By: Madani Adjali, Vice President of Product Management at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company
In April of last year, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) became the first governing body in the world to open the 6 GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi, known today as Wi-Fi 6E, where “E” means “extended.” Since then, nearly 40 additional countries home to more than 1.3 billion people have subsequently opened the 6 GHz unlicensed band for Wi-Fi 6E, with 70 countries in total having either approved or nearing approval as part of regulatory review processes.
Not to be confused with Wi-Fi 6, which relies exclusively on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, the 6 GHz band represents the largest opening of capacity in the history of Wi-Fi, and the first such occurrence in nearly two decades, all while more than doubling the amount of radio frequency (RF) unlicensed spectrum available for Wi-Fi use. This will provide the next generation of devices connectivity through less congested airwaves, broader channels, and faster connections that will enable a range of innovations across industry.
According to leading market intelligence research firm 650 Group, Wi-Fi 6E will see rapid adoption in the next couple of years, with more than 350M devices entering the market in 2022 that support 6 GHz. 650 Group also expects more than 200% unit growth of Wi-Fi 6E enterprise access points (APs) in 2022.
Device makers are already introducing numerous client devices from phones to TVs that can take advantage of Wi-Fi 6E to support larger packet loads, process faster multi-gigabit data, and enable low latency all while providing reliable and secure connectivity.
For the enterprise, Wi-Fi 6E will empower IT to accelerate digital transformation, including the ability to better accommodate and allocate the avalanche of IoT and other client devices coming onto the network, while complementing 5G through reduced costs and improved overall user experience.
More Room for Innovation
As organizations increase their use of data-hungry video, cope with increasing numbers of client and IoT devices connecting to their networks, and speed up their transition to cloud, the demand for Wi-Fi will continue to increase. As a result, wireless networks can become oversubscribed, throttling application performance. This frustrates all network users by negatively impacting the user experience, reducing productivity, putting digital initiatives at risk, and stifling innovation.
The existing Wi-Fi 6 technology only uses the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, whereas Wi-Fi 6E can take advantage of the new 6 GHz band that initially will serve only the highest-performance, next-generation client devices. This new band will help offload the congestion in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands as more 6E-capable hardware is created, supporting future growth and extending refresh cycles.
Furthermore, initial testing indicates that leveraging a Wi-Fi 6E AP can result in up to 2.6x faster aggregate throughput when compared against equivalent Wi-Fi 6 APs.
How Wi-Fi 6E Complements 5G
5G and Wi-Fi are complementary technologies and the same applies to Wi-Fi 6E. Wi-Fi is a critical part of the cellular equation since approximately 63% of cellular traffic is offloaded to Wi-Fi, and that number is only increasing over time.
Aruba provides a seamless cellular roaming solution into the enterprise network through Aruba Air Pass, which provides Wi-Fi enabled devices with SIM credentials from major cellular network operators to automatically connect to enterprise networks. This improves the in-building cellular experience as data is offloaded automatically onto the enterprise Wi-Fi network. Additionally, the faster aggregate throughput will further help create a more pleasant user experience as devices seamlessly transition from 5G to Wi-Fi.
Who will Adopt Wi-Fi 6E First?
Besides consumer gamers, in the enterprise, large public venues will move rapidly towards 6E – especially airports, stadiums, and convention centers. Both healthcare and education may also move quickly. Healthcare spaces often have some of the highest device densities outside the home. In some hospital settings, there can be more than 20 different wireless devices in every room, requiring more capacity and bands to distribute the load for better connectivity and ultimately to potentially help improve healthcare outcomes.
In higher education, Wi-Fi 6E can better support gathering points including lecture halls and auditoriums as well as the large number of devices and wearables students possess, especially for high-traffic indoor spaces from dorms to recreation centers. Wi-Fi connectivity has also emerged as a key factor in choosing a university for prospective students, enabling campuses to differentiate through technology.
The First Enterprise-Grade Wi-Fi 6E Solution
Aruba recently introduced the first ever enterprise-grade Wi-Fi 6E solution set, beginning with the AP-635. This AP features a new ultra tri-band filtering capability, which minimizes interference between the 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands along with comprehensive tri-band coverage across 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz with a 3.9 Gbps maximum aggregate data rate.
The new Wi-Fi 6E AP is the first in a family of Wi-Fi 6E solutions to be announced over the coming months, and it will also be available as part of the GreenLake for Aruba network-as-a-service (NaaS) offering.
The new Aruba AP-635 will be available in calendar third quarter 2021. For more information, visit the Aruba 630 Series product page.