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Wi-Fi Certified 6 launches new era for wireless connectivity

The Wi-Fi 6 wireless standard is now ready for deployment, thanks to the debut of a certification effort that helps guarantee interoperability.

The next generation of Wi-Fi, originally known as 802.11ax, but now branded as Wi-Fi Certified 6, is ready for broad deployment.

The Wi-Fi Alliance has made public the availability of the Wi-Fi Certified 6 certification program that aims to qualify and help ensure that devices are compliant and interoperable with the new Wi-Fi standard. Among the numerous benefits that Wi-Fi 6 promises are boosted capacity and bandwidth speeds as well as improved energy efficiency over previous Wi-Fi standards.

"Wi-Fi 6 is most definitely a game-changer technology," said Abel Nevarez, an analyst at IHS Markit Technology. "Not only will it increase capacity, interoperability and efficiency, but it'll also make Wi-Fi access more secure, which will allow for new and innovative monetization schemes."

Nevarez added that the Wi-Fi Alliance's Sept. 16 rollout of the certification program is a big milestone for getting Wi-Fi Certified 6 handsets and routers into the hands of data-hungry consumers.

Why Wi-Fi Certified 6 matters

The certification itself is important because it helps guarantee that there will be a certain base level of interoperability among devices and infrastructures, said Anshel Sag, an analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy.

The IEEE 802.11ax standard that Wi-Fi Certified 6 is based on has many features, but not everyone will implement them all, Sag noted. The result could be interoperability problems, so by creating a minimum spec and certain set of interoperability expectations, the Wi-Fi Alliance has created a certification that helps both consumers and businesses.

Kevin Robinson, vice president of marketing for the Wi-Fi Alliance, noted that his organization had been working for many years on the certification effort leading up the formal rollout on Sept. 16.

Wi-Fi 6 is most definitely a game-changer technology.
Abel NevarezAnalyst, IHS Markit Technology

Robinson noted that Wi-Fi Alliance certification programs supporting generations of Wi-Fi, are generally announced every five to seven years. The last was Wi-Fi Certified ac in 2013, which supported the IEEE 802.11ac standard.

He said that certification typically serves as an inflection point for industry adoption of a technology.

"We expect service providers, both fixed and mobile, to deploy the technology and expect users will very soon begin seeing the benefits of the technology, which includes 4x capacity and speeds of Wi-Fi 5," Robinson said.

Wi-Fi Certified 6 in the enterprise

Meanwhile, one of the main advantages of Wi-Fi 6 is the improved efficiency of the Wi-Fi medium -- that's the reason why the standard uses the term High Efficiency, or HE, according to Anil Gupta, co-founder and CTO of Wi-Fi assurance vendor Wyebot, based in Marlborough, Mass.

Image of certification seal from Wi-Fi Alliance
Wi-Fi Certified seal

Places that would benefit from Wi-Fi 6 are high-density areas like a cafeterias, stadiums and auditoriums. Other workspaces within an enterprise may not necessarily have the density of people or enough people or Wi-Fi devices to justify a full rip-and-replace upgrade to access points with Wi-Fi 6 technology.

"The most common applications within enterprises and different verticals that may require high-speed performance are video and web-conferencing," Gupta said. "However, the speeds offered by 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) are more than enough to support such applications."

In the view of Abhijit Sunil, a Forrester analyst, Wi-Fi Certified 6 will open up many use cases that can benefit from more reliable and faster connections, especially in closed spaces that were attributed or similar to those touted for 5G -- such as office collaboration spaces and smart homes.

"Wi-Fi 6 will in no way replace 5G, but this milestone enables many use cases to be tested and when 5G matures in the near future, to complement high-speed connectivity to the internet," Sunil said.

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