The Benefits of Wi-Fi 6 – and What You’ll Need to Support It
The Wi-Fi Alliance announced the newest version of Wi-Fi certification – Wi-Fi 6 – in early October. This certification is voluntary amongst equipment manufacturers, and is intended to ensure compatibility with other equipment manufacturers to support the capacity, coverage and performance requirements that are now vital in high-traffic applications.
Based on the IEEE 802.11ax wireless standard, Wi-Fi 6 is ideal for crowded areas, such as airports, stadiums, high-rise hotels and multi-family housing, entertainment venues and other dense connection environments. It allows many users and devices to stay connected simultaneously and do things like stream ultra-high-definition movies and use bandwidth-intensive, mission-critical business applications.
Along with the announcement of Wi-Fi 6, the Wi-Fi Alliance also introduced a new naming convention to help end-users easily select equipment (like routers, switches and wireless access points) to support the latest wireless standards.
- Wi-Fi 6: identifies devices that support 802.11ax technology
- Wi-Fi 5: identifies devices that support 802.11ac technology
- Wi-Fi 4: identifies devices that support 802.11n technology
- Wi-Fi 3: identifies devices that support 802.11g technology
- Wi-Fi 2: identifies devices that support 802.11a technology
- Wi-Fi 1: identifies devices that support 802.11b technology
For example, IEEE 802.11ax will also be referred to as Wi-Fi 6 in device names and product descriptions.
The Differences Offered by Wi-Fi 6
Wi-Fi 6 not only improves upon current Wi-Fi features, but also introduces brand new features that offer even more benefits. Compared to its predecessors, some of the major benefits of Wi-Fi 6 include:
- Lower battery consumption in Wi-Fi 6 devices supported by Wi-Fi 6 networks
- Higher data rates with peak Gigabit speeds
- Increased capacity with reduced latency to support higher numbers of users and devices, thanks to improved medium access control (MAC) control signaling
- High performance levels in the most dense environments
- More robust outdoor network operations
- Increased efficiency and lower latency with an orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) uplink and downlink digital modulation scheme
Where Does Cabling Fit In?
Although the new Wi-Fi 6 doesn’t address the cabling necessary to support a Wi-Fi 6 network, there are some important points to consider.
Trouble-free performance of a Wi-Fi 6 network can only be guaranteed by using the correct cabling infrastructure to support it. In the case of Wi-Fi 6, Category 6A cabling is the answer – for many reasons.
First, Category 6A supports data rates up to and including 10GBASE-T, so it can handle data-intensive applications. The data rates of wireless access points are increasing quickly, calling for higher data rates. (TSB-162-A recommends running two Category 6A cabling to wireless access points to ensure the cabling infrastructure can deliver the bandwidth needed for current and future applications.)
Second, high-performance Category 6A cables are more capable of dissipating heat and have improved thermal performance to handle higher cable temperatures, an important consideration because many (if not all) endpoint devices are using Power over Ethernet (PoE) to supply power and data via the same data cable.
To elaborate, because Wi-Fi 6 will be used to deploy IoT devices, PoE technology will often be preferred. It requires only one Ethernet cable to carry data and power. Since the recent announcement of 100W PoE, power wattage in these devices is only increasing. And Belden’s 10GXS Cable system is the only cable that can reach 100 m under full PoE load to support the wireless access points in these types of applications.
In Wi-Fi 6 applications, we’ll also be seeing the new MPTL (modular plug terminated link) topology used more often. This allows you to connect a cable from a patch panel directly to a wireless access point without additional connections in between, saving time and money.
If MPTL is the route you choose, Belden’s new REVConnect FlexPlug makes the process even easier. Because it works with any IoT device that uses an RJ45 plug, it eliminates compatibility questions when connecting devices. FlexPlugs can be deployed with the award-winning REVConnect termination method in applications where the size of a typical field-terminated plug inhibits a direct connection to IoT devices due to plug size and cable routing constraints.