Handset makers at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, were thrilled by the advent of fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks. And what made the development even more exciting was that it came alongside a much improved Wi-Fi standard, Wi-Fi 6.
Wi-Fi 6 is the new local wireless standard that is rolling out in 2019, more or less at the same time as 5G. Like 5G, it will offer the potential for greater speed, several times the rate you get with today’s Wi-Fi 5, also known as 802.11ac.
More speed is good, but Wi-Fi 6 also promises to help in another way, by reducing data traffic jams. Wi-Fi 6 can transmit more data across the airways than previous wireless standards, as well as serve many more active clients per access point.
See also: Comparing Wi-Fi 6 and 5G
The new standard is also smarter: key data packets will get pushed to the front of the queue when needed.
Whereas the wireless standards that came before obeyed the loudest-shouting device in the room, with Wi-Fi 6 there should almost never be congestion on the network.
This means that even in the most packed of office spaces, you should still be able to get a fast, stable connection. And this extends beyond the office.
In any crowded setting, from a concert or sporting event to an emergency situation, you’ll stand a better chance of connecting via Wi-Fi.
Soon, Wi-Fi 6 indoors and 5G outdoors could work hand in hand to make sure dropping offline pretty much becomes a thing of the past, even if you’re streaming video.
A Wi-Fi 6 Office
And in time you could notice other changes, says Dan Bladen, co-founder and CEO of the wireless charging point firm Chargifi. Imagine, he says, that you walk into a Wi-Fi 6 office and set your phone down on your desk.
At that moment, the phone starts sending signals to other devices nearby. As you adjust your seat, the light dims to your preferred reading level. Intelligent spaces powered by tools such as Cisco DNA Spaces can make this happen.
Meanwhile Cisco Webex®, or the meeting tool of your choice, tells your colleagues where they can find you. And if the building is smart enough, you might even get the air conditioning to dial up or down to your normal setting.
“Having devices next to each other and talking across Wi-Fi 6 is what’s key here,” Bladen says. “It’s not about speed.”
Ultimately, says Kevin Hasley, head of product at RootMetrics by IHS Markit, one of the biggest changes that might come with Wi-Fi 6, or any new technology, is that we cease to notice the network is there.
"End users shouldn't have to think about connecting to a network," he says. "It should be seamless."
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