WiFi 6 is the future of remote working
By Nyeleti Shikwambane, Huawei Product Manager
Although remote work isn’t new, the COVID-19 pandemic definitely accelerated its adoption to the point where it has become the new reality. With the third wave hitting South Africa, among other countries, employees around the world are realising they might be working from home for some time still, meaning meetings held via video-conferencing and events hosted as webinars may be the norm for quite a while.
"There’s no question that remote work is here to stay," said Nyeleti Shikwambane, Huawei Product Manager at leading local ICT distributor Pinnacle. “In fact, we can expect to see even more people no longer working only from the office and moving between a variety of locations, sometimes working from home, sometimes from the office, sometimes even from coffee shops and other public places.”
However, while the world has adapted brilliantly to this new paradigm, remote working still goes hand-in-hand with several concerns. Business leaders are worried about security, visibility and seamless communications, but these aren’t top of the list. What is paramount is networking and connectivity, as employees cannot do their jobs effectively if they lack the connectivity and infrastructure to do so.
“Irrespective of whether professionals are working from home or from the office, they expect the same support and levels of service from their connection and other technology, and need to be sure their tech department will support them no matter where they are,” says Shikwambane.
For this reason, she says IT teams are looking for ways to improve connectivity, and they need look no further than WiFi 6. “People worry about limited bandwidth, and dropping connections if someone else at their home is busy with bandwidth-heavy activities. They also worry about their connection going down, particularly if they are in the middle of an important call or meeting, perhaps even one with the board or other C-level executives. This can be a huge problem.
“WiFi 6 offers far better redundancy," Shikwambane adds, “It mean users don’t need to depend on a single work connection and guarantees that they can remain productive, enjoy uninterrupted connectivity and the right resiliency.”
She says as technology evolves and gets better and better, each new generation of WiFi promises a better experience for its users. “Let’s face it, WiFi 6 could not have happened at a better time. Its numerous benefits and advances are perfect for setting up home networks for users that can easily cope with the traffic of WebEx, Google and Zoom meetings, as well as personal uses, such as streaming and other online entertainments.”
Delving further into the benefits, Shikwambane says one of the most promising is the faster speed that WiFi 6 offers. “WiFi 6 is capable of a maximum throughput of 9.6Gbps across multiple channels, much faster when compared to 3.5 Gbps on WiFi 5." In theory, a WiFi 6 capable router could hit speeds over 250% faster than current WiFi 5 devices; however, routers seldom support the fastest speeds possible, so users should manage their expectations.”
Another benefit, is enhanced security, she says. “Particularly with the Protection of Personal Information Act coming into effect in a few days, security is a bigger issue than ever. Add to this the vastly wider attack surface that companies have to deal with thanks to having their workforces spread out all over due to the pandemic, and it’s easy to understand why security is a concern.”
However, WiFi 6 solves this issue, and organisations in every industry can rest assured that their intellectual property and sensitive information are safe and secure, as WiFi 6 devices have to be able to support WPA3 security protocols, Shikwambane explains. WPA3 employs a system known as WiFi Device Provisioning Protocol which enables users to make use of NFC tags or QR codes to allow devices on the network. Moreover, WPA3 security uses GCMP-256 encryption, which is far better than the 128-bit encryption used before.
Then, she says, there’s the question of increased capacity. “In my opinion, this is probably the most compelling benefit of WiFi 6. It’s not about speed, but capacity, and when you have multiple users, with multiple smart IOT devices that are all vying for space and connecting to a single network, then WiFi 6 is a saviour. WiFi 6 technology opens more channels to accommodate far more data traffic, by splitting a wireless channel into many more sub-channels. This is known as Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) and it brings users nearly four times more capacity than its predecessor, enabling many more devices to connect simultaneously, with no interruptions.”
Finally, Shikwambane says WiFi 6 offers an improved range and better power management. “WiFi 6 is far more clever than WiFi 5. For example, if a connected device is situated some distance from the router, WiFi 6 has the intelligence to tell the router to send stronger signals to those devices to ensure they have adequate connectivity. In addition, WiFi 6 devices have a feature called Target Wake Time, which enables an AP to manage activity across the WiFi network, in order to minimise medium contention between stations, and to lessen the required amount of time that an STA in the power-save mode needs to be awake. In other words, this means that battery-operated IOT devices need only talk to the router when necessary, which saves their battery life.”
Get in touch with Shikwambaneto find out more about the Huawei WiFi 6 offering: NyeletiS@pinnacle.co.za Linkedin