The key technologies that make Wi-Fi 6 fly
By Lionel Maclou
Wi-Fi 6 is primed to help businesses support the exponential growth of internet traffic as more and more Internet of Things (IoT) devices get connected. Adopting fast-speed internet technology will enable businesses to collect extensive data and ultimately improve customer experiences.
Not only does Wi-Fi 6 promise to boost overall performance, Wi-Fi 6 offers a number of new enhancements to meet the needs of today’s wireless-hungry world. And for many businesses, the urgent need to meet these application demands will make upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 a priority.
We break down the enhanced features such as OFDMA, MU-MIMO, TWT, BSS colouring, beamforming and new modulation schemes that allow end users to experience optimal always-on connectivity.
These are the six key technologies that will make a Wi-Fi 6 network ready to meet intense new business demands.
A standout feature of the new standard, Wi-Fi 6 transitions from Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) to Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) which allows multiple devices with varying bandwidth needs to be served simultaneously.
In previous generations of Wi-Fi, the increasing number and range of connected devices began to place a strain on APs when trying to connect multiple devices. A small transmission from a single client would be able to monopolise an entire channel.
However, with Wi-Fi 6, OFDMA enables more efficient transmission of data to multiple devices, allowing for a 20 MHz channel to be split into small resource units (RUs) or sub-channels.
In practice, this enables multiple users to each be assigned a portion of the total bandwidth available in a single transmission from an AP to client devices. As any given user is likely to require only a fraction of the throughput available in a given single transmission, OFDMA enhances efficiency, minimises latency, and minimises contention for wireless medium.
Handling data packets in this way improves performance, as a large number of packets – especially those that are latency sensitive such as voice traffic – can be transmitted simultaneously.
MU-MIMO stands for “multi-user-multiple input, multiple output” and offers another way to handle traffic from multiple devices. This technology is already in use in modern routers and devices, but Wi-Fi 6 upgrades it, allowing up to 8 devices to transmit simultaneously using a dedicated channel per device.
This allows for large packets such as streaming HD video to be handled more efficiently, while shorter packets from IoT devices and voice traffic would be better handled using OFDMA.
3. Target Wake Time
Target Wake Time (TWT) is another important resource scheduling function supported by Wi-Fi 6. This technology allows devices to negotiate when and how often they will wake up to send or receive data. This reduces the amount of time they need to keep their antennas powered to transmit and search for signals which preserves battery life.
4. BSS colouring
In an enterprise network, Basic Service Set (BSS) Colour Code features enable clients and APs to set specific signal-detection thresholds and transmit power levels, which provides better management of contention and interference. This improves overall network performance and delivers a more efficient use of spectrum resources.
In previous generations of Wi-Fi, a single device could transmit while all the other Wi-Fi devices on the channel had to wait their turn. With Wi-Fi 6, BSS colouring colour codes shared frequencies passed between the device and the network.
These colour codes allow access points to decide if the simultaneous use of spectrum is possible because the channel is only busy and unavailable to use when the same colour is detected. This enables a network to more effectively – and concurrently – transmit data to multiple devices in congested areas.
When multiple APs are operating on the same channel, they can transmit data with a unique “colour” identifier that allows them to communicate over the wireless medium at the same time without waiting as the “colours” enable them to differentiate between each other’s data.
Supporting eight antennas, whereas Wi-Fi 5 supports four, beamforming improves data rates and extends range by directing signals toward specific clients instead of in every direction at once. This supports MU-MIMO when working with rapidly moving devices.
Beamforming allows the antennas in your router (or a client device) to focus how it sends and receives information over Wi-Fi, just like picking up the phone and calling a specific person. It’s direct, it’s efficient, and it makes the connection faster.
By taking advantage of MU-MIMO, it enables even more efficient beamforming, because it allows the router to constantly keep tabs on the relative locations of various devices, enabling the beamforming technology to optimise the antennas accordingly.
Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) enables more packets to be sent, more efficiently by modulating the amplitude and phase of a signal. In optimal conditions where a single client is near the AP, Wi-Fi 6 promises to achieve 2.5x increase in throughput compared to Wi-Fi 5 and 1.2 Gbps per spatial stream.
Working in tandem with OFDMA, 1024 QAM significantly improves the noise threshold, offering high performance at bandwidth of 20 MHz or less.
In previous generations of Wi-Fi with 256-QAM, the number of bits transmitted per OFDM symbol was 8. Wi-Fi 6 with 1024-QAM increases this to 10 bits, allowing for a 25% increase in spectral efficiency. For businesses, this means the ability to support 4K/8K video and AR/VR requirements.
Our agile team and Wi-Fi 6 capabilities
As the network infrastructure experts, we have the capability to deliver large national network rollouts, including Wi-Fi installation. By conducting a wireless survey of your building or facility, we design a practical radio map of access points that will meet your coverage needs.
We can help your organisation build a new Wi-Fi 6 network that’s ready to meet intense new business demands.
When you work with Alliance SI, you can be assured that no matter your location, we are the people to deliver.
Contact us to discuss your Wi-Fi 6 requirements with one of our experienced account managers.