The rapid growth of IoT devices and edge computing are putting considerable stresses on existing network deployments. Though current wireless technologies do work with traditional applications such as video streaming and data transfer, they are not as speedy and less robust compared to wired options.
According to Steven Carlini of Schneider Electric, upcoming Wi-Fi 6 and 5G technologies look set to change things – or at least shake things up.
Understanding Wi-Fi 6
Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax, is the newest standard for wireless local area networks (WLAN). With backwards-compatible support for earlier versions of Wi-Fi, it is designed to offer speeds that are faster than that of Wi-Fi 5, and better support for more devices. The ability to work with more devices is vital, as the average number of Wi-Fi devices in homes and workplaces keep increasing.
Wi-Fi 6 addresses wireless congestion with a variety of strategies, including OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) which lets the wireless access point talk to more devices at once. OFDMA divide a wireless channel into multiple subchannels which is used to transmit data to different devices simultaneously. An improved version known as Wi-Fi 6E will deliver Wi-Fi 6 over the 6 GHz frequency band instead of the usual 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz.
Carlini sees Wi-Fi 6 as an enabler of converged IoT at the edge, connecting and processing data to more devices than before. This might range from standalone systems such as IP cameras, digital displays to intelligent building management systems. The latter might include a plethora of sensors such as access control systems, smart locks, fire detection and evacuation systems, or occupancy sensors.
The Power of 5G
At the same time, carriers around the world are starting to roll out advanced 5G networks as they seek to deliver a new level of performance and capabilities to mobile services. The fundamental capabilities of 5G are anchored around substantially improved performance of up to 40 times faster data transmission, support for a truly massive number of IoT devices (Up to a million per square kilometres), and ultra-reliable low-latency communication (uRLLC) networks.
While actual use cases for 5G are still few and far between, its key technology pillars of are expected to enable a rich set of capabilities. Crucially, 5G can benefit Industry 4.0 applications such as robotic systems in fully automated smart factories, drive communication between autonomous vehicles and roadside traffic management units or support sophisticated augmented reality or virtual reality applications that extend beyond the confines of the home and office.
Ultimately, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are the wireless data transport technologies that will enable a more connected and automated world. And as interoperability between Wi-Fi 6 and 5G is developed, Carlini sees them delivering the performance and capabilities needed supporting and enabling edge deployments at scale.
Bhagwati Prasad, Vice President, Business Development, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric