What to expect from Wi-Fi 6 in 2019


Wi-Fi 6 – aka 802.11ax – will begin to make its way into new installations in 2019, bringing with it a host of technological upgrades aimed at simplifying wireless-network problems.

The first and most notable feature of the standard is that it’s designed to operate in today’s increasingly congested radio environments. It supports multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output (MU-MIMO) technology, meaning that a given access point can handle traffic from up to eight users at the same time and at the same speed. Previous-generation APs still divide their attention and bandwidth among simultaneous users.

Better still is orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA), a technology borrowed from the licensed, carrier-driven half of the wireless world. What this does is subdivide each of the available independent channels available on a given AP by a further factor of four, meaning even less slowdown for APs servicing up to a couple dozen clients at the same time.

Put simply, beyond being faster than earlier versions of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi 6 is going to be better able to handle the fast-growing client density present in modern IT. Whether it’s increasingly connected office spaces, with smart TVs and multiple clients per employee, or the IoT, with connected devices of every description, Wi-Fi 6 is well-suited to meeting those demands.

The current state of play

Wi-Fi 6 access points are already on the market. Aerohive got there first, but the other major vendors were close behind. Aerohive’s initial entries are the AP630 and the tri-band AP650 and AP650X – the latter boasts extra antennae for greater effective range. Those retail for about $1,200 and $1,400, respectively. However, D-Link, Asus, and TP-Link have also brought Wi-Fi 6 APs to market already, and the major enterprise vendors like Cisco and Aruba are almost certainly targeting 2019 to start selling their devices.

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