On September 20, hundreds of thousands of consumers worldwide got their hands on Apple's newest smartphone.
In addition to its "triple-camera arrays," super-crisp screen resolution and new processor, the iPhone 11 supports the latest WiFi standard. Combined with the sale of tens of millions of Samsung Galaxy S10 smartphones (launched on February 20 and also featuring the latest WiFi specifications), it's safe to say that the adoption of WiFi 6 (a.k.a. 802.11ax) is set to explode. The latest standard is expected to be ratified by the end of 2019.
So, what are some of the advantages of this latest WiFi technology standard when compared to WiFi 5?
Enhanced capacity: Recent tests report the latest iteration boasts speeds 35% to 40% faster than WiFi 5, with transfer speeds clocked at 1,320 Mbps.
Increased spectral efficiency: Multi-user, multiple-input multiple-output (MU-MIMO) technology, boosted with orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA), allows the transmission of up to eight concurrent streams (when a gateway has eight antennas), in both directions (upstream and downstream) and on both the 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrums. By comparison, WiFi 5 supports four concurrent streams, only in the downstream direction and only on the 5 GHz spectrum. The result? With WiFi 6, there's a significant increase in network efficiency and the ability for providers to simultaneously connect twice as many devices to a gateway.
Expanded coverage: Improvements to antenna design and arrays that allow them to reach 8x8 for the 5 GHz spectrum and 4x4 for the 2.4 GHz spectrum empower WiFi signals to be transmitted further, creating connected devices located far from the gateway. This is the case even when devices connect to 5 GHz radio, the spectrum best-equipped to deliver video traffic.
Improved power savings: WiFi 6 requires less power from connected devices, thanks to the introduction of Target Wait Time (TWT). This is an adjustable value that allows IoT devices to be configured to send data to the gateway less frequently. It's particularly ideal for IoT devices that cannot be connected to a power source and, instead, rely on batteries. Pundits predict the availability of WiFi 6 will result in many manufacturers developing more low-power WiFi 6-enabled devices.
Solid return for WiFi 6 tech
Looking back at the adoption of the most recent WiFi standard -- 802.11ac or WiFi 5 -- we see a six-year adoption curve that began when the standard was introduced in 2013. In fact, WiFi 5 is the most commonly deployed wireless technology today, with estimates suggesting that 60% to 70% of in-home WiFi devices support this standard.
At Calix, we believe a WiFi 6 solution, properly deployed, will enjoy a lifespan of at least six years. With the Federal Communications Commission's new initiative to open up the 6 GHz spectrum, thereby creating 1.2 GHz of channel bandwidth and more room for wireless technology, WiFi 6 may easily expand its lifecycle beyond six years.
A WiFi 6 Solution, properly deployed, will enjoy a lifespan of at least six years.
Adopt WiFi now and get ahead of the curve -- literally
With the holiday season just a few weeks away, CSPs need to ask themselves whether they are ready to offer routers and gateways that will allow subscribers to experience the advantages associated with the WiFi 6 technology that is built into their newly purchased devices.
CSPs that answer 'yes' to this question will have some happy subscribers on their hands. They'll also have a new source of recurring revenue, due to the array of managed service offerings evolving around WiFi and connected homes.
Those that answer no, however, force customers to purchase consumer-grade WiFi routers that cost a hefty $350 to $500. Worse still, when subscribers have issues with these devices, CSPs will not be able to provide remote technical support and must resolve these complaints by sending expensive trucks and teams to possibly disgruntled customers' homes. Or subscribers cancel their service, ending their relationship with the provider -- and any opportunity for future revenue.
In fact, in a poll of attendees of two recent Calix webinars on WiFi 6, 77% of service providers said they offer managed services today. These offerings span from providing a WiFi router all the way to delivering various systems (either lease, purchase or included in monthly Internet subscription cost), from consumer-grade to carrier-grade and remote technical support and troubleshooting.
WiFi 6 has new capabilities designed to improve our phones, our consumer apps and our communication. It also has the real potential to enhance providers' business opportunities by creating superior subscriber service while simultaneously increasing ARPU and stickiness.
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