Wi-Fi 6 is here, and it opens a new chapter in networking. With its enhanced connectivity, the way we access the network and our experiences while connected fundamentally shifts. It’s certainly an exciting time to be in the industry and even more exciting to be a developer because Wi-Fi 6 is for developers.
Wi-Fi 6 enables new applications
Let’s look at how Wi-Fi 6 enables new applications and developers. If we look back over time, every major networking technology transition brought with it a new set of capabilities and applications. There was a time when you couldn’t imagine sending voice over an IP network, then came converged IP networks. There was a time when you couldn’t imagine streaming video to your phone or high-definition video to your home, then came 3G and HDTV.
Make no mistake … we are at a similar major network leap with Wi-Fi 6. Developers should start building applications now to get ready for the next wave of connectivity that will become widely available in the next one or two years.
How Wi-Fi 6 Works
Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax, represents a major step forward over the current version of WiFi, 802.11ac, because of several technology advancements. Let’s geek out for a minute to understand them.
First, there is the move from OFDM to OFDMA. 802.11ac uses OFDM – orthogonal frequency division multiplexing – where an access point sends all the data to one client at a time using the entire frequency band. If an access point wants to send data to different clients, it transmits the data in different time intervals.
Wi-Fi 6 uses OFDMA – orthogonal frequency division multiple access. With OFDMA, an access point can talk to multiple clients at the same time by allocating different frequencies to different clients. The access point can also trade off how much spectrum it uses to send lower rate or higher rate data streams to the different clients according to their data needs. Essentially, it provides a more efficient use of frequency and time to get better performance.
Another advancement is the move from carrier sense multiple access to scheduling. In 802.11ac, access points and clients use a “listen before talk” protocol to look for an opening to transmit data and can face collisions when they start to talk. Wi-Fi 6 uses “scheduling” at the access point for downlink and uplink communications with all the clients. With scheduling, the access point can avoid collisions and fill up every time slot with transmission opportunities, so it doesn’t waste time without transmissions.
Wi-Fi 6 also offers significant power savings in the client. Instead of a client’s radio being on all the time to listen for a packet, the access point can let the client know what its Target Wakeup Time is, so the client can put its radio to sleep until that time. This enables a new set of IoT sensors that can go without a battery change for years, and that unlocks new application possibilities.
So, what does this all mean?
With OFDMA, scheduling, target wakeup times, and other technology advances, Wi-Fi 6 supports more clients, which is often called high-density environments; and, it gives them higher throughput, lower latency, and overall improved performance all with more power savings for the clients.
The Opportunity for Wi-Fi 6 Applications
What kinds of new applications does Wi-Fi 6 enable? Let’s look at some possibilities.
A university has thousands of students, and each student is carrying multiple devices. With the higher-density of Wi-Fi 6, all of them could be connected at once, streaming an interactive AR learning app and still experience a quality connection. That changes how we learn and enables new education models.
A manufacturing plant has robots that work on mission-critical applications. With the higher-density and power savings enabled by Wi-Fi 6, we can connect more IoT devices throughout the plant. All these devices and robots can operate with high-performance connections that are secure and reliable.
The new level of connectivity for devices and applications impacts your end-to-end network, all the way from the data center and cloud, to the campus and branch, to the edge, and to the device.
It’s also about connecting Wi-Fi 6 and 5G. It’s important to consider capabilities such as intent-based networking to let you manage and operate your entire network, using automation to drive policy across the network, and assurance to know it’s working as planned. You can build in security and analytics from the network up to applications, users, and devices.
Wi-Fi 6 is programmable, and that means a whole new world of applications and businesses are possible. These changes will happen fast, so application developers and network and IT providers need to get started now to prepare for the future wave.
We are excited to announce a new Wireless Developer Center to help you get started today. Check out our new Wi-Fi 6 developer center for API calls, learning labs, videos and other tools that will help you take advantage of this burgeoning opportunity. Once you have an app ready, you can test it in one of our sandboxes. Be sure to join us at Cisco Live in the DevNet Zone for more hands-on learning opportunities with the DevNet team.
The future is now, and it starts with developers.
Watch Susie Wee, SVP/CTO and Founder of Cisco DevNet and Todd Nightingale, SVP and General Manager of Cisco Meraki, as they announce several new offerings that will allow developers to create a new future where applications meet infrastructure.
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