Today, the need for higher density, higher throughput and higher capacity are critical to wireless networks. These are the things that everyone wants from their wireless network–especially schools. These are the promises of Wi-Fi 6.
Wi-Fi 6 (known in more technical terms as 802.11ax) is the latest emerging wireless standard, offering several new improvements to make it the highest performing set of wireless protocols to date. Not only will Wi-Fi 6 boost overall performance on paper, but it is specifically designed to perform efficiently in real-world scenarios that Wi-Fi currently struggles in, such as when 25 students all hop on the classroom Wi-Fi at the same time. This allows end users to experience always-on connectivity without bottlenecks or performance degradation.
While every industry can benefit from the promises of Wi-Fi 6, one in particular is ready to benefit from this change: education. While most of us remember those school days spent searching through binders of papers, sharpening pencils in the middle of a test, and carrying heavy books from class to class, classrooms of today are transforming into central hubs of technology innovation and experimentation around the world. This shift has led to the need for secure and persistent Wi-Fi.
So what challenges will Wi-Fi 6 help the schools of tomorrow solve?
With an expected 50% increase in networked devices per person by 2020, equivalent to about 3.6 connected devices per person, schools are in for more of a bandwidth challenge than most. Additionally, more schools are deploying Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to increase school safety, improve operations and save costs. Together, this changes the requirements for many school networks. Traditionally, schools would add more access points to high density areas to try and combat reliability issues, but this has been found to cause congestion with overlapping signals. Plus, just having connections in classrooms is no longer enough; high density access points will be required everywhere on school grounds in order to accommodate students roaming with several mobile devices and wireless IoT devices.
Who are the first people to generally test out new technologies? Students. As a result, school networks are the first to handle hundreds of new devices at the same time. Not only are Wi-Fi 6-supported mobile devices already hitting the network, but the traffic per smartphone is expected to grow 10x by 2022. And if that isn’t enough, bandwidth-intensive video is expected to grow from 3% of all IP traffic in 2017 to 22% in 2022, already challenging networks with high throughput demands. To top it all off, 8K streaming is just on the horizon (and we know students will pick the highest streaming video quality they can!).
In the classroom, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), collaboration applications and other bandwidth-intensive technologies are already starting to provide a more immersive learning experience. With teachers already using video and other wireless technologies for instruction, having higher throughput will ensure learning goes on uninterrupted and teachers have more freedom to bring new capabilities into the classroom.
All this change will come faster than you think. For Jaymon Lefebvre, Director of IT Services at Wild Rose School Division (WRSD), the rapid increase in student and IoT devices poses unique networking obstacles for the district to overcome. As a rural school district in Alberta, Canada, WRSD has many students who don’t have Wi-Fi access at home. Therefore, WRSD is not only accommodating devices for learning, but also students’ personal devices, which they use to download content and homework while at school so they can continue using their devices at home.
Additionally, learning no longer just takes place in the classroom. At any given time, students are learning wherever they go, using high-bandwidth applications in the hallways and outside. Teachers are starting to use tiny, single-board computers more regularly, like Raspberry Pis and VR headsets for instruction. With up to 30 students per classroom, each with several devices, Lefebvre’s team wants to make sure there are no limitations to new and creative learning techniques.
The IT team has started deploying Wi-Fi 6 compatible APs to continue supporting the current technologies used by students and staff, while still getting classrooms ready to support new technologies. The Wi-Fi 6 APs not only provide higher density and throughput to support students and staff, but also enable the team to support over 15,000 wireless devices and focus on providing better experiences for the school division.
In the face of a new digital era, reliable connections allow students at WRSD to have the same learning experience as kids anywhere in the world, opening up new opportunities that were not possible before. To learn more about WRSD and how they are using Wi-Fi 6, watch the on demand webinar.
Last week, we outlined some of the technical advances included with the newest wireless standard, Wi-Fi 6 (also known as 802.11ax), including OFDMA, BSS Coloring, and MU-MIMO. Wi-Fi 6 truly incorporates some impressive technology that makes it a game-changer for the entire tech industry.
For those who are less technically inclined than the engineers who have made Wi-Fi 6 a reality, this alphabet soup of acronyms belies some of the benefits of the new standard. The truth is that the move to Wi-Fi 6 will be far more meaningful than any previous Wi-Fi standard, because it comes at a pivotal time for the industry. We’re on the verge of some incredible technological innovation over the next decade, from autonomous vehicles to VR hitting the mainstream, and the advancements that come with Wi-Fi 6 will help make these things possible.
Here are the main benefits that will come with the new generation of Wi-Fi.
1. Better high density performance
Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last decade, you’ve undoubtedly observed — and probably been a part of — the growth of smartphone usage in every public space imaginable. Nowadays, it’s impossible to go to a stadium, concert, university campus, park, or music festival without seeing crowds of people all trying to use their phones.
Local governments, college campuses, and event venues have all been involved in wiring these spaces for wireless coverage, to the point where “Free Public Wi-Fi” signs abound. The crush of hundreds or thousands of users puts a huge strain on these Wi-Fi networks, which often aren’t equipped to handle so many users, overlapping wireless signals, and data-hungry applications. This can result in a subpar wireless experience.
Fortunately, one of the key benefits of the new Wi-Fi 6 standard is dramatically better high density performance. Wi-Fi 6 access points use a variety of technologies to prevent interference between devices and transmit packets more efficiently. The result: more resilient networks that continue to deliver fast speeds even as more devices connect to the network.
2. Faster speeds
Wi-Fi 6 will not only help deliver more consistent performance across a large number of devices, but also faster speeds to every device. Higher throughputs will unlock a new set of software and services, like augmented reality and complex SaaS apps, in the same way that previous Wi-Fi standards made things like wireless music streaming and cloud productivity apps possible.
The time is nigh for these throughput improvements. The total amount of internet traffic from 2017-2022 will be higher than in the previous 32 years of the internet, and from 2017 to 2022, bandwidth-intensive 4K video is expected to grow from 3% to 22% percent of all IP traffic. Video isn’t even half of it, though. According to estimates by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the average household with two teenagers will own around 50 Internet-connected devices by 2022, including many IoT (Internet of Things) devices, from sensors to smart home devices.
Another reason the faster throughputs in the Wi-Fi 6 standard matter is because Wi-Fi 6 is hitting the market around the same time as 5G. Customers will expect Wi-Fi networks to deliver speeds at least as fast, if not faster, than the cellular network, and 5G networks will be offloading significant amounts of traffic to Wi-Fi. Cisco plans to take advantage of the next wave of wireless by introducing a new technology called OpenRoaming, which makes it easier for people to transition between different networks without the pain of logging onto each one individually. OpenRoaming aims to link together service providers, device manufacturers, and network operators to create greater interoperability between networks. With OpenRoaming in place, consumers will be able to seamlessly roam between 5G and Wi-Fi 6 networks without having to deal with the many annoying interruptions in service they encounter today.
3. Energy efficiency
Though the devices we carry around everyday have experienced startling improvements in myriad ways — faster processors, larger screens, incredible cameras — battery technology hasn’t advanced much in the last few years. Consumers still hanker for the days when their phones could last for a week without a charge, instead of petering out in the middle of the day. (Most consumers also wish their phones didn’t shatter when dropped, though that’s beyond the scope of this blog post!)
Fortunately, Wi-Fi 6 enables greater energy efficiency by reducing the battery burden on devices connected to the wireless network. A feature called Target Wake Time (TWT) lets APs dictate a schedule for sending data packets to connected clients. When devices aren’t scheduled to check for data, they enter a lower power mode. TWT can help devices achieve up to 67% lower power consumption, which could make tomorrow’s phones, IoT devices, and applications last longer.
It won’t be long before Wi-Fi 6 APs and devices are everywhere — Wi-Fi 6 devices are expected to be more than half of the devices sold in 2020. At Cisco Meraki, we couldn’t be more excited about the wave of new benefits that come with this new wireless standard. As Wi-Fi 6 becomes the new normal, consumers will have a significantly better experience connecting to wireless networks.
Learn more about the just-introduced Meraki Wi-Fi 6 compatible APs by watching our launch webinar.
The 802.11 wireless standard has come a long way since the Meraki founders started a 2003 project to offer 802.11b/g mesh networking technology at their MIT university campus. In those days, 4G LTE, social media applications, iPhones, iPads, streaming music, YouTube, and AWS did not exist. Today, technologies like self-driving cars, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and 5G cellular networks are all on the verge of going mainstream.
The new 802.11ax amendment, also known as Wi-Fi 6, will help usher in new wireless technologies by providing higher throughput, higher density, and overall higher efficiency. While the 802.11ac standard gave us immense throughput improvements, Wi-Fi 6 hopes to improve the average throughput per user by a factor of four in dense environments. Wi-Fi 6 will achieve these improvements using technologies such as OFDMA (Downlink and Uplink), MU-MIMO (Downlink and Uplink), 1024 QAM and BSS Color.
The new MR45 and MR55 access points that we just announced are Wi-Fi 6 compatible. Sure, they are screaming fast on paper, but with the efficient technologies incorporated in the Wi-Fi 6 amendment, they also improve the performance of real-world wireless networks. Take a look at a few of the highlights below:
8×8 with MU-MIMO and OFDMA and 1G/2.5G/5G Ethernet
5.9 Gbps maximum data rate
2.4 GHz and 5 GHz operation
Support for MCS Rates 10 & 11
Sleek “vessel” design
PoE+ requires 802.3at compliance
4×4 with MU-MIMO and OFDMA and 1G/2.5G Ethernet
3.5 Gbps maximum data rate
2.4 GHz and 5 GHz operation
Support for MCS Rates 10 & 11
Sleek “vessel” design
PoE+ requires 802.3at compliance
Meraki continues to set the standard of access point performance and management simplicity with Meraki dashboard and Wireless Health. However, the exceptional efficiency-improving benefits come in when adding on new Wi-Fi 6 technologies.
OFDMA is technology adopted from cellular standards, and perhaps the most important feature of Wi-Fi 6. With OFDMA, an MR45 or MR55 can package up different types of traffic from wireless clients with varying bandwidth requirements and send them all at the same time, rather than sending these packets separately. Imagine a game of Tetris, with different shapes representing VoIP traffic, Twitter traffic, and IoT traffic, all neatly packaged into a single transmission. Sounds efficient!
BSS Coloring is one of the improvements that helps Wi-Fi 6 enabled products operate efficiently in dense environments. It helps reduce medium contention by adding a simple color bit to help differentiate between overlapping radios. The analogy here is that an AP can put on a pair of filtered glasses that allows it to ignore frames being sent that are associated with a different color, or radio.
MU-MIMO was introduced with 802.11ac (or Wi-Fi 5), allowing multiple clients to be addressed simultaneously. When combined with OFDMA, MU-MIMO APs become more powerful by gaining the ability to serve multiple users and multiple bandwidth needs of those clients.
Re-introduction of 2.4 GHz provides additional spectrum that can be used for outdoor use cases or IoT applications. Wi-Fi 5 did not utilize the 2.4 GHz spectrum, but with OFDMA and MU-MIMO, Wi-Fi 6 hopes to unlock the full potential of the crowded 2.4 GHz spectrum by enabling more efficient performance.
1024 QAM is a new modulation scheme that increases data rates by 25% compared to the 256 QAM technology of Wi-Fi 5. This new modulation scheme works for the 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrum.
Target Wake Time has been shown to improve battery life for Wi-Fi 6 devices by as much as 67% in industry tests. The MR45 and MR55 use TWT to negotiate wakeup times for energy-conscious Wi-Fi 6 mobile and IoT devices so they can sleep soundly, while conserving energy.
The new Wi-Fi 6 compatible MR45 and MR55 will be able to efficiently send lots of packets! By combining the Meraki Wi-Fi 6 access points with our new access and aggregation switches, network admins can rest easy knowing they’ve reduced any chance of bottlenecks in the network.