Wi-Fi 6 And Wi-Fi 6E Are Building the Foundation for New Home Applications (2020)

By Massinissa Lalam, Ph.D. & Xavier Briard, Sagemcom; Kamal Koshy, Charter Communications

Years after years, Wi-Fi has become the de-facto way to access Internet at home. Based on the IEEE802.11 standard family, the Wi-Fi technology has experienced several major PHY/MAC updates during the last 20 years, each one defining a generation on its own. Not so long ago, the general public was still not aware of those gaps and just called “Wi-Fi” any one of them. The generational naming introduced by the Wi-Fi Alliance in 2018 was seen a better way to advertise each new release instead of relying on 802.11 amendments name.

Built upon the IEEE 802.11 ax amendment, Wi-Fi technology is currently at its sixth coined “Wi-Fi 6” which operates on the unlicensed 2.4 and 5 GHz ISM band with an extension into the 6 GHz territory called Wi-Fi 6E.

Each Wi-Fi generation brought an improvement in peak throughput: from the original 11Mbps back in1999, Wi-Fi 6/6E now offers up to 9.6 Gbps. However, Wi-Fi 6/6E main target was not peak throughput increase but improved efficiency in dense environments.

Indeed, the success of Wi-Fi, due to its low cost, ease of use and performance led to an explosion of WiFi devices, exhibiting the limits of previous generations in terms of congestion and channel access in such scenarios.

Prior to Wi-Fi 6, access points (APs) and stations (STAs) were contending to access the medium with similar priority. More and more end-devices being deployed, resulting congestion has led to a degraded experience in crowded places like multi-dwelling units (MDUs).

In this paper, we will briefly present the evolution of IEEE 802.11/Wi-Fi technology and its quest for more throughput. We will then present the main features of Wi-Fi 6 and the change of paradigm it brought to the table with a more AP-centric channel access. We will then discuss how Wi-Fi has changed the residential environment and the main uses cases it needs to address. We will then present how Wi-Fi 6 can change user experience at home today and how the opening of the 6 GHz band will drastically change the user experience tomorrow. With three times more spectrum available, results achieved in clean environment could be truly representative of the end user experience even in dense environment.

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