The Beacon

Wi-Fi 6 in the enterprise: We’re in a new wireless era

January 29, 2020 by Dave Chen, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

Imagine a world where literally anything can be connected to Wi-Fi® – from today’s phones, laptops and watches, to tomorrow’s entryway locks, office desks, and even trash cans. According to a recent IDC report, demand for connected devices is expected to unleash more than 40 billion IoT devices, generating over 79 zettabytes (ZB) of data at the edge – that’s well over 79 trillion gigabytes (yes, I had to look that up).

Indeed, the world is entering an exciting new wireless era – and Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6™ is at the heart of this digital transformation. Using Wi-Fi 6, enterprises can accelerate the adoption of what’s known as the Intelligent Edge – the place where real-time business actions and analytics meet through technology – to enhance end-user and application experiences, optimize connectivity for IoT devices, deliver data compute and insights, and enable real-time IT automation and control.

As your organization embarks on this exciting new journey, Wi-Fi 6 is designed to scale with the needs of your business. Let’s explore a few practical use cases where Wi-Fi 6 helps solve problems your enterprise may have today and enables us to prepare for what’s to come tomorrow.

Use case #1: Application assurance

As video and voice continue to consume bandwidth, wireless resources become more and more valuable.

Problem: Poor connectivity experience
Locations with a high density of users such as shopping malls, convention centers, transportation centers and other public venues can connect hundreds or even thousands of simultaneous devices at any given point in time. While each access point can connect dozens or even hundreds of client devices, a heavy amount of traffic generated by just a fraction of devices (such as augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) headsets) can lead to wide-ranging performance and latency issues.

Solution: Optimized radio resources
With OFDMA, MU-MIMO and built-in resource scheduling, device density can be expanded to the thousands, while network congestion on the wireless LAN (WLAN) can be dramatically reduced. This provides real-time simultaneous connectivity for users in crowded areas, ultra-low latency for AR/VR, 4K video and voice, and more. These capabilities can also enhance existing network QoS configurations to provide end-to-end SLA-grade (Service Level Agreement) application assurance.

Use case #2: In-building wireless coverage

For all of us who expect to be constantly connected, the technology is coming that will allow enterprises and communication service providers (CSPs) to work more closely together.

Problem: Inconsistent indoor cellular coverage
Buildings and structures are notorious for dampening cellular signals, especially when end-users roam between floors, or from a window to a hallway. 5G mmWave technology – the one that promises gigabit speeds to download massive video files – is no different. In fact, it is even more prone to signal attenuation.

Solution: Wi-Fi 6 as a 5G cellular onramp
By using Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 in combination with Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint®, WLAN access points that have been optimally deployed inside buildings can be used as a radio access network (RAN) for a 5G cellular core network. This means that an employee’s or guest’s phone will seamlessly connect to a Passpoint-enabled Wi-Fi network by simply entering a building – even if they’re on an active phone call or finishing a text.

This helps enterprises eliminate the premium of deploying small cell, DAS, or CBRS equipment, while also providing access to specified network resources.

Use case #3: Intelligent edge

As business transactions becomes hyper-connected, organizations are reaching a critical juncture in their digital transformation.

Problem: The shift towards the cloud is generating more data at the edge
Many applications and workloads that have migrated to centralized clouds are spawning a growing amount of data from an increasing number of connected devices – leading to higher network latency, reduced visibility and growing costs that current infrastructure cannot accommodate.

Solution: Utilize Wi-Fi 6 to bridge connectivity with compute and analytics
Enterprises can deploy Wi-Fi 6 as the medium that enables business insights and response to happen in real-time with higher performance, capacity, and ultra-low latency. As new use cases such as edge compute, 5G and IoT emerge, Wi-Fi 6 makes it easier to connect people and things at the edge, apps and data in the cloud, and enable control and action locally.

Use case #4: IoT convergence

As the use of IoT technologies expands, WLANs become the natural center of convergence.

Problem: Complex management of workplace technology
IT needs to stand up independent systems or network overlays to accommodate device connectivity (e.g. surveillance cameras and sensors), making management cumbersome and inefficient.

Solution: Utilize Wi-Fi 6 to support multiple wireless connections
As the primary connectivity method for mobile users and an emerging set of client devices, WLANs can be used to connect hundreds or even thousands of Wi-Fi 6 devices on a single AP – and even support wireless mediums such as Bluetooth, Zigbee, and third-party radios. This allows enterprises to consolidate wireless technologies on a single platform and improve visibility and control to reduce costs and optimize resources.

Use case #5: Security

Unsurprisingly, physical and virtual security remain high on enterprise to-do lists. Wi-Fi 6 can play key roles in each.

Problem: Guest traffic is passed in the clear
More often than not, end-users who connect to public Wi-Fi in coffee shops, libraries and airports are connected to an open WLAN without a lock symbol in the dropdown menu. This means that any malicious user can potentially conduct a packet capture on their personal information and gain access to financial accounts or other sensitive information. Until now, recommendations for combatting this situation have included using VPNs or not connecting at all.

Solution: Encrypt networks using Wi-Fi CERTIFIED WPA3 and Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Enhanced Open
After nearly two decades since Wi-Fi CERTIFIED WPA2 and open networks were introduced, enterprises can now deploy WPA3 and Wi-Fi Enhanced Open to help encrypt employee and guest network traffic without disrupting the user experience. Guests can continue to connect to an “open” network, but now enjoy safer Wi-Fi with native encryption. Get a further perspective from this Mobility Field Day 3 delegate.

Putting it all together

Prior to Wi-Fi 6, the types of use cases we’ve discussed were typically hindered by the need to invest in multiple disparate systems – or were not even possible at all. Systems often operated insufficiently and relied on complex proprietary technologies that added considerably to overall ownership costs. But now, with the advances delivered by Wi-Fi 6, enterprises can finally put vision into practice. For more information on Wi-Fi 6, refer to the following resources:

 

The statements and opinions by each Wi-Fi Alliance member and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions or views of Wi-Fi Alliance or any other member. Wi-Fi Alliance is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information provided by any member in posting to or commenting on this blog. Concerns should be directed to info@wi-fi.org.

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Dave Chen

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

Dave Chen is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, specializing in WLAN and SD-WAN solutions. Over the course of his career, Dave has held a variety of positions encompassing product, sales, and enablement at Hewlett-Packard and Aruba Networks. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Political Science.