Wi-Fi 6–The Advantages Are Real

Wi-Fi 6 offers several advantages over Wi-Fi 5, according to Intel IT testing.

Wi-Fi 6 may be the ideal gateway toward realization of an enterprise-wide wireless infrastructure. With many of our office spaces temporarily vacated due to the COVID pandemic, we had the unique opportunity to test this latest Wi-Fi standard in a real office environment using laptops equipped with Intel® Wi-Fi 6E (AX210) network cards.

We partnered with Intel’s Client Computing Group to conduct a series of tests within these spaces. The team systematically stressed the network with scenarios relevant to today’s working environments, including an increased number of connected devices and real-time collaboration applications. We varied user counts, roaming settings, channel configurations and more to benchmark the performance of each configuration.

Our test results demonstrated that a Wi-Fi 6 upgrade can provide the following advantages for a dense enterprise wireless local area network (WLAN):

  • The ability to increase the number of users and devices per access point (AP), reducing deployment costs
  • Enhanced support for an increasing number of devices with existing deployment densities
  • Improved high-density performance with less interference, fewer dropped connections and more efficient packet transmission
  • Faster data throughput
  • Consistent service and improved reliability

We conducted four tests:

  • Maximum user capacity per AP
  • Client roaming and advanced roaming features
  • Dual radios on the same band
  • Wider channels and co-channel interference

Based on this testing, we feel confident that upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 would provide Intel employees with the advantages of a better overall wireless performance while reducing costs associated with hardwiring our facilities. We also learned valuable lessons that can be applied toward future deployments:

  1. AP capacity. Future Wi-Fi 6 deployments will enable more user connections to APs without compromising end-user experience. This aligns with the expected user growth associated with the introduction of new IoT devices across the enterprise and the migration to a “no wires” office.
  2. Performance. Even at increased capacity per AP, we found that upgrading to the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology improved throughput and latency when compared to Wi-Fi 5.
  3. Advanced roaming features. 802.11k can be safely enabled, regardless of the setting. Using multiple radios on the same AP resulted in excessive 802.11v forced roaming, raising the question of whether using two radios on the same band is desirable. Currently, a third radio is recommended for use in “monitoring only” mode until Wi-Fi 6E with 6 GHz is available.
  4. Co-channel interference. We observed the impact of the co-channel interference when the non-overlapping channel list was around six channels. Fewer channels created a performance impact to our end customers. We concluded that the ideal environment should contain at least six non-overlapping channels for a dense WLAN enterprise deployment. The bandwidth will increase significantly with Wi-Fi 6E and the use of channel bonding, which is currently limited to 40 MHz.

We hope that sharing our insights into the advantages of Wi-Fi 6 can help the IT industry achieve successful Wi-Fi 6 deployments.