Are you ready for 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6)?

by | Feb 11, 2020 | Security | 0 comments

Many organizations are in the same boat right now asking, “Should I postpone any upgrades to wait for 802.11ax?” Whether you are technologically conservative or on the cutting edge, it might be time for your organization to start planning for this new technology and standard.  The standard is expected to be ratified by mid to late 2020.  Most of the access point players have an offering today for 802.11ax or, as it is more commonly called, Wi-Fi 6.  Our users and organizations will be demanding the performance that it will bring to their work and process activities.  

Under 802.11ax, on the 2.4 GHz band, the maximum is 1148 Mbps. On the 5 GHz band, the rate can go up to 4804 Mbps.  On our networks, we have client resources that will and can operate on both these bands now.  Enterprise-class Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) access points feature high powered radios and enhanced receiving capabilities. Technologies like OFDMA, MIMO, and integrated beamforming maximize capacity without sacrificing range.  These aspects will take planning that is outlined below. 

Why go to 802.11ax or WiFi 6? 

Access Point Density 

  • Supports 4X higher performance with 4X number of clients connecting to the access point over the previous standard AC wave 2 access point.  Through Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA)up to 8×8:8 radio antennae25% increase in transfer rates, and Multiple in Multiple Out (MIMO), it allows for more resources to connect within a channel with more high-density throughput. 
  • Higher throughput of the access points allowing for up to 5 Gpbs. 
  • More antennae provide for more reliable connections especially for latency sensitive applications, devices, or environments. 

User Experience 

  • More throughput on a more reliable connection will make for a robust, satisfying user experience. 
  • 802.11ax provides for better battery life for the clients based through the more efficient usage of WiFi. 
  • Applications requiring more bandwidth, like video, will have better performance and user experience, especially with 4K and 8K video making inroads into most environments. 
  • With the proliferation of devices and IoT, the devices on our networks will continue to increase in number, traffic, and consumption needs.  Below are some estimates: 

What do you need to do to prepare? 

You will need more power over Ethernet (PoE) to the access point and switching that can handle up to 10GB to take advantage of the full spectrum of services that is provided by the 802.11ax access points.   

  • One of the specifications of 802.11ax is to allow for 8×8 MU-MIMO radio capabilities. As we found with 802.11ac Wave 2, more radios dictate more power needed to the access point. We can assume at a minimum that these new 802.11ax access points will need PoE+ ( max. 30W) power to function. Depending on their needs, some organizations may even consider future proofing to 802.3bt max 60W.  Now is a good time to take stock in your current PoE capabilities to determine if you are ready today or perhaps need some refreshing at your edge or insertion of inline power solutions. 
  • Power needs of a current PoE+ switch equate to 30W of power, but estimates show that for a fully functional 802.11ax access point it will require close to 60W.  This can be handled through multiple wire pulls to obtain the 60W of PoE+ power with two ports consumed, power injection, or new switching that can obtain the power output for PoE+. 
  • Cat5e and Cat 6 cabling is still good for connectivity to the access point; outside the multiple runs for 60W power needs discussed above. 
  • Backend multi-gigabit switching will be necessary to obtain the full throughput levels.  Most of the switch providers either have 10GB switching or Smartrate (port) switching that allows for 2.5GB or 5GB on specific ports.  802.11bt is the standard on the switches that allows for greater PoE power to the 802.11ax access points. 
  • Wireless experts everywhere know that the client device truly drives the performance (real or perceived) of the wireless network.  So we are waiting for the devices to catch up with the access point technology.  Chip sets and wireless connectivity are catching up, but it will take time before and after ratification.  What you need to do is ensure that the equipment that you are procuring now as replacement devices for your clients are able to be future proofed to the 802.11ax standard.  So over time you can prepare your client devices for the wireless network services that you are providing.   
  • One of the huge benefits of 802.11ax is its backwards compatibility with the previous standards. If your organization can’t wait to refresh devices, there is solace in the fact that an 802.11ac Wave 2 client implemented today will still perform well on your 802.11ax access point in the future.  You can take advantage of the features today with your current network; however some features will require the above infrastructural modifications. 

A summary of the benefits is provided below: 

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