Back when it was first introduced in 1999, Wi-Fi was just a brand name for the wireless local area network (WLAN). These days, the term Wi-Fi is practically synonymous with internet. Wi-Fi is everywhere, and as its popularity has grown, so too have the demands placed on it.
For enterprises, the advent of remote and mobile work, combined with the use of cloud-based applications, has made the demands placed on wireless networks especially high. Networks must now manage high-bandwidth usage across many more devices than ever before. Channels in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz ranges are getting increasingly crowded, creating traffic jams that cost those enterprises time and money.
Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5 are struggling to keep up. With the demands on networks set to increase even more, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that an alternative is needed.
Here’s why Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E are the answer your organization is looking for.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the demand on wireless networks was growing. But the pandemic took things to a new level. Unprecedented numbers of people were suddenly working from home. Existing Wi-Fi infrastructure had largely been created to support in-office workers. The move to remote work drove a move to cloud-based applications. While these enabled remote workers to continue to work relatively seamlessly, these high-bandwidth applications added additional strain to already taxed network resources and IT personnel.
Increasing bandwidth could help, but ultimately the problem facing current networks is space. There are simply too many devices for the number of channels available to Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5 to handle, resulting in traffic jams that slow down the network for everyone.
Wi-Fi 6 and 6E deliver an unprecedented explosion in the space available for users and applications. Not only is the 6 GHz band open for the first time ever, but the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened 1,200 MHz of frequency bandwidth. That’s more than was available in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz ranges combined, and the available number of channels has tripled. Worldwide, more than 60 countries have or are considering making the 6 GHz band available for Wi-Fi. As a result, enterprises can not only ease wireless network traffic with a broader distribution but move critical operations to an untouched, high-throughput band. And by enabling mesh networking, where nodes can connect to each other dynamically to enable the uninterrupted flow of data, Wi-Fi 6/6E ensure that your network is always operating at peak efficiency.
Of course, if all Wi-Fi 6/6E did was bring networks up to speed, that would be one thing. But they also enable enterprises to enhance business operations and drive efficiencies.
For example, while the adoption of Wi-Fi 6 and 6E will lead to the introduction of new devices, legacy devices will still be able to work Wi-Fi 6. In some settings, this is critical: healthcare and manufacturing operations, for example, still heavily rely on specialized devices that operate at 2.4 GHz. Backwards compatibility offers numerous advantages without compromising continuity of service. Organizations that have found their Wi-Fi 4 or Wi-Fi 5 network has increasingly struggled to keep up with demands can still migrate to Wi-Fi 6/6E and ensure that previous investments in applications or devices that rely on powerful, reliable Wi-Fi connections don’t go to waste.
Having access to the data being generated within the network is another bonus. Access to that data enables organizations to use it to drive strategy and decision-making. With real-time data analytics delivered by a cloud management solution, even small teams can make data-informed decisions to improve:
This is further enabled by the ability to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). A Wi-Fi 6/6E cloud-based network management platform gives IT professionals the opportunity to leverage these powerful technologies to unlock new insights and drive business results.
Finally, Wi-Fi 6 and 6E also offer better network security, which is a constant concern in the tech space. This concern has only grown as devices have become more powerful. And as more and more devices connect to a Wi-Fi network, the potential risk to that network becomes greater. Wi-Fi 6 and 6E come with two key features that mitigate that risk.
The first is mandatory Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) 3-personal and WPA3-enterprise certification for the 6 GHz frequency band. This latest evolution of the encryption and authentication standard ensures that ever-higher levels of business-critical data have ever-stronger encryption to match.
The second is mandatory support for the Wi-Fi Enhanced Open security certification. For users that offer open networks to guests or customers, this is a must: the certification ensures any Wi-Fi 6/6E solution offers security when users are not required to authenticate by signing in.
Technology, of course, is always improving. Every day there’s a new, faster, more secure device available. This power comes at a cost, both in money and greater network demands. Wi-Fi 6 and 6E position organizations to take advantage of powerful new technologies as they become available.
The robust infrastructure Wi-Fi 6/6E provide will be critical to a successful digital transformation, enabling enterprises to leverage new technologies like IoT and workflow automation to drive productivity and improve efficiency. Systems and logistics can be automated and streamlined to eliminate human error and busywork, freeing up staff for value-added efforts and eliminating the countless clerical errors that plague supply chains. And active and easy monitoring will enable IT personnel to proactively detect and repair equipment malfunctions before they break down or even affect the user experience.
All of this will enable a migration to a future enterprise that is highly sophisticated and technologically driven — an infinite enterprise that is infinitely distributed, consumer-centric, and scalable. And the simple fact is that Wi-Fi 5 can’t keep up with that migration. It’s a roadway being asked to serve as a launchpad for enterprises to truly soar. Wi-Fi 6 and 6E offer the speed, range, and built-in capabilities for enterprises to take flight into infinity.
And if you’re soaring, it’s best to have your head in the clouds, which is where Extreme Networks cloud-managed networking comes in. It simplifies network management and enables the infinite enterprise to achieve scale over distributed resources without complicating management.
Learn even more about Wi-Fi 6 & 6E with our educational E-book.
Develop requirements for updating your network using this Wi-Fi 6 & 6E Buyer’s Guide.