In the current setup, it is almost impossible to imagine our lives without Wi-Fi connectivity. I still remember a summer when I had a whale of a time with a 2Mbps connection, but our craving for data has increased exponentially.
It’s not just the required throughput to cater to 4k streaming and to download big files. Our Wi-Fi faces different sorts of challenges today, most of which are related to dealing with a vast number of client devices. In 2019, an average home has about 10 connected devices, and by 2022 this number is expected to increase to 50.
These needs are addressed in the new WiFi standards – Wi-Fi 6 and WiGig -that we will be hearing a lot this year. So, if connectivity ranks high on your priority list, here are a few things you need to know about WiFi 6 and WiGig before you buy a new Router or a new phone.
What is Wi-Fi 6? Is it the same as Wi-Fi 802.11ax?
The 802.11ax is the updated version of the existing 802.11ac standard. This new standard of Wi-Fi communication will span over the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums and at the same carries support to include any additional band between 1 GHz and 7 GHz.
Instead of focusing on peak data transfer rates, the standard focuses on improving average and worst-case performance to make a real difference with real-world usage, taking into account the increasing client devices and congestion.
Wi-Fi Alliance, that deals with the certification of all the new WiFi protocols, decided to make things simpler by giving an alias to this new standard as WiFi 6. So, yes, the two are the same.
In a nutshell, the Wi-Fi 6 is the next generation High-Efficiency Wireless communication standard that offers faster network speeds with better throughput and aims at tackling the issue of congestion arising due to the exploitation of the existing spectrum due to increase in the number of connected devices.
Wi-Fi 6 handles this issue by increasing the network capacity by including more frequency spectrums into the network.
WiFi 6 uses Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) to make efficient use of the bandwidth allocated for each transmission. This is the same technique that has been used in systems like Cellular LTE (4G) transmission. In OFDMA, all the devices connected to a network use a single channel at different frequency bands for transmission, unlike the previous standards in which each device had its own channel for communication. This implementation ensures that there is no bandwidth wasted with each transmission and improves efficiency by 4 times.
WiFi 6 or WiFi 802.11ax has improved MU-MIMO (Multi-user multiple inputs multiple output) technology support as compared to the last generation WiFi 802.11ac. While Wi-Fi 802.11 ac supported up to 4 devices for downlink, Wi-Fi 6 will allow 8 clients connected simultaneously for downlink and uplink.
This Wi-Fi ac also integrates a number of features to improve outdoor performance, or for extending the range. One of the most important of these is the new packet format, where the most sensitive field is repeated for reliable communication.
The other vital aspect which this standard aims at is reducing battery drain. Unlike the previous versions in which devices used to stay awake while waiting for transmission, WiFi 6 allows the transmission to be scheduled which lets the devices to sleep for longer periods thereby significantly improving the battery life.
All in all this new generation of WiFi not only aims at improving the speed and latency but also at offering a more robust connection for deployment in congested areas.
Advantages of Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 801.ac
- Faster speed.
- The new packet format and other changes will help extend the Wi-Fi range and improve outdoor performance.
- The Wi-Fi 6 is also optimized to reduce battery drain by scheduling wakeup of clients attached to an access point.
- The standard integrates the latest state of the art radio technologies that are also proposed for 5G. Using these technologies, Wi-Fi 6 can make better use of available communication bandwidth, which results in more efficient communication.
What is Wi-Fi 802.11ay or WiGig?
Coming to the second new standard which is going to see its launch in 2019 is the IEEE 802.11ay which will be a new addition to the already existing 60GHz WiGig protocol. This new standard is the successor to the IEEE 802.11ad which paved the way for the commencement of 60GHz network channel for Wi-Fi communication.
This spectrum of communication at 60GHz uses the mmWave for transmission. We already know that mmWave is known for its unparalleled coverage performance but falls flat when it comes to penetrating through structures (which is why it is used for short distance Wi-Fi applications like wireless VR headsets, fiber to home cables, etc.).
To get a broader picture of the bandwidth used for WiGig communication, we can say that WiGig is divided into four channels of spectrum with each channel having more bandwidth capacity than all the regular Wi-Fi channels combined which operate at 5GHz and 2.4GHz frequencies. The channel bonding feature of 802.11ay combines four channels of 802.11ad to provide 8.64GHz of composite bandwidth.
This technology is touted to act as a virtual fiber in the coming days by replacing the existing wired optical fiber network. This can significantly reduce the costs incurred during the installation of underground Fiber-To-Home cables. It might also be used to support the mobile communications which are expected to undergo a major overhaul with the 5G network. Since 5G communications also works majorly in the high-frequency spectrum, the WiGig network of base stations can compensate for any hindrance in the mobile connections.
WiFi 6 vs WiGig: What’s the difference?
Now that we are through with both the new standards of WiFi networks, let us take a look at what distinguishes them from one another. Both these technologies are in line with our desires to hit multi-gigabit speeds wirelessly. We can finally get to experience 4K streaming of content without any glitches and download heavy files within seconds.
The primary difference between these networks is that the higher frequency waves (WiGig) travel longer distances but attenuate quickly upon obstruction from obstacles while the low-frequency waves cover relatively shorter distances but can penetrate through walls and obstructions. Keeping in view the pros and cons of each of these technologies, we can expect 802.11ay to be used as the network backbone to replace the fiber network placed outside the houses or for peer to peer communication. The 802.11ax or Wi-Fi 6, on the other hand, can be used for Wi-Fi transmission within homes where the signal needs to be delivered to multiple devices by penetrating through walls for the reception.
iEEE has been working on Wi-Fi 6 for a while and equipment supporting these new Wi-Fi standards is already available commercially. The Wi-Fi Alliance certification will arrive by mid-2019, but the information regarding what will be coming in wave 1 and wave 2 of Wi-Fi 6 standard is already out there.
Snapdragon’s recently announced 855 chipset supports both these WiFi standards.