The transition to remote and hybrid work models has underscored just how dependent we’ve become on wireless networks. Wi-Fi activity last year increased dramatically, with record numbers of users connecting to corporate networks with their mobile devices.
However, that increased activity also exposed some of the weaknesses in the current wireless network infrastructure. A recent survey found that as many as one-third of Wi-Fi networks experience frequent performance issues causing outages and business interruptions.
Many organizations will address these challenges by upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 networking gear in 2023. Also known as 802.11ax or High-Efficiency Wi-Fi, the Wi-Fi 6 standard was designed to improve speed, increase efficiency and reduce congestion in heavy bandwidth-usage scenarios. Analysts say it more than doubles Wi-Fi 5 speeds and will efficiently support twice as many devices.
The standard was introduced in 2019 and has seen rapid adoption. The Wi-Fi Alliance says that Wi-Fi 6 surpassed 50 percent market share in just three years, compared to four years for Wi-Fi 5.
Although Wi-Fi 6 will deliver increased efficiency and reliability, the upgrade process requires careful planning. Here are five steps you should take to ensure a successful upgrade:
Wi-Fi 6 can deliver multi-gigabit connections — but only if the wired network can handle those demands. You can certainly connect a Wi-Fi 6 access point (AP) to a typical gigabit network, but you won’t realize the peak possible connection speeds. If you want to reach max performance, you may need to upgrade the cabling that connects to the APs. You’ll also need switches that support Wi-Fi 6 data rates.
In most offices, certain areas will require more capacity. For instance, conference rooms, cafeterias, and other common areas where groups gather may require high-density coverage, particularly if users are accessing audio and video. Your planning process should evaluate variations in traffic patterns, load balancing, Quality of Service, and other factors.
Interview employees, IT staff, and other stakeholders to understand the devices and applications that are being used. This will help determine how much aggregate bandwidth is required in the coverage area. It’s also important for understanding what improvements the company is seeking and the specific business cases the upgrade is meant to address.
This typically involves walking through the site and measuring signal strength in multiple locations in order to develop a coverage map. A spectrum analyzer can also identify sources of radio-frequency interference. Predictive site survey applications can create 3-D models of the environment to provide an even clearer picture. These solutions can produce network simulations and heat maps that give a visual representation of anticipated signal strength and application throughput.
Following the update, it is critical to validate that the project is actually delivering the speed and capacity benefits you anticipated. Environmental changes during the project can result in unanticipated performance problems. For example, changes in office configurations or signal interference from neighboring offices can degrade performance. A follow-up validation survey will help you identify and remediate any unexpected issues.
The need to support increasing numbers of mobile and remote employees has made a reliable wireless network a business necessity. An upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 will deliver significant business benefits, provided it is carefully planned and properly implemented.
If a Wi-Fi upgrade is one of your objectives for 2023, contact the experts at Rahi. Our ELEVATE framework for network infrastructure combines consulting, professional, and managed services to ensure the successful planning, implementation, and management of robust wireless networks.
Let our experts design, develop, deploy and manage your requirements while you focus on what's important for your business