We hear a lot about how Wi-Fi 6E is going to change the way we work and play. With the ability to achieve higher throughput and lower latency due to more frequency availability and less congestion, combined with better security, Wi-Fi 6E has given us a new playbook of applications and use cases.

As a Distinguished Engineer in Cisco’s CX CTO organization, I spend a lot of time working within large public venues such as sports stadiums and music festival/concert venues to connect fans and create exceptional wireless experiences. I have the pleasure of working with professional sports leagues, Olympic Organizing Committee, U.S. Open, Live Nation, Clair Global and so many others to design, architect, and deliver networks capable of supporting the needs of tens of thousands of excited fans.  As an avid sports and music fan myself, it makes work fun!

Wi-Fi 6E connecting fans like never before

With the advent of Wi-Fi 6, we were able to make a huge difference in the efficiency and overall quality that Wi-Fi enabled venues provide to their guests. With the entry of Wi-Fi 6E, we take advantage of the same technologies and protocols but add the new 6 GHz band. This brings in stronger encryption (mandatory WPA3), better reliability, and most of all increased efficiency which leads to greater throughput. The E in Wi-Fi 6E is representative of the 6GHz band which further extends available spectrum and channels, providing much more space for devices. With its ability to carry more data than both 2.4 and 5 GHz, the 6GHz band allows fans to flawlessly stream and share their favorite moments.

OFDMA and Uplink MU-MIMO

Wi-Fi 6/6E makes use of Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) and introduces Uplink Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (UL MU-MIMO). These technologies provide the ability to deliver simultaneous bidirectional communication between Wi-Fi 6/6E access points and clients.  While MU-MIMO has been around since Wi-Fi 5, the ability to have clients utilize this on the uplink is new to Wi-Fi 6/6E.  This means more simultaneous users getting a better experience because the network can prioritize and schedule traffic and applications.

This is particularly important to the large stadiums and concert venues I spend a lot of time in. Uplink traffic typically far exceeds the downlink due to the number of connected users taking photos and videos and having those instantly uploaded to the cloud.  See below graphic from a recent event in a large stadium where the uplink traffic more than doubled the downlink traffic.

upload vs download

1200 MHz of wide-open spectrum

Wi-Fi 6E includes up to 1200 MHz of additional spectrum in the 6GHz band. The additional spectrum adds a ton more space for devices with plenty of channels. This helps us avoid the excessive collisions and contention for airtime that has become normal in these types of venues. In case you’re not aware, contention and collisions cause slow response times, introduce latency, disconnect devices from the network, and ultimately, drive less than positive experiences. Now apply this to large sports venues and music festivals and you can see how the additional spectrum allows fans to flawlessly stream and share their favorite moments without interruption.   It’s like adding a ton of additional lanes to a congested highway!

Something to keep in mind, some countries, such as the U.S. and Canada are allocating the entire 1200 MHz while others, only a portion. The below map is current from the date of this posting:

Source: Wi-Fi Alliance  https://www.wi-fi.org/countries-enabling-wi-fi-6e

OpenRoaming and Wi-Fi 6E: seamless and fast

Many of Cisco’s customers, especially those that specialize in entertainment, are jumping onto the OpenRoaming train. OpenRoaming, a technology developed by Cisco and standardized by the Wireless Broadband Alliance, enables seamless and secure connectivity to participating networks. Events such as Live Nation’s BottleRock and the USGA’s U.S. Open, to name a few, use OpenRoaming to automatically connect thousands of attendees to the Wi-Fi network without the use of usernames or passwords. Add in Wi-Fi 6E and its ability to support faster speeds and more devices, and you have the recipe for exceptional guest Wi-Fi experiences.

All in all, Wi-Fi 6E at large venues is a game changer that enables more devices to connect with less contention for space, increased speed, better reliability, and more robust security. It’s a match made in IT heaven.

Stay tuned for more on Wi-Fi 6E!

Check out our other Wi-Fi 6E blog posts

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Wi-Fi 6E White Paper



Matt Swartz

Distinguished Engineer

Customer Experience