Home Expert View What does Wi-Fi 6 mean for your LAN?
What does Wi-Fi 6 mean for your LAN?
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What does Wi-Fi 6 mean for your LAN?

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Arafat Yousef, Managing Director – Middle East & Africa, Nexans Cabling Solutions, explains how this new standard can affect network architecture and how FTTO can help.

Arafat Yousef, Managing Director – Middle East & Africa, Nexans Cabling Solutions

More than bandwidth alone
The vast uptake of mobile devices on enterprise networks, driven by employer policies and employees’ desire for flexibility, brings some challenges in the areas of security and bandwidth. The larger the number of devices connected; the more bandwidth is diluted – to the point of becoming unusable. Additional bandwidth is definitely necessary. According to recent research by Global Market Insights, Inc., the BYOD Market is set to exceed $300 bn by 2022. 87% of US companies rely on employees to access business apps with personal devices, states Syntonic, and Microsoft claims 67% of people use their own devices at work. The number of devices connected to enterprise networks will keep increasing as Internet of Things (IoT) takes hold – and a significant number of these will be wireless. The International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates there will be over of 42 billion connected devices by 2025, generating 79.4 zettabytes of data.

Wi-Fi 6 can provide a solution. Wi-Fi 6 has a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 9.6 Gb/s – significantly higher than the 3.5 Gb/s offered by Wi-Fi 5. However, the key benefit is the fact that this more data can be shared across a device network, which means each individual device has greater bandwidth. Wi-Fi 6 allows devices to send more data in a single transmission, increasing data throughput by up to 20%. Furthermore, higher-order modulation (1024-QAM) provides a further significant boost for network efficiency and data transmission. Wi-Fi 6 works with MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input, multiple output) technology, which enables broadcasting to multiple devices in parallel. At present, MU-MIMO supports up to four devices, which will be doubled by Wi-Fi 6.

Avoiding bottlenecks
When making the move to Wi-Fi 6 – the next generation of the 802.11 WLAN standard – there are a few things that you’ll need to consider. The vast majority of Wi-Fi 5 Access Points are equipped with 1Gbps interfaces. To enable multi-gigabit wireless bandwidth, Wi-Fi 6 access points will have 2.5Gbps or 5Gbps LAN connections. Although it should be possible to realise multi-Gbps bandwidth across multiple devices in a Wi-Fi 6, bottlenecks may occur on LANs or internet connections. As bandwidth goes up, reach decreases. To future-proof the network, it makes sense to check current cable length limits and also add more Wireless Access Points.

It’s important to verify that routers used on switch ports, and switches placed between Access Points and routers, support higher bandwidth. Initially, 2.5Gbps or 5Gbps should suffice, but to future-proof your network and be ready for more demanding applications, 10 Gbps is a smart choice. Cat6a, Cat7, and Cat7a support 10 Gbps. To achieve the highest bandwidth routers and Access Points need to be connected end-to-end with Cat6 or higher. However, it’s also vital to carefully consider the typical applications that will be used at each outlet point. In many cases, these won’t require the highest achievable bandwidth and legacy Cat5 cabling will suffice, at least for some time. Wi-Fi 6 radio transmitters natively run with more spatial streams, which requires additional power. Many Wi-Fi 6 Access Points will be dual-band 4×4:4 types, or even 8×8:8, requiring more power to feed greater processor capacity. If Wi-Fi 6 Access Points are to be powered using Power over Ethernet, it’s important to consider that they will probably require PoE+ (802.3at) or higher.

How can FTTO support Wi-Fi 6?
An FTTO network allows you to bring Gigabit access close to the user with fibre and run copper where fibre isn’t required. This is ideal for the increasingly popular converged networks, in which LAN and Ethernet/IP can be combined with Wireless LAN and new generations of 60/90 W PoE or PoDL (Power over Data Line) providing up to 79 Watts of power. Network rollout is simpler, more flexible and up to 60% faster. No floor distribution units are needed, and less cabling. Using fibre means there are no problems with electromagnetic interference and ample bandwidth at every wired or wireless connection point. In combination with Wi-Fi, you can build in plenty of redundancy up to each end-user whilst decreasing TCO significantly.

Wi-Fi 6 doesn’t only push Wi-Fi bandwidth right up to 10 Gbps but also brings various performance improvements. However, to make the most of these benefits, the entire network needs to support power, data and latency requirements – preferably without over-specifying and overspending.

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