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What is the impact of Wi-Fi 6?

What do we need to know about Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, the successor to the current Wi-Fi standard? Does it look promising, what impact will it have, and what do we need to remember? In this FAQ blog post, our Aruba experts will answer four questions on the topic.

1 What are the key features of Wi-Fi 6?

  • High performance Dual Radio 802.11ax AP with OFDMA and Multi-User MIMO
  • Supports all mandatory and several optional 802.11ax features
  • Maximum data speed of 4.8 Gbps in the 5 GHz band and 575 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band
  • Ideal for high-density environments such as schools, retail, hotels and enterprise offices
  • Includes Bluetooth 5, Zigbee radios of location and IoT

2 How do I make the best of the limited airtime?

You can only use the airtime you have, so you need the make the best of it. That’s why IEEE has adopted a technology called Orthogonal Frequency Divisional Multiple Access (OFDMA). This technology is already active on technologies such as cellular LTE and WiMAX. OFDMA divides channels into subcarriers through a mathematical function.

The difference is that Wi-Fi 6 lets the capacity shrink; for example, for the 20 MHz channel, the capacity shrinks from 312.5 kHz to 78.125 kHz, and the number of subcarriers increases to 256 – whereas on Wi-Fi 5, we only had 64.

Put into numbers, this translates to 26 subcarriers -> 9 clients on 20 MHz – but if we maximise it to a 160 MHz/80+80 MHz channel, we can theoretically go up to 74 clients.

3 Will my battery client’s performance increase

More and more mobile devices are joining the network. All these battery-powered devices lose power listening to the beacons, even when they’re not transmitting any data.

This is where 802.11ax comes to the rescue with a new mechanism called Target Wake Time (TWT), which comes in two different forms:

Individual TWT

Individual TWT gives the client the ability to negotiate with the access point (AP) when they want to wake and check in to the AP for any buffed Packets. This can range from minutes to hours or days, which gives your device the freedom to adhere to its own sleep schedule.

Broadcast TWT

The Broadcast TWT is less focused on the client. There’s no negotiation; the AP controls the schedule.

4 Is the 2.4 GHz spectrum coming back?

The issue with 2.4 GHz is the fact that you can only use a few channels. Luckily, there’s a new feature that will help in the 2.4 GHz network: channel colouring or BSS colouring. This feature will allow two nearby radios to communicate through the same channel without causing interference. This is a great advantage for radio-dense environments, as you can see in the picture below.

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