WWT’s Anderson: What Customers Need to Know About 5G, Wi-Fi 6

5G and IoT

… conference rooms and the cafeteria or common workspaces, won’t be enough for these new scenarios. It’s not just going to be about coverage; it’s really going to be about capacity and design, where it’s going to take more APs to cover the workspace for the number of users and devices that are using it. And that’s what’s super important. It’s not really going to be about coverage. It’s going to be about capacity and devices this time.

CP: Is there a standard number of wireless hotspots one will need in order to cover certain amounts of space? Is there a specific formula one might use when going to Wi-Fi 6 that differs from how people mapped out how many hotspots to use, and where to install them, with Wi-Fi 5 and earlier versions?

NA: That’s what’s tough about wireless. It’s highly dependent on the physical space. And, also, where did people put their access points yesterday. Some people may be able to do the swap. It depends how they designed it previously. But I also expect we’re going to have to go in and do site modeling using tools to model what’s the best deployment look like for a specific environment. I don’t think there’s any rule-of-thumb formula where you can figure that out.

CP: How does one determine what tools to use to estimate the proper number of hotspots for a given implementation?

NA: There have been tools for quite a while to do those kind of physical surveys, where you go out and take a laptop and an access point that’s been put in a special mode to let you see what the signal propagation looks like. And then you can ingest and take those different data points and create the right models. But today the tools have gotten a lot more sophisticated. You can literally pull down a Google image of a floor space. Or it’s better if you have a CAD drawing of a floor layout, import that into a tool — even get manufacturer-specific tool where you can say, “I’m trying to build a Cisco Wi-Fi 6 network, or I’m trying to build an Aruba Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 network.” These tools have the wireless RF patterns built into them, so that you can model this without ever visiting the physical space in many cases. They create what’s called predictive surveys.

CP: What are some of the tools used for this?

NA: I’m referring to tools like Ekahau and AirMagnet. Those are the primary two; we’ve kind of standardized on Ekahau, because we found that they have the best 3-D modeling, and it lets you account for multistory buildings.

CP: If you’re going into a smaller organization, perhaps even a greenfield setup, would you encourage that the prospect to go with Wi-Fi 6, even if they’re working with a tight budget?

NA: I would, because it’s going to be the future. If you go with Wi-Fi 5, you’re not really future-proofing yourself very well. Now there is going to be a bit of a premium typically, because not only are we talking about the wireless access points, but the network switches that those are attached to have higher bandwidth. So, they’re inherently going to be a bit more expensive. It’s that ripple effect on your network. But I would still advise customers to …

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