The current wireless ecosystem continues to expand with multiple technologies to support mobility, density, capacity, IoT, locationing, and more. WiFi 6 has been gaining significant interest as it is proclaimed to be the future of wireless technology. In this post, I’ll explore whether or not WiFi 6 is the dominant choice for the future.
What’s the Difference Between IEEE 802.11ax and WiFi 6?
Many people confuse the functions of the IEEE and the WiFi Alliance (WFA). The IEEE writes the standards, in this case IEEE 802.1ax, which is an amendment to the IEEE standard. The amendment is more than 750 pages and defines all the technology, operations, and protocols that comprise the standard.
The WFA, on the other hand, does not write the standards, but is responsible for ensuring 11ax-based products are correctly designed to interoperate. This starts by creating task groups of individuals from the industry, like myself, who review the standard and identify what key component will be tested for interoperability. This is called certification. Not all parts of the IEEE standard are included, and some companies will include additional capabilities and offer proprietary features.
So why the two different names? In previous certifications, the WFA just used the name of the standard as the name of the certification, so an IEEE 802.11n product was certified as 802.11n. With the release of 11ax, the WFA changed the naming as to identify the generation of the WiFi product, in this case “WiFi 6” (think the 6th generation of WiFi). So, a product built to the 11ax specification will be tested by the WFA and if it passes it will be called WiFi 6 certified. Discover more information about WFA certification on the Alliance’s website.
What’s So Special About WiFi 6?
WiFi 6 changes the way WiFi will work forever more. Traditionally, a WiFi radio could only talk to a single client at a time, so a two-radio APs could communicate with two clients simultaneously.
Now don’t confuse clients supported with communication. Most APs can support the simultaneous association of a hundred or more clients, but each radio can only talk to one at a time. Through WiFi’s evolution, 11a, b, g, n, ac, WiFi data rates continuously got faster, but they were still limited to one client at a time per radio.
This changed with WiFi 6 when a new protocol was added, Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access, or just call it OFDMA. This protocol allows a single radio to communicate to multiple clients simultaneously, clearly, you can see the advantage of this as communication is now in parallel versus serial. OFDMA is not the only new feature in WiFi 6, but it is the predominate enhancement.
To learn more about what WiFi 6 can do to enhance your capabilities, click here to contact Carousel.