Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Wi-Fi 6E: The evolution of next generation wireless access

Networking, 5G, Enterprise Networks, Wireless, Wireless and Mobility, Cisco Prep, Cisco Certification, Cisco Online Exam

Wi-Fi 6 just arrived, bringing better speed and more capacity to wireless networks. And soon it’s going to get even better, thanks to the FCC opening up of all-new 6 GHz frequencies for Wi-Fi 6. The name of this extension to the standard: Wi-Fi 6E.

When the new 1.2 GHz of spectrum (500 MHz in the EU) starts getting built into devices later this year, it will unleash new potentials for networks, and help them meet the growing demand for high-performance connectivity.

The Need for More Unlicenced Spectrum

Moving from one Wi-Fi generation to the next – currently in the sixth generation – all wireless devices share the crowded 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. They are constantly competing for bandwidth. The limited spectrum and channels in those bands cause significant issues for users. There are very few non-overlapping 80 MHz or 160 MHz (in 5 GHz band) channels to prevent interference caused by devices on overlapping channels. In fact, it’s almost impractical to enable these wide band channels in dense environments such as venues with hundreds of access points. Besides, the 20 MHz and 40 MHz channels are not wide enough to support high data throughput for bandwidth-intensive applications.

These problems have been exacerbated by the proliferation of wirelessly connected IoT devices and data growth. For example, Wi-Fi and mobile devices will account for more than 75 percent of all Internet traffic by 2022.

We need more unlicensed spectrum to deliver on the Wi-Fi brand promise, and that’s what the new 6 GHz frequencies will deliver.

The Promise of Wi-Fi 6E

To keep unlicensed Wi-Fi devices running in the 6 GHz band from interfering with incumbent users of the band such as microwaves links, the FCC is proposing some technical restrictions. These rules divide the overall spectrum into 4 separate bands with their own boundaries. For example, a Wi-Fi device could only operate indoors at low power in order to ensure unlicensed services can coexist safely with existing incumbents. (Figure 1)

Networking, 5G, Enterprise Networks, Wireless, Wireless and Mobility, Cisco Prep, Cisco Certification, Cisco Online Exam
Figure 1 – 6 GHz Wi-Fi Channels

Wi-Fi 6E brings the following improvements and enables important use cases:

1. More spectrum

An additional 1.2 GHz spectrum, twice the size of the current Wi-Fi bandwidth, offers more non-overlapping channels i.e. 59 additional 20 MHz channels  And only Wi-Fi 6 devices are allowed in this new spectrum. No legacy (Wi-Fi 5 or earlier) devices will have access to it. Wi-Fi 6 not only gets the additional bandwidth of Wi-Fi 6E, it uses that bandwidth more efficiently, which makes this new spectrum great for solving capacity problems in large public venues, such as concert venues or sports stadiums. This not only enables better user experience but opens the gateway for quality live streaming connections.

2. Higher throughputs

As envisioned, Wi-Fi 6E makes available large contiguous blocks of spectrum. With 14 additional 80 MHz and 7 additional 160 MHz wide channels, it allows for high-throughput and concurrent data transmission. This enhances applications that require high bandwidth such as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and real-time immersive gaming on Wi-Fi 6 devices. It will further the current Wi-Fi 6 capabilities for the next generation of learning where every student in a classroom or in a school can use a VR headset for their education at the same time.

3. Lower latency

The high frequency spectrum of Wi-Fi 6E opens up entirely new horizons for ultra-low latency and emerging data-intensive applications and services, such as telehealth. Wi-Fi 6E is able to provide reliable and consistent low-latency connectivity for critical applications that can’t afford data delays. This allows, for example, patients to connect virtually with doctors and get real-time diagnostics on their high-quality 3D CAT exam or MRI.

All in all, Wi-Fi 6E expands the horizon of user connectivity, opens opportunities for emerging use cases, and enables enterprises to push boundaries with innovations. Cisco is actively partnering with the regulatory agencies working on Wi-Fi expansion. We will keep you updated as regulators finalize the operational requirements. Watch for product announcements from Cisco that will seize upon this new spectrum.

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