Wi-Fi standards on the move again!

The future of wireless – faster and more secure connectivity!

In the past few years wireless has replaced wired as the primary mode of access. Whether it’s enterprises deploying all-wireless offices, retail stores depending on scanners for mission-critical inventory tracking, hospitals deploying Voice-over-Wi-Fi calling or schools administering exams over Wi-Fi, wireless has never been more mission-critical. With this, the need for increased security and optimized high-density scenarios has become more important. This blog post aims to educate and provide guidance to customers about the future of two emerging Wi-Fi standards: WPA3 and 802.11ax.

WPA3: At the beginning of 2018, the Wi-Fi Alliance® announced new security enhancements for Wi-Fi Protected Access. The follow-on to WPA2, WPA3 promises multiple enhancements:

  1. Device Provisioning Protocol (DPP) – An exciting development for provisioning Internet of Things (IOT) devices.
  2. Opportunistic Wireless Encryption (OWE) – Encryption for open wireless networks that prevents eavesdropping attacks
  3. Suite-B – WPA3 adopts stronger cryptographic algorithms defined by the US Government. While mainly government and banking deployments are most interested in this feature, once available, all wireless deployments will benefit from these capabilities.
  4. Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) – For customers that use insecure passwords, SAE adds another tenet of security that mitigates dictionary attacks by introducing a secure handshake.

Meraki customers are Future-Proof

WPA3 will continue to evolve over the next few months as device vendors determine which of the above capabilities to adopt. All of our 802.11ac Wave 2 Access Point customers will receive the latest WPA3 functionality via a seamless cloud update.

So what about 802.11ax?

Widely touted as the successor to 802.11ac, the emerging 802.11ax standard provides benefits in capacity for high-density scenarios via multiple improvements in the MAC and PHY layers:

  1. Enhanced Network Efficiency enables multi-user operation efficiency over-the- air:
    1. Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA): 802.11ac uses OFDM for encoding digital data within multiple subcarriers, each of which can be separately modulated. By multiplexing users using the wireless sub-carriers, OFDMA increases the efficiency of communication thereby offering 4x higher median throughput over Wave-2 802.11ac in high density deployments.
    2. Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output(MU-MIMO): 802.11n and 802.11ac introduced the benefits of MIMO with the multiple antennas for Multiple Inputs and Outputs. 802.11ax built on top of this via Multi-User MIMO whereby A single multi-spatial stream Access Point can simultaneously transmit to multiple clients with fewer spatial streams.
  2. Enhanced Link Efficiency – Primarily through the use of 1024 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation QAM (raised from 256 QAM available in 802.11ac). QAM means packing a lot more information during transmissions and therefore the improving the data throughput by phase and amplitude modulation of data to increase the amount of information transmitted simultaneously.
  3. Improved robustness in outdoor usage through the various MAC and PHY updates
  4. Improved spectrum reuse through spatial reuse

What does this mean to me as a Meraki customer?

The actual standard is expected to be ratified by IEEE in late 2019, meaning that the Wi-Fi alliance may support interoperability testing for the same within the same timeframe. Wireless client devices with 802.11ax standards are expected to be introduced in the market in late CY19 with mainstream adoption expected in Calendar Year 2020, and we will be working with device manufacturers to ensure compatibility. The current 802.11ac Wave 2 technology is capable of future-proofing customers planning to deploy wireless in high-performance or high-reliability environments, providing enough performance to satisfy mission-critical applications.

As always, we love hearing from you. Please reach out to us on our Meraki Community or via social media, and check out our latest wireless webinars to get a free AP!