Wi-Fi is the world’s leading short-range wireless technology and found universally: in most homes, offices and public spaces. The widespread nature of Wi-Fi’s network connectivity has resulted in a vast increase in the number of IoT and ultra-small devices that seek to take advantage of its widespread connectivity. But where the amount of Wi-Fi connected devices has grown exponentially, often the data rate of Wi-Fi networks fall from the sheer volume of connections on the network. Fortunately, Wi-Fi 6 solves this issue of device density with ultra-small devices such as wearables and temperature monitors.
So, how exactly does Wi-Fi 6 alleviate the problems associated with high device density, and how does it particularly benefit ultra-small devices?
What is Wi-Fi 6?
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is the most recent iteration of standardised wireless local-area networks (WLANs) and was introduced in 2019. It is the successor to 802.11ac, recently named as Wi-Fi 5, and operates on 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands. Wi-Fi 6 brought with it faster speeds, greater bandwidth and improved operational efficiency. It also makes use of multi-user technologies like orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) and MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input, multiple output) to provide better connectivity with high device density.
Wi-Fi 6 is ultimately seen as an upgrade to 802.11ac and brings with it new capabilities for high-density applications like manufacturing, smart homes, and stadiums. Ultra-small devices in particular benefit from the enhanced multi-user capabilities of Wi-Fi 6 through improved access point capacity and access to a wide range of frequency bands.
Access point capacity for ultra-small devices
The demand for Wi-Fi has greatly increased in recent years with a wide range of small devices consuming bandwidth in almost every industry. In an office, what was once a few devices and workstations on your Wi-Fi network has now grown to an array of sensors, mobile devices, wearables and more sharing a single connection. A common issue that arose in these situations was traffic congestion; the density of devices using the same network would reduce the throughput performance and result in lowered connectivity.
Wi-Fi 6 solves the issue of traffic congestion by improving access point (AP) capacity through OFDMA. An access point refers to a device, usually a router, that provides internet connectivity to the WLAN connection in an area. OFDMA is a main feature of Wi-Fi 6 and subdivides a communication channel into smaller frequency allocations, which then allows more devices to connect to the AP without negatively impacting the performance and efficiency of the network. This particularly benefits ultra-small devices that typically have lower demands of speed and bandwidth and can function optimally on subdivided channels.
Efficiency on a wider frequency range
Another aspect of how Wi-Fi 6 can benefit ultra-small devices is through efficiently using a wider frequency range. Wi-Fi 5 operates on the 5 GHz frequency band which often results in a congestion of devices using the same spectrum, making interference commonplace. With the increase in devices, including ultra-small devices on a single network, this problem can become commonplace in high-density scenarios like manufacturing.
Wi-Fi 6 operates on both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz frequency bands (as well as Wi-Fi 6E functioning on the 6 GHz band), allowing for a wider range of connectivity. This enables a greater number of devices to connect to a single network without issues of congestion or interference affecting Wi-Fi performance. Wi-Fi 6 also uses MU-MIMO to provide further multi-user capabilities through the use of multiple antennas on both the AP and receiving devices; MU-MIMO allows the connection of multiple devices simultaneously to improve efficiency. Even though MU-MIMO requires multiple antennas that can interfere with the integration of devices with limited PCB space, it enables the network to process more streams of data input/output at the same time benefiting all devices on dense networks.
Integrating Wi-Fi 6 into your ultra-small device
Most APs can support both Wi-Fi 5 & 6, but integrating Wi-Fi 6 means you can take advantage of the range of benefits brought about by the most recent iteration of WLAN networks. Whether you’re in a manufacturing, industrial or office environment, integrating Wi-Fi 6 to your devices can result in massive improvements in connectivity without negatively impacting performance.
At Antenova, we offer a range of resources and guides to ensure you can integrate the right antenna for your device. Click below to use our antenna selection and placement tool to choose the right antenna based on your PCB size, technologies and preferred layout.