WiFi 6 marks new era of wireless connectivity

18th October 2019

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Twenty years after the updated 802.11b protocol bolstered the popularity of WiFi, the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the introduction of fifth-generation (5G) technology have driven the need for a new complementary standard: WiFi 6.

As digitalisation, mobility and IoT drive the need for connectivity, the sixth-generation, redesigned wireless standard, walking hand-in-hand with 5G, will be more responsive to the present and future challenges.

According to Cisco, more Internet traffic will be created in 2022 than in the aggregate 32 years since the Internet started, with 28-billion devices connected to the Internet, many of which, such as robots, production lines and medical devices, will communicate over a wireless network.

“Ever since the launch of the Internet, every leap in network speed has had a major impact on technological innovation: fourth-generation technology has brought along the age of smartphones, while 5G and WiFi 6 will transform the business world,” says Cisco South Africa country manager Garsen Naidu.

The two technologies, 5G and WiFi, are expected to be widely adopted at the same time, complementing each other.

This followed the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ proposal of WiFi 6, or the 802.11ax standard, to “couple the freedom and high speed of gigabit Ethernet wireless with the reliability and predictability found in licensed radio”.

The WiFi Alliance notes that the standard builds on the strengths of 802.11ac, while adding efficiency, flexibility and scalability that allow new and existing networks increased speed and capacity with next-generation applications.

WiFi 6 speeds can reach nearly 10 Gb/s – 40% faster than WiFi 5 speeds.

Beyond being significantly faster than the previous generation, the sixth-generation WiFi delivers up to four times greater capacity and latency is improved, allowing for near real-time use cases.

WiFi 6 is also “easier” on connected devices’ batteries.

“In the first phase, we expect the new wireless standard to gain a significant foothold in the business-to-business field, where it brings important innovations,” says Naidu.

“We will see it, together with other technologies, penetrate significantly into manufacturing . . . into the logistics industry. The technology is also more effective in high-density settings like large lecture halls, stadiums and conference rooms, so we are likely to see significant penetration in these settings too.”

With its extremely low latency, WiFi 6 also promises to open up new opportunities in augmented and virtual reality, healthcare and self-driving vehicles.

With the spread of IoT, WiFi is becoming ubiquitous.

“We see promising business opportunities and a wide range of new applications.”

At the same time, with hundreds and thousands of new devices connecting to wireless networks, information technology (IT) teams are facing increasing complexity.

“We need to rethink IT architectures from the ground up,” adds Naidu, noting that much of the need to rethink network architectures is driven by the enormous growth in wireless connectivity.

The latest WiFi 6 developments introduced earlier this year make a consistent, efficient and seamless wireless connectivity experience a reality.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor




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