.

With 16 non-overlapping channels available to it, the EH-2X00 is able to deploy dense networks over greater distances and offers a great solution for those looking for 1Gbps between 2 sites.