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5G network connections are not appropriate for all wireless connections to mobile devices -- especially for those internal to an enterprise -- and organizations often neglect the latest enhancements in Wi-Fi in the rush to deploy 5G.
Wi-Fi 6, the latest generation of Wi-Fi, can improve the performance of mobile devices that rely on wireless LAN (WLAN) connections. WLANs aren't going away anytime soon and will remain the communications backbone of most enterprises.
Mobile admins should understand the value that Wi-Fi 6 phones and other Wi-Fi 6-enabled mobile devices can provide by offloading mobile network data.
What does Wi-Fi 6 bring to mobile devices and WLANs?
Wi-Fi 6, formerly known as 802.11ax, provides a greater capacity for number of connected devices and much higher throughput -- up to 2 GBps -- across both 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi bands. It supports much higher numbers of Wi-Fi 6 phones and other devices per access point through multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) technology that enhances speed and reliability per device connection.
Wi-Fi 6 also lets IT pros provide mesh networks so they can place access points at various locations to fully support coverage of a larger area than before. This could be useful for large buildings, event venues and stadiums, for example, to eliminate dead spots. Organizations can be certain that groups of users who rely on personal or kiosk mobile devices in far apart locations can stay connected to Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi 6 and modem modulation technology can provide something similar to 5G network connections to smartphones, and it improves the throughput and stability of connections over previous generations of Wi-Fi. In addition, Wi-Fi 6 provides an improved security model -- Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 -- over older Wi-Fi versions. If IT enables Wi-Fi 6 phones and other mobile devices, it could improve battery life by reducing the amount of time devices search for a signal and offer more management options for the network in enterprise settings.
How Wi-Fi 6 supports mobile devices
Most organizations are still on older networks such as 802.11n and have trouble justifying an investment in new networking technology. However, this latest advancement in Wi-Fi technology allows networks to support the rising number of Wi-Fi 6 phones and tablets in the enterprise. Many of these mobile devices already support Wi-Fi 6, and IoT device support for Wi-Fi 6 is well on its way.
The number of enterprise devices that IT has to deploy and the amount of data they consume continue to grow, so Wi-Fi 6 is a worthwhile investment to address the increasing demand for mobile connectivity. Cisco predicts that up to 59% of mobile data will be offloaded to Wi-Fi by 2022, and 80% of mobile data traffic will be video.
There is no way that the current antiquated Wi-Fi setups installed in most organizations can handle this major increase to the network load. Although the first generation of Wi-Fi 6 access points are still relatively expensive compared to older Wi-Fi generations, the price points are likely to come down substantially as more vendors develop chipsets that can power these access points. More Wi-Fi 6 access point models will likely hit the market in the next six to 12 months.
Nearly all organizations, regardless of size, could benefit from the increased speed and reliability of Wi-Fi 6. This is especially true for the many organizations that are at least two generations behind with their Wi-Fi hardware; some organizations have the 802.11n generation or even older.
Over the next one or two years, all organizations should put together a strategy to upgrade their Wi-Fi systems to prepare for the onslaught of data and connections that will hit networks everywhere.