Tune Up Your Infrastructure for the Wi-Fi 6E Highway

An article by Sean Wilson, Senior Network Consultant, Comport Consulting

Wi-Fi 6E has been announced by the major enterprise wireless vendors, but infrastructure is just one piece of the puzzle—and the first of several pieces you need to consider supporting this new technology.

Many people can remember the pre-Apple iPhone days. Wireless was great, but who really used it in the early days? We were in the pre-mobile device days and didn’t know what was coming.

Today smartphones and mobile devices have changed the playing field and enabled technology upgrades that have created new business models such as IoT. This has improved efficiencies of many businesses; we can even tweet from anywhere today!

We moved from a three-lane highway (2.4GHz) early on to a 14-lane highway (5GHz). With the introduction of Wi-Fi 6E, which uses the newly allowed 6GHz spectrum, we are looking at roughly 60 lanes of highway!

Yet there’s something missing for Wi-Fi 6E. It’s the cars needed to use the highway. Just as we weren’t sure how to use wireless in the early days, most teams aren’t equipped to use WiFi 6E today. But don’t fret, the cars are coming—and they all want to be Ferraris and Tesla roadsters.

Early android devices are just hitting the market, and the soon-to-be-released iPhone 13 will have Wi-Fi 6E included. This means if you are running an enterprise network today, you need to make sure your infrastructure can handle this huge increase in available bandwidth to your users—or should I say Lamborghinis.

Here’s how to prepare:

  1. New wireless surveys will be required to support smaller cell sizes due to increased attenuation on the 6GHz band. This means the access points you have in place today may need to be repositioned and/or new access points added.
  2. Network infrastructure will need to be reviewed for their ability to handle this new bandwidth to the edge. Access points that once had a gigabit ethernet uplink may require 2.5 or 5GbE connections to the distribution layer. This cascades between the distribution layer and core, which in some circumstances may require upgrades to core switching and routing capacity as well.
  3. Planning for and monitoring these new lanes of highway should be considered as well. This is where many wireless networks fall down. The complexity to handle a large number of channels from different access points, some supporting older Wi-Fi technologies mixed with the Wi-Fi 6E will be a challenge. Many vendors are using artificial intelligence (AI) to bridge this gap. Aruba Networks is one of major vendors going all in on AI. Moving Wi-Fi management to the cloud enables artificial intelligence to handle width of channels as well as hitless upgrades with more features coming down the pike.

The introduction of Wi-Fi 6E is somewhat exciting only because the pieces we need to support this technology aren’t in place yet. But when they do arrive, they’re all going to be Ferraris, Teslas, and Lamborghinis.

Prepare for the Wi-Fi 6E Highway with Comport!

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