Wi-Fi 6E: FAQs on performance benefits, use & deployment

Wi-Fi 6E is a critical milestone; it brings Wi-Fi to a new frequency band, 6GHz. Wi-Fi 6E is going to change how we think and plan our networks going forward; it’s going to enable more capacity, enforce the newest generation of Wi-Fi security and improve network performance. However, as with many new technologies, there are some essential considerations before plunging into Wi-Fi 6E. Together we’ll go through precisely what Wi-Fi 6E is and how it will affect real-world networks today.

What is it?

You may already be familiar with Wi-Fi 6, the latest Wi-Fi standard, also called 802.11ax. This standard uses the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency spaces; Wi-Fi 6E uses the same Wi-Fi standard but extends the available frequencies to 6GHz.

Those familiar with Wi-Fi will know that 2.4GHz is very congested, with only three non-overlapping channels and non-Wi-Fi devices all using the same frequency. 5GHz has more channels than 2.4Ghz and is considered less congested (though this congestion has been steadily increasing over the years), which is why most Wi-Fi networks are designed for 5GHz today.

Ofcom has approved a portion of the 6GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi in the UK, giving us more channels than we’ve ever had before. Coupled with a thorough design, more channels mean less interference and channel overlap, which will result in more reliable networks with greater capacity. These extra channels also allow us to use wider channels to increase throughput. Let’s compare 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 6GHz in the UK:

Wi-Fi 6e throughput
*channels are non-overlapping using 2.2Mhz channels.

Can I use it now?

To use Wi-Fi 6E, you need three things: to be in a country that has allowed the use of 6GHz (in the UK, 6GHz is allowed), a Wi-Fi 6E Access point and a Wi-Fi 6E device (such as a laptop or smartphone).

Wi-Fi 6E access points and devices have just started to enter the market. However, many new devices are still shipping without Wi-Fi 6E chipsets. One important point to note is that Wi-Fi 6E requires a 6GHz radio; this means that Wi-Fi 6E won’t be available with a firmware update as a physical hardware change is required.

Most Wi-Fi connections won’t be Wi-Fi 6E. However, we started to see the first Wi-Fi 6 devices entering the market two years ago, and based on our analysis of UK networks, Wi-Fi 6 devices now account for about 20% of connections. We may see a similar level of growth with Wi-Fi 6E.

A Wi-Fi 6E network deployed today will likely reap the benefits after the first few years.

What’s a good strategy for deployment?

When deploying Wi-Fi 6E, there are a few considerations, and of course, each network will have its own specific requirements.

Depending on your use case, you may decide to deploy Wi-Fi 6E in high-density areas or areas that require additional throughput. Another option is to include Wi-Fi 6E in all locations.

One exciting option available with some access points is switching radios between 5GHz and 6GHz. For example, the XE3-4 Wi-Fi 6E Access Point from Cambium Networks allows you to combine two radios that operate as a single 5GHz 6×6 device. Then as more devices start to support Wi-Fi 6E, you can separate these radios into a 5GHz 2×2 and a 6GHz 4×4.

Another important topic to consider is WPA3, WPA3 enhances Wi-Fi security, and it is mandatory with Wi-Fi 6E. As a result, WPA2 client devices won’t co-exist with a Wi-Fi 6E SSID. This requirement introduces a level of complexity for networks that support WPA2 devices, which are most networks today. A clear strategy should be developed for managing WPA2 and WPA3 connections on the same network.

6GHz radio waves will propagate differently to 5GHz radio waves. The higher the frequency, the greater the loss between free space and physical objects, resulting in smaller coverage cells for Wi-Fi 6E devices. So it is essential to plan for coverage of your new Wi-Fi 6E network and, where necessary, adjust AP placement and quantity.

Find out why Cambium Networks is the best choice WiFi solution for warehousing and industrial businesses.

If you’re thinking about using Wi-Fi 6E in your network and want to discuss your strategy for deployment, you can contact our Wi-Fi specialists on 01908 046 400.

In the last 24 hours, the Wi-Fi alliance has announced a series of new Wi-Fi vulnerabilities. This attack is on the Wi-Fi protocol itself, meaning all Wi-Fi devices are affected, both APs and users. This marks a significant opportunity for cyber-attacks, so understanding the risks and the remedies is key. Our summary below sheds light on the announcement and answer the questions on everyone’s minds.

What is it?

The vulnerabilities have been named FragAttacks; the vulnerabilities exploit design flaws in the Wi-Fi protocol and implementation flaws in Wi-Fi products.

This was discovered by Dr. Mathy Vanhoef (New York University Abu Dhabi), and more detailed information about the vulnerabilities can be found here.

Are my devices affected?

Yes, this affects all Wi-Fi versions and works against all security suites WEP, WPA, WPA2, and WAP3. This means that all Wi-Fi devices are affected.

Is my network at risk?

The likelihood of an attack is using these vulnerabilities is very low; there are no known available tools to complete an attack. It would take a skilled hacker to launch an attack; in addition to this, the hacker would need to be in range of your Wi-Fi network.

When will a patch be ready?

What if a patch isn’t ready?

Steps can be taken to mitigate some attacks, such as:

If you are concerned about the WiFi Alliance’s latest announcement on FragAttacks and you would like to know more about which devices are affected, if your network at risk, or when product patches will be ready, get in touch with us to see how we can help.

Today marks 12 months since the simple instruction to “stay home, save lives, and protect the NHS” caused a huge shift in the way we live; the COVID-19 pandemic sent millions of employees home to work, learn and socialise within their own 4 walls, and staying connected to the outside world beyond our household became entirely reliant on the internet.

Wireless connectivity has been so vital during this time that digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation has recommended that the internet be classified as an essential utility, alongside electricity, water and heating. We would argue that enterprise connectivity has always been crucial, but that COVID-19 has shone a light on just how vital a part of modern day living, learning and working it is.

So what changes in perspectives and priorities have taken place in the world of WiFi in the last 12 months as a direct result of the pandemic?

Increase in Global Bandwidth & Speed

At the start of the pandemic, global internet traffic was predicted to rise by 28% but in reality it was almost double at 47% according to Telegeography. In March 2020, the UK’s major internet service and mobile providers agreed to temporarily remove data allowance caps on fixed line broadband services and added free extras to customers’ plans following discussions with the government.

Global internet bandwidth rose by 35% to meet the increase in demand, a substantial increase over the previous year’s modest 26%, showing the acute awareness that keeping the world connected digitally was vital for minimising disruption.

When reviewing the last year, speeds in the UK have increased. According to the internet speed testing giant Ookla, upload and download speeds in the UK have actually increased (and stayed elevated) since March 2020.

WiFi Means Safety

For those without adequate connectivity and security, COVID put them at higher risk of misinformation, fraud and cyber scams. The ability to book health appointments online, including vaccination jabs, put those with WiFi and connected devices such as smartphones, laptops and PCs at a significant advantage, particularly the elderly. This has caused a wave of learning within this societal bracket; 95% of adults in the UK have used the internet in the last 3 months according to ONS, meaning a significant number have been forced to become connected for the first time.

Connectivity = Continuity

Incorporating agility, capacity and BYOD into network models has been a growing focus for many years, but many organisations had not progressively adopted these factors into their IT infrastructure. The need to suddenly support remote working, video meetings, a huge rise in the number of devices connected to the network, and ensure business-wide security was a huge obstacle that caused business disruption and backlogs in work. COVID forced those lagging behind the curve to adapt in a hurry, and a year on most are in a position to offer employees a level of ongoing flexibility that did not exist in 2019.

Closing the Digital Divide

Since March 2020, wireless connectivity has been the backbone for delivering education throughout multiple lockdowns and widespread social and professional isolation. The importance of learning continuity for children, teens, and young adults meant that a close eye was kept on student experience and results, which shone a light on the ‘digital divide’.

60% of private schools and 37% of state schools in the most affluent areas already had an online platform in place to receive students’ work, meaning they were largely prepared for the shift to remote learning and teaching. This was compared with just 23% amongst the most deprived schools, showing that children from more disadvantaged backgrounds saw the biggest negative impact to their learning due to a lack of access to adequate devices such as laptops, tablets, and adequate Wi-Fi, in addition to teachers being less accustomed to digital learning and the use of EdTech. Hundreds of thousands of devices have been distributed to these students over the last 12 months, with significant grants and bursaries being given to schools to fund these improvements, but the divide remains to be closed.

Stretching the Security Blanket

With the sudden adoption of digitally working, learning and living came an explosion in terms of the number of devices connected to business networks. Security and privacy concerns sky-rocketed as every source, smartphone, portal and PC became a hacking target, and protecting businesses from cyber-attacks became a more prominent part of new network projects.

Although the initial peak in protecting business data has largely been and gone over the last 12 months, keeping your security up to date against the latest risks will remain an elevated priority in line with the elevated risks of larger and more agile networks.

Pandemic Proof Network Management

Over the last year, IT teams across the country have been under extreme pressure to deliver higher performance to more devices with less visibility. For businesses less ready for agile working, getting the workforce online and able to do their jobs remotely was a huge initial struggle. As with security, the shift has largely been made a year on, but if the size and scope of networks is set to remain ‘as is’ post COVID, managing and monitoring networks will be both more time consuming and more complex.

Uniformity across devices is less easy to ensure, and its harder to fix problems and respond to troubleshooting questions if your network isn’t cloud-based and cloud-managed. Network management will need to allow total visibility from anytime, anywhere, and will progressively need to be able to adopt AI, machine learning and other emerging technologies.

All this explains why investing in wireless connectivity is booming, and rightly so. Businesses want networks that can support the future – whatever it has to throw at us. “Business Wi-Fi isn’t a luxury or a nice-to-have anymore. The devices connecting to our networks, ranging from personal phones and laptops to connected machinery and handheld scanners, are Wi-Fi-first and many times Wi-Fi-only”. says Ekahau, the leaders in WiFi survey and design software.

For further reading, our partner Ekahau just published their latest white paper, titled “The Global State of WiFi”, which takes a long, hard, holistic view of the shape of things to come in the world of wireless.

In today’s digital age change is the only constant and a warehouse is no exception. Warehouses today use state-of-the-art automation that relies heavily on uninterrupted communications and 24/7 connectivity. Businesses need complete coverage to support many people and devices so if the WiFi goes down this reduces efficiency and costs money.

Physical changes, stock placement, increasing technologies and several mobile users all on the network at the same time affect how the WiFi performs and issues can start to appear. When that happens, changes must be made by way of adding new access points, repositioning access points or a reconfiguration of the WiFi network. This can often work well for small fixes such as covering a small dead spot, but is less likely to be successful when the issues are more widespread, or you are trying to drive operational efficiencies and new ways of working.

Even a small fix can be costly and time consuming with a site visit often required to diagnose the problem. Following that a new solution fix must be thought out and implemented which can then require another site visit later – especially if new equipment must be obtained. Another option is to look at upgrading your wireless network as this allows for more flexibility as a new solution can be designed with your current needs in mind. And often, the expense of sorting out an existing legacy network is not worth it when you look at the benefits of moving to a new robust platform. Newer wireless technology allows for faster speeds, more features and improved reliability and will future proof the network for at least 10 years.

Take Cambium Networks for example, its wireless technology is entirely cloud-managed enabling rapid deployment, configuration and troubleshooting. In addition to this its cnPilot access points come with a minimum of a 3-year warranty and lifetime support. Cambium is easy to manage through the cnMaestro management system as changes can be made remotely, sparing costly site visits and downtime. Cambium delivers reliability and speed from a consistent, high-capacity network with optimum coverage and no dead zones.

At Redway Networks, we have deployed Cambium in single and multiple sites to replace legacy WiFi with quick installations and seamless projects that don’t interrupt operations and or impact your business. We specialise in warehouse WiFi design with all our engineers being accredited wireless professionals and Ekahau certified, so you can be reassured that your new wireless solution will be a safe investment for your business.

WiFi Design Day from Ekahau has fast become a staple annual event in the world of wireless technology, and in 2020 reached its fourth consecutive year. The event offers insight into the industry’s up-and-coming technology, best practices as well as peer group discussions, interviews and workshops – all from the world leaders in enterprise wireless design tools.

With public events largely cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ekahau made the decision to move the event online, making it easier for many in the industry to attend from around the world.

The free event, held on 6th November, featured presentations from the industry’s top experts, including MarQuest’s Peter MacKenzie, 7Signal’s Tom Barrett, Cambium Networks’ Marc Jackson, and Arista’s Karan Gupta.

Content covered a range of topics, including:

If you missed out on WiFi Design Day 2020, or want to recap, you can register here for full on-demand access to recordings and slides from the event.

With home-working becoming the mandatory norm for a lot of us in this unfortunate global climate, people are finding themselves struggling due to poor Wi-Fi performance. We’re placing (probably) unprecedented demands on our home Wi-Fi: in one household alone there could be two or more people running remote meetings and accessing VPNs; kids streaming school lessons or accessing learning material; and everyone using the Internet for online gaming, watching TV series, or using YouTube for home workout videos. Compared to the usual evening-only spike in demand for download speeds, this is a lot for a home system to handle.

Whilst there may be some factors that are out of our hands, such as ISP (internet service provider) issues, there are some simple steps to take to make the most your home network and get the best possible performance.

So here are our 7 top tips for improving WiFi performance while working from home:

1. Before doing anything, test your current download speed to get your baseline. Go to your ISP’s website and run a speed test using their tools. Failing that, you can use Google’s inbuilt speed test by simply Googling ‘speed test’. For two people working from home we recommend a minimum of 10Mbps.

2. Ensure that your home router is as physically high as possible and not obstructed by furniture or electrical appliances as this can interfere with Wi-Fi signal.

3. The external antenna on your router must be facing in the same position – we recommend pointing directly upwards.

4. Try to set up your workspace with your router in mind if you are using a Wi-Fi connection. Walls and other solid material degrade the signal and will cause a slower speed, so move your router close to where you work (where possible), or try to limit obstructions. Run another test to see if you’ve improved your download speeds simply by improving the signal strength from your router to your devices.

5. If signal is still poor, your ISP may be having an issue. Plug an ethernet cable from the router directly into your laptop and run another speed test. This will tell you if your connection into the home is strong, and where the signal degradation is happening.

6. A quick resolution if you are having issues here is to turn your home router off, wait 20 seconds, then turn it back on. Classic, right? Restarting a router (like a PC) clears its RAM cache. This can fill up if turned on for too long and will cause the network to run slower. If a connection is lost between it and the exchange, restarting the router reinitiates the authentication to the session. If, after turning your route off and on again, performance does not improve then it is likely that your ISP is having problems – more than likely due to the high demand put on them from a surge in home workers.

7. Wi-Fi calling is a great feature for anyone living in places with patchy or inconsistent cellular coverage. It enables you to have voice calls from your mobile through your Wi-Fi. Not all carriers offer this functionality, but if they do it could be a lifesaver for many of us living in more remote areas. You don’t need to pay anything extra, it’s all set up through your mobile settings. If you’d like guidance on how to enable Wi-Fi calling look here for iOS and here for Android.

Bonus tip for advanced users…

Use an app on your phone to check which Wi-Fi channel your home router is on and compare it with your neighbours’. If they are on the same channel, interference will increase. By default, a lot of manufacturers place their routers on channel 36 on the 5GHz band – change this to 44. On 2.4GHz, try changing this to 11 (or stick to either 1, 6, or 11).

With millions of people across the UK now working from home, it’s never been more important for remote users to get the most from their home networks whilst staying safe. Configuring your network to support this way of working can be a challenge, especially if your whole business suddenly needs to work from home, requiring immediate setup. This is where networking expertise and support can help keep business moving.

To do our bit during Covid-19, we are offering a free 10 minute telephone consultation with one of our expert Network Engineers to gain a thorough understanding of your network and how you need it to flex to support remote working.

Based on the system and resources you already have in place (where possible), our engineer will propose changes to your solution to help you get the speeds and capacity your staff need to support video streaming, virtual meetings, remote use of a VPN and many more functions specific to home working.

Once our engineer has put forward a solution, you can either:

– Purchase professional services time from Redway Networks, who will configure your new solution and provide end-user guides with details on how to connect.

– Configure your new solution yourself using relevant documentation, provided by Redway Networks.

To take advantage of this free consultation, please contact us today and we will schedule in a time with one of our specialist network engineers.