We’ve come a long way

It’s hard to believe that Wi-Fi is 20 years old already.

Scott_Lee-Guard tribuneindia

I can certainly remember the feeling of freedom in those first few years of being able to connect individual people to other people and applications, no matter where they were in the building, or even across the road in a totally different building where a customer was hosting a conference. Gone were the days of “It’s too hard” to run a cable connecting the buildings together, when in the matter of a few hours, a wireless link could be set up quickly and cost effectively. More importantly, the people hosting and attending the conference had a far better experience thanks to this magical new connection.

As I reflect on the huge advancements in wireless over the last 20 years that have led us to where we are today with Wi-Fi 6, four key principles stand out for me:

• Inevitable evolution

• Unimaginable connections

• Lessons learned

• Benefit everyone, everywhere

Scott Lee-Guard iTrack Cisco


Inevitable Evolution

Wi-Fi 6 is, as the name suggests, the 6th series of advancements to the standards that govern the operation of the familiar Wi-Fi devices and networks that we all use every day.

I’m going to focus on WHY these advancements benefit organizations and users, and leave the explaining of WHAT they are and HOW they are achieved to people like my friend Stephen Cooper, who has already written an excellent blog post:
Are You Ready for Wi-Fi 6?!

A number of the more headline-grabbing advancements in Wi-Fi 6 stem from what I classify as “Inevitable Evolution”. Higher speeds, more data, larger scale; these are some of the WHATs, which we have come to expect as ‘normal’ with any new iteration of technology, either wired or wireless. HOW these improvements are delivered can be (and is) new and exciting to technologists, but for those of you focused on delivering tangible outcomes for your organizations, it pays to examine the WHY.


The common WHY behind these improvements is the constantly increasing demand on our networks, applications and devices. Previous generations of Wi-Fi have dealt with the progression from client-server data, to real-time data, to voice, to video, to High Definition (HD) video. Today we are facing the realities of Ultra HD (4K) video, and the emergence of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) applications. In summary, more need, from more users, on more devices, with more applications; more often.


Unimaginable Connections

In 1999, when Wi-Fi started, the use-cases revolved around the humans who would be using Wi-Fi to connect their devices (in the first instances, laptops) to access data and applications.

Fast forward to 2019, and the number of devices connected to global networks is predicted to rise to 28.5 billion by 2022, with over half of these devices being classified as Machine-to-Machine (M2M) connections.

These are unimaginable numbers of devices, and clearly, there aren’t humans operating them. So, why do they matter?


These connections are brought to life by the ever-expanding Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT connects sensors that monitor, measure and generate data. This data in turn feeds analytics engines, that help organizations gain deeper insights into business and customer trends.

Many remote IoT sensors are likely to be battery operated, with a corresponding need to minimize power utilization. Wi-Fi 6 brings new capabilities to allow these devices to schedule the transmission of data around much longer periods of ‘sleep’ time, conserving power and extending battery life.


Lessons Learned

A key part of success in life (and technology as it turns out), is learning from what we have done in the past.

A central aspect of the previous generation of Wi-Fi (802.11ac for those with an interest in the WHAT), was that every single advancement was brought to bear exclusively for devices operating in the 5GHz frequency range.

One of the most exciting things about Wi-Fi 6 are the benefits it brings to devices in both 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio bands.

Why is this significant? It comes back to the IoT devices I talked about earlier.

Many of these will be widely distributed, and 2.4GHz radio waves are able to travel greater distances. With Wi-Fi 6, we can have the best of both worlds, combining new battery-saving capabilities with the increased range inherent in using the 2.4GHz radio frequencies.

It seems that, to boldly misquote the famous Mark Twain (mis)quote
Reports of the death of 2.4GHz were an exaggeration”


Benefit Everyone, Everywhere

Wi-Fi 6 brings very exciting new capabilities, with many direct business benefits. In order for organizations to realize these benefits, these capabilities have to be easily consumed and integrated into processes and systems.

The Wi-Fi 6 capabilities that Cisco is delivering, have been architected with open network programmability in mind from Day 1.

Whether your organization is interested in accelerating the adoption of IoT, harnessing the power of Wi-Fi 6, or connecting with the community of others globally who are, the DevNet team are there to enable you to achieve what you want to make possible.


Imagine the Possibilities

In my previous blog post, I talked about journeys and connections.

Wi-Fi 6 in the latest exciting step along the journey for Wi-Fi. 20 years ago, we couldn’t have predicted how much we would have come to rely upon this magical technology to connect us.

Wi-Fi connects us with the data we need, from every device we use, to each and every important person we need to connect with, regardless of wherever we or they may be in the world.

Imagine the possibilities 20 years from now!

My closing thoughts from my earlier blog post seem just as appropriate in this context also:

Technology can help us connect more easily, frequently, and have richer experiences – who as a human isn’t interested in that?



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Scott Lee-Guard

Manager, Systems Engineering and Architectures