It’s time for IT managers who believe Wi-Fi 6 is a far-away future for their enterprises to think again.
With several mileposts passed of late, it now appears the road to enterprise deployment of the next-generation wireless technology has shortened considerably. Markers include the launch of Wi-Fi 6 product certification, the expansion of use beyond public sports venues, and support on new mobile devices from Apple, Google, and Samsung.
So, what do IT managers need to know to keep current in evaluating Wi-Fi 6 for possible use in their enterprises?
Beyond early implementors
While the spotlight has been on Wi-Fi-6 at sports venues, the latest sign of progress with the wireless technology has been its use beyond this vertical. In mid-September, Wi-Fi equipment vendor Aruba Networks claimed its access points are being used widely among educational institutions such as Seneca College and entire school districts. Healthcare boasts a growing number of implementations, as well.
Expanded use beyond sports venues to wide use in other verticals, such as education and healthcare, demonstrates acceptance and progress across industries, which should fuel even broader deployments of the wireless networking technology.
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is just what the doctor ordered for facilities that are relying on older versions of the tech to support super-high device density, congestion, higher throughput, and more. To date, early implementors Lucas Oil Stadium – home of the Indianapolis Colts, West Texas A&M University, and pro soccer teams Houston Dynamo and Dash have invested in the latest Wi-Fi technology. All are customers of Extreme Networks.
They’re using Wi-Fi 6 to meet the needs of their fans who are regularly jammed into stadium venues for 3-6 hours. The resulting heavy use of Wi-Fi by these fans during games and concerts leads to continually higher data rates and peaks.
The Wi-Fi Alliance launched its awaited Wi-Fi certification 6 program, which brings interoperability to multivendor networks comprised of a growing list of products that make up this expanding wireless ecosystem.
The alliance claims its new Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program supports a more diverse set of devices and applications, from those requiring peak performance in demanding enterprise environments to those requiring low power and low latency in smart homes or industrial IoT scenarios.
The higher data rates, increased capacity, performance in high device-density environments and improved efficiency, provide the foundation for a host of current and emerging uses, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance.
They can include core business applications requiring high bandwidth and low latency to staying connected and productive while moving across large, congested networks in locations such as airports and train stations. And don't forget streaming of ultra-high-definition video content.
The recently launched certification program, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance, has already cleared products from vendors including Broadcom, Qualcomm, Intel, Ruckus, Samsung, Marvell, and Cypress. The industry group provides a product finder for interested parties.
Industry association certification programs go a long way to calming IT managers who are reluctant to take the risk of becoming early implementors of a new technology. It's also reassuring to know that they would be part of what appears to be a broad enterprise Wi-Fi 6 adoption trend.
In a recent cross-industry survey, two-thirds of respondents claimed they plan to deploy Wi-Fi 6 by the end of next year. Overall, 90% of participants are already planning to deploy the wireless technology.
The survey respondents included personnel from a global cross-section of 200 enterprises, telecom service providers, and technology vendors, according to the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA). This is an industry group made up of service providers and technology vendors, that has been driving adoption of Wi-Fi 6 through deployment guidelines and field trials.
The WBA says its mission is to foster interoperability between network operators, technology companies, and organizations. The survey results are part of an annual report link, which the WBA claims is an in-depth analysis of the state of the Wi-Fi market.
Mobile device support
Wi-Fi 6 received a boost with Apple’s launch of its first compliant iPhone – the iPhone 11 - in late September, fueling strong sales of the new units here and abroad. The smartphone rolled out three units, with prices lower than its predecessors to strengthen sales. Google followed suit in mid-October with the release of the Pixel 4 smartphone, which also support Wi-Fi 6.
This product launch adds momentum to Wi-Fi 6, months after rival Samsung launched the S10 smartphone family, which also supports the latest version of the standard. These mobile devices can be used by enterprise users beyond congested, high-density scenarios to IoT implementations.
In further support, the Cisco Visual Networking Index predicts by 2022, 51 percent of all IP traffic will be Wi-Fi. And the average Wi-Fi connection speed will be 54.2 Mbps. Cisco’s VNI forecasts roughly 8.4 billion handheld or personal mobile devices by this time.