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How WiFi has become an integral part of modern life




Wi-Fi technology originated more than 20 years ago. Today, every home and office has a router. It is easier to work with it, watch movies or TV series, play games, for example from the list of the best PC porn games. But it took five generations for the communications standard to become possible. Each of them made fundamental refinements, and the new generation of WiFi 6E was the most significant update to the technology. With it, the bandwidth of such networks will give a boost to other industries, such as the Internet of Things. But most importantly, the sixth generation of WiFi will solve problems we haven’t faced yet.

The Beginning of the Wireless Era

As is often the case, innovation was triggered by the rejection of government regulation and the interest of business. In 1985, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission granted a spectrum of radio frequencies that could be used without a license. Other countries joined the initiative, which freed up the hands of research labs and private companies.

It took another 13 years to develop a universal wireless standard. In 1990, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) formed a working group to solve this problem – after 7 years of work was certified standard 802.11 for radio equipment and networks, operating at a frequency of 2.4 GHz.

The technology enabled data transfer rates of 2 Mbit/s, which was no longer sufficient for commercial networks. In addition, the range of the wireless network was small and the equipment was expensive. The IEEE continued working on the standard however and two years later a new generation was introduced which laid the foundation for future success.

Coming to the masses

In 1999 the 802.11b extension was introduced. The bandwidth was still 2.4 GHz but the data rate had increased by more than five times to 11 Mbps. This was already in line with the baseline values for Ethernet networks, allowing wireless routers to be built into large networks. The range also increased, and networking equipment became affordable for most users.

Dozens of manufacturers appeared on the market, and to make their devices compatible with each other, industry leaders created the WECA (Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance) organization. It was this organization that gave the standard the name WiFi, short for Wireless Fidelity. The organization itself later took the name WiFi Alliance. Today it includes 320 organizations from around the world.

Growth in frequencies and speeds

One of the major milestones in the evolution of WiFi was the move to 802.11a in 2001. The major difference from previous generations was the support for the 5 GHz band – this increased the number of channels for connecting multiple devices in parallel.

Previous generations of WiFi offered 14 channels, of which only three were non-intersecting. Given the explosive growth of electronic devices in the early noughties, this quickly became insufficient. Also, neighboring routers created crosstalk, delaying packet sending. In addition, Bluetooth devices and microwave ovens were interfering with the network.

The 5 GHz band increased the number of non-crossing channels to 17. Speeds increased, too, to 54 Mbps, which provided a real bandwidth of about 20 Mbps. WiFi 802.11a-enabled devices became especially popular in the corporate sector.

However, 5 GHz WiFi had a drawback: the shorter wavelength signal was less able to overcome obstacles in its path, such as walls and room dividers. This made connectivity to devices far away from the router unstable. So engineers didn’t abandon the development of the 2.4 GHz standard – that’s how WiFi 802.11g appeared in 2003. It, too, offered speeds of up to 54 Mbit/s with a larger range.

Six years later came 802.11n, supporting both bands (2.4 and 5 GHz). The bandwidth increased to 40 MHz and the bandwidth increased to 150 Mbps in 5 GHz mode. The theoretical maximum was 600 Mbit/s.

Finally, MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) appeared in the standard, which allowed several data streams to be sent over the same channel. This required the deployment of multiple antennas in routers.

Gigabit Edge

That same year, 2009 saw the certification of the 802.11ad expansion. The operating frequency range was raised to 60 GHz and the channel width was increased to 2.16 GHz, which is 54 times more than 802.11n. In this ingenious way they managed to achieve a throughput of 6.7 Gbps. For the sake of beauty, the standard was dubbed WiGig.

It is not difficult to imagine the problems with this technology: it had a range of only a few meters. So they saw WiGig as a replacement for Bluetooth and wanted to use it for wireless video streaming, for example from a laptop to a TV set or from a surveillance camera to a server.

Another high-speed standard, 802.11ac, introduced in 2014, spread among ordinary users. It operated at 5 GHz and was backward-compatible with 802.11n and 802.11a.

Channel width was increased to 160 MHz and minimum throughput reached 433 Mbps. When eight channels are loaded and streams are multiplexed with MU-MIMO technology, the speed limit is 3.47 Gbps, although in practice it is impossible to get such a value.

For now, 802.11ac is the dominant standard, but that will soon change. After all, a new generation is already available, which is better at everything.

New Era

The number of WiFi networks, the data transmitted over them, and the connected client devices is growing rapidly. New industries like the Internet of Things have only accelerated this process and soon the 5 GHz band will not be enough for comfortable operation – the networks will be jammed to the limit.

Again there is a need to increase the number of channels, and WiFi 6E is designed for this purpose. The key difference is that this standard supports the 6 GHz band, with up to 59 channels, each with a bandwidth of 20 MHz.

All legacy technologies for network load sharing are supported: MU-MIMO, OFDMA and BSS Color. This will ensure the smooth and parallel operation of dozens of devices, from smartphones and laptops to smart light bulbs and refrigerators.

Leading research firm 650Group estimates that WiFi 6E will spread rapidly around the world in the next couple of years. More than 350 million 6GHz devices are projected to hit the market as early as 2022. Meanwhile, 650 Group expects enterprise WiFi 6E access point deployments to increase by more than 200% in 2022. The new Aruba WiFi 6E solutions are part of the Aruba ESP (EdgeServices Platform), the industry’s first cloud-based, artificial intelligence platform designed to automate, connect and secure Edge systems.

– Mikhail Komarov, head of network solutions development in Aruba Russia

WiFi 6E technology stack comes in handy not only in a smart home, but also in an office with a large number of employees. It will also benefit resource-intensive applications such as cloud computing.

The only thing left to do is to wait until there are enough devices on the market that support the new standard. Considering its openness, it should be no problem for the manufacturers. The first commercial solutions are already available, and their number should only grow.


Editor-in-Chief at DroidJournal. A tech-enthusiast, guitarist, and an anime fanboy!

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