Three years have passed since the Wi-Fi Alliance heralded the arrival of Wi-Fi 6E. This innovative technology promised to transform healthcare institutions' operations but also addressed several IT challenges in the sector. The implications of Wi-Fi 6E in healthcare have grown substantially since its introduction, and as we reflect on its trajectory, what is possible today is undeniable.
Wi-Fi 6E, signified by the “extended” in its name, utilizes the 6 GHz band of the Wi-Fi frequency spectrum. This shouldn’t be confused with Wi-Fi 6, which operates on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Introducing the 6 GHz band with Wi-Fi 6E marked one of the most significant expansions in Wi-Fi capacity history.
This technology has been critical in ensuring connected enterprise settings maintain robust connectivity amid less crowded airwaves. As a result, devices experience broader channels and swifter connections, ushering in numerous market innovations.
Recent findings from the International Data Corporation (IDC) attest to the rapidly expanding footprint of Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E. Their influence on the enterprise market is striking, with wireless LAN devices surging by an impressive 67.4% YoY in the U.S. during Q1 2023. Globally, the enterprise WLAN market swelled by 43.3%, with Latin America, the United States, Canada, and Western Europe witnessing the most pronounced growth at 80.9%, 67.4%, 51.6%, and 51.2% respectively. Meanwhile, Wi-Fi 6 comprised a substantial 78.6% of dependent AP revenues. Interestingly, the enterprise WLAN market's total revenue hit a staggering globally in Q1 2023.
For healthcare technology leaders, Wi-Fi 6E could help solve several pain points inherent in large healthcare environments. One big benefit of Wi-Fi 6E is how it addresses high-density RF environments with many devices/users in one area. Acute care hospitals and healthcare campuses are perfect examples of congested, high traffic, constantly changing environments.
Hospital campuses are complex and dynamic, with multiple devices per person, mobile staff/guests and devices, and noise from other technologies. Between mission-critical devices, IoT, and BYOB devices, the number of devices and the amount of data these devices consume continues to grow – creating a fight for resources and throttling application performance. The potential result? Critical healthcare devices and applications are not fully functioning, healthcare organizations deliver subpar user experiences, and IT staff cannot focus on innovation, leading to poor healthcare outcomes.
Wi-Fi 6E is reshaping healthcare with its 6 GHz spectrum, promising faster and more efficient medical communications and device operations. By enhancing real-time data transfers, extending battery life, modernizing older tech, and embracing augmented reality, Wi-Fi 6E stands at the forefront of healthcare innovations. Explore its transformative impact on performance, efficiency, and next-gen applications below.
Wi-Fi 6E takes advantage of the new 6 GHz band that will initially only serve the highest-performance, next-generation client device to create a cleaner RF environment. Offloading congestion in 2.4 GHz/5 GHz bands with 6E-capable hardware helps eliminate RF contention for a more efficient wireless experience for all devices and users. This means easier transfer of video, medical imaging, analytics, and documents with better support of videoconferencing and voice calls; it also means hospital administrators and physicians won’t have to contend with slow download times or inhibited communications.
Connected devices often ‘wake up’ to share data and keep connection with the network; this can cause battery life and energy to die prematurely – certainly not ideal in mission-critical (if not life-critical) settings. Wi-Fi 6E employs Target Wake Time (TWT) to boost device life; as clinicians increasingly rely on devices, every bit of battery life counts and unexpected shutdowns only interrupt patient care and/or operational efficiency.
As healthcare facilities continue to integrate newer technologies, there's a growing need to ensure every device is included. Enter Wireless Workgroup Bridging, a technique poised for resurgence. This methodology enables previously networked (but not wirelessly connected) devices to integrate with the cutting-edge 6 GHz network. How? By simply connecting an Access Point through the device's ethernet port. Adjusting the mode of this Access Point then establishes a bridge to the 6 GHz network, effectively revitalizing older equipment to meet contemporary standards.
Such advancements couldn't come at a more opportune time. With mounting pressures on healthcare institutions to economize and maximize the utility of current assets, extending the lifespan of crucial devices becomes paramount. It's worth noting that not all device manufacturers swiftly transition to leveraging emerging technologies. In scenarios where budget constraints meet limited alternatives, the revival of wireless workgroup bridging emerges as a compelling solution for healthcare.
Wi-Fi 6E wireless access points are poised to redefine healthcare technology, delivering speeds up to 2.5x faster than their Wi-Fi 6 counterparts. This accelerated throughput facilitates faster data transmissions, optimizing the quality and speed for critical data files such as MRI scans, radiography, and ultrasounds. The improved speed also significantly enhances telemedicine sessions, ensuring that consultations are as clear and real-time as possible. Regarding security, Wi-Fi 6E introduces the new WPA3 encryption and authentication protocol, ensuring robust protection for all connected devices.
But the true marvel of the 6 GHz spectrum, on which Wi-Fi 6E operates, is its capacity to evolve science fiction concepts into scientific reality. The exclusive bandwidth, untainted by the constraints of older Wi-Fi generations, propels the adoption of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in healthcare. As these high-bandwidth applications gain traction, clinicians will be equipped with immersive training tools to simulate realistic scenarios and better prepare for real-world patient care.
This combination of superior performance, enhanced security, and cutting-edge applications positions
Wi-Fi 6E as the cornerstone for future healthcare innovations. By harnessing this power, healthcare IT leaders are not just keeping pace with the digital transformation, they are also setting the stage for a more interconnected and efficient future, accommodating the burgeoning influx of IoT and various other devices into the network.
Extreme Networks continues to spearhead innovations within the Wi-Fi 6E domain as a wired and wireless networking leader. Initially setting the benchmark with the AP4000, the company further bolstered its portfolio by being the first to ship an Enterprise Grade Wi-Fi 6E solution. In August 2022, they rolled out the AP5050, the industry's first outdoor Wi-Fi 6E Access Point, tailor-made for expansive outdoor venues such as stadiums and university campuses. This model boasts enhanced wireless experiences, offering increased speeds and minimized interference by leveraging up to three times the spectrum of preceding Wi-Fi iterations. The device also benefits from the cloud-based insights offered by the ™ IQ platform. Fast forward to May 2023, Extreme Networks added the AP3000 to their lineup, branding it as the market's smallest and most energy-efficient Wi-Fi 6E access point. Specifically engineered to cater to diverse needs, the AP3000 excels in environments ranging from high-ceilinged warehouses to educational classrooms, ensuring a consistent, high-quality user experience. The AP4000, AP5050, and AP3000 collectively underscore Extreme Network's commitment to advancing wireless technology and addressing the multifaceted demands of the enterprise sector.
Extreme’s lead customers, including large healthcare providers, are rolling out Wi-Fi 6E technology, designed for high-density environments such as healthcare facilities and large campus hospitals. Take Novant Health, which has partnered with Extreme to roll out Wi-Fi 6E for expanded network capacity and improved performance for mission-critical healthcare applications and medical devices.