Special Feature: The thriving Wi-Fi 6E ecosystem
November 15th, 2022 by The Beacon
As analyst Dean Bubley wrote in a recent blog post for the Wi-Fi Alliance: “Wi-Fi® is hugely popular, forming the backbone of most connectivity in homes, offices, schools, and many commercial spaces, especially indoors. Many devices such as TVs and displays, laptops, home Internet of Things (IoT) products, payment terminals, retail tills, and industrial automation systems are connected via Wi-Fi only. Home-based work and education also rely on Wi-Fi.”
Now enterprises are taking advantage of the advanced capabilities of Wi-Fi 6E to support demanding applications. In industrial environments, for example, Wi-Fi 6E is beginning to deliver a range of applications, such as machine analytics, remote maintenance, and virtual employee training. Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 are based on OFDMA technology and are thereby able to achieve very high quality of service (QoS) levels, particularly in managed networks.
In markets where there is sufficient spectrum available, Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E can connect many devices simultaneously and support fast data throughput, while delivering the low levels of latency required by demanding applications, such as augmented and virtual reality. Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E also allow devices, such as manufacturing robots, and drones, to remain connected even as they move or “roam” throughout a home or industrial networks. At the same time, Wi-Fi is easy-to-deploy and cost-effective – it requires no separate gateways or specialized skills.
It is not surprising then that enterprise demand for Wi-Fi continues to rise rapidly. The value of the global wireless local area network (WLAN) enterprise market increased by more than 20% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2022 to US$2.1 billion, according to research firm IDC. That follows on from 17.1% growth in the first quarter of 2022. IDC said that growth in the enterprise WLAN market continues to be driven by Wi-Fi 6.
Expanding the Internet of Things
Analysts note that Wi-Fi is playing a growing role in the IoT, which enables organizations to remotely monitor and control devices, equipment, appliances and vehicles. “Wi-Fi can deliver a wide range of data rates and ranges at varying price points because there are an abundance of Wi-Fi chips supporting different levels of complexity and several unlicensed spectrum bands from sub-1 GHz to 6 GHz,” says Phil Solis, research director, IDC. “It is this diversity in chips designs that allow Wi-Fi to meet the broadest array of IoT product and network requirements.”
Adlane Fellah, senior analyst at Maravedis Research, has highlighted how enhancements to latency, determinism, and power efficiency mean Wi-Fi 6 can support many of the requirements for industrial use cases. “In a smart factory, Wi-Fi might deliver the optimal cost/performance for high bandwidth cameras that power augmented reality services and Wi-Fi HaLow™ might be optimal for machinery monitoring, which needs very low power and low bandwidth,” he added.
Crucially, given rising energy prices and the need to curb climate change, Wi-Fi 6 is also more power efficient than its predecessors. As explained in the Green Wi-Fi report by Wik Consult, Wi-Fi 6 enables more data to be transmitted while energy usage stays constant. Furthermore, using Wi-Fi 6E’s “deep sleep mode” can reduce power consumption considerably.
Where there is sufficient license-exempt spectrum available, “unlicensed 6 GHz technologies, running at low power levels, offer the opportunity for cellular networks to offload, not just capacity, but also energy consumption and CO2 footprint,” notes Dean Bubley. “Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 would connect to a building’s fiber broadband and reduce system-wide energy needs for both the network and user devices.”