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WiFi 6 is rolling

5G and WiFi6 are in part complementary and in part alternative. Image credit: Aruba

The WiFi 6 standard, IEEE 802.11ax,  is now supplemented by the certification program (issued by the WiFi Alliance, important because it ensures interoperability of devices) and WiFi enabled devices are starting to appear on the market (iPhone 11 and Galaxy S10 have WiFi 6). What is most important is that the new devices coming to the market in the next six months will start embedding WiFi 6. Given the relatively short life time of mass market electronic equipment we can expect a rapid dissemination of WiFi 6.
WiFi 6 is ideally positioned for providing connectivity in “device-dense” environment, like airports, railway stations, malls, stadiums. It uses a 1024-QAM modulation (currently 5G is being deployed with 256-QAM but it will eventually move up to 1024-QAM). What WiFi 6 misses is .. .the network.  A partial step in that direction is being made by the NGH – Next Generation Hotspot – Passpoint. A single authentication on a hotspot is sufficient to connect to any hotspot (participating in the network). Clearly this is not providing a global network because there is no WiFi global coverage.

An Operator driven wireless network is still needed for global coverage but in smaller areas WiFi 6 can provide the connectivity and the “experience” of a full fledged wireless network. This was not possible with the previous WiFi standards.

By the end of the next decade WiFi coverage and 5G coverage will be working seamless from the point of view of the end user (and of the terminal). The session management will shift from the network (and the Telco Operator) to the device and it will be this latter that will be selecting, dynamically, the most appropriate (for cost, performance, power use) gateway. This will not be -only- a technical aspect, it will change the business landscape. In the last decade we have seen the emergence of OTT -Over The Top- that steal the delivery of services from the Operators. In the future decades we might be seeing the emergence of an oligopoly of a few global companies that will become global connectivity providers.

 

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.