"Over the next four years, U.S. wireless data services are expected to increase 500%, the number of connected devices is predicted to more than double to one billion, and demand for unlicensed spectrum is expected to grow significantly. As an example of unlicensed demand, more than half of all internet traffic is predicted to be carried over RLAN networks by 2021” (Frequency Sharing for Radio Local Area Networks in the 6 GHz Band January 2018, by RKF Engineering Solutions, LLC)
On top of current trajectory of mobile device proliferation and huge growth in consumption of video, in the next ten years we also expect growth in capacity demand for home connectivity driven by new applications. Virtual reality, augmented reality, gaming streaming services, IoT, smart homes and advancements in cloud services are all driving this demand for more bandwidth.
The 6GHz is the identified spectrum resource to assist in addressing the Wi-Fi usage growth - of both existing and emerging applications. When 6 GHz bands are released early next year, they will usher in a rapid cycle of growth for the Wi-Fi industry and countless opportunities. Service providers will need to prepare to support 6 GHz and the future demands of Wi-Fi.
Gaming, IoT and cloud services continue to be major driving forces for new technology and Wi-Fi demands. In the future, we can expect augmented and virtual reality to be perfected to offer full immersion. Integration with IoT devices and smart homes will continue the experience of real and virtual realities, blurring the distinction between the two. Gaming will also increase their need for throughput as many gaming platforms move to streaming and the cloud.
We’re already seeing the advances in IoT devices and smart homes as more devices become Wi-Fi connected. The proliferation of more devices to the home creates even more demand.
Cloud services are becoming the norm for all devices and most home functions. Work from home solutions, streaming services, productivity suites and cloud-sharing applications means users are spending more time connected and drawing more Wi-Fi usage for everyday activities. Even the gaming industry is becoming increasingly cloud-based. At Game Developers Conference, Google unveiled Stadia, a game streaming service run completely in the cloud, supported across all devices and built for a generation of streamers.
As a cloud-based gaming system with no offline mode, users will need Wi-Fi access points with low latency and no broadband caps. Google is recommending a connection of 25 Mbps for Stadia and will address some latency issues by connecting directly to the server over Wi-Fi.
Google Stadia represents the new standard in the gaming industry that all companies are working towards. While Sony and Microsoft’s streaming services will still be hardware based, Amazon and Nvidia are investing heavily in cloud gaming.
6 GHz Bands Expected in Early 2020
One important answer for increasing Wi-Fi demands is the upcoming release of 6 GHz frequency bands for unlicensed use in-home Wi-Fi applications. What can we expect from 6 GHz?
In October 2018, the FCC voted to release up to 1.2 GHz more unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum in the 6 GHz band, which will nearly double the frequencies available for Wi-Fi. The IEEE 802.11 working group, the organization responsible for defining Wi-Fi standards, then made the decision to permit only Wi-Fi 6 devices in the new 6 GHz bands. This will help avoid interference from legacy devices and allow Wi-Fi 6 devices to thrive in dense environments.
To help protect 6 GHz users from interference, the FCC has also introduced a new scheme called Automated Frequency Control (AFC). The four new 6 GHz subbands will be split into two subbands for standard power levels controlled by AFC and two subbands for low power and indoor use only.
The new 6 GHz subbands | image courtesy of Aruba Networks
With the significant boost in quality and throughput, 6 GHz bands are expected to launch a new period of growth for the Wi-Fi industry. End user devices, routers and access points will need to be prepared for the demands and restrictions of these new 6 GHz bands.
Applications Benefiting from 6 GHz Spectrum
6 GHz makes perfect fit for multiple applications; as a Wi-Fi 6 green-field band, it is likely to take benefit of the 160MHz channel bandwidth and higher capacity enabled by it, along with a “licensed liked” experience taking advantage of the higher efficiency and scheduled air-medium access of 802.11ax. Latency sensitive applications such as gaming and cloud applications would benefit for the flawless connectivity experience and scheduling scheme of Wi-Fi 6. As a result, applications such as wireless mesh-nodes backhaul, video over Wi-Fi, wireless mass-storage, and multi-room AR/VR/Gaming may benefit from the new 6GHz band even before mobile clients would massively adopt it.
Supporting 6 GHz With Elastic MIMO
With the release of 6 GHz band, OEMs and service providers find optimizing their Wi-Fi infrastructure configuration even more challenging - selecting the right antenna configuration for their dual-band (2.4 & 5 GHz) infrastructure in Wi-Fi 5 days was already a challenge under the pressure of performance and costs optimization. With Wi-Fi 6, vendors and service providers need to bet on the right configuration split of their infrastructure across the three bands - 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 6 GHz, hoping that their cost and form-factor constraint selection may turn adequate for the applications, devices and services to be served over their infrastructure properly over the next years.
Elastic MIMO provides a fresh look at Wi-Fi infrastructure design as it breaks the per-Wi-Fi band rigid HW configuration selection, with the ability to dynamically allocate its antenna system between the Wi-Fi transceivers (i.e the Wi-Fi bands) in field, at runtime - thus enabling agility to the network dynamics as well as huge capacity and performance advantage.
The ability to balance the right amount of antennas allows leveraging upon the green field wide-channels of 6 GHz for higher capacity devices, with the right amount of antennas in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz to serve both legacy and Wi-Fi 6 devices that may benefit from range, providing the best balance and dynamic performance optimization of the network.
The fact is, Wi-Fi 6 and 6 GHz bands are right around the corner and device and Wi-Fi demands are growing more rapidly than ever. Service providers need to be prepared.
If you’re looking for more information on how Elastic MIMO will facilitate the rise of 6 GHz Wi-Fi, download our whitepaper, “The Fundamentals of Elastic MIMO.”