Beginning with a stroke of genius that connected two bank machines wirelessly, Wi-Fi has undergone over 20 years of development and penetrated into all aspects of society, occupying almost half of the device networking market. PCs, laptops, and almost all hand-held devices nowadays support Wi-Fi, even if they do not necessarily support cellular communication. With the continuous increase in application scenarios and digital requirements, Wi-Fi has also evolved to the next generation—802.11ax. This latest technology system, which has been renamed “Wi-Fi 6”, has gained favor within the business community over the past year due to its game-changing performance. It has become the preferred support network for more enterprises to promote transformation and redefine their competitiveness.
According to the latest report on global Wi-Fi 6 indoor Access Point (AP) market share from 2018 Q3 to 2019 Q3 by Dell’Oro Group, a renowned analyst organization, overall global Wi-Fi 6 market revenue surged over the first three quarters of 2019, amounting to 30 times that of 2018. Further estimates indicate that Wi-Fi 6 devices will account for one third of the global Wi-Fi market by 2020.
“5G changes society, and Wi-Fi 6 transforms enterprises.” In the future, this may be the impression you get when you look back at 2019, the first year of Wi-Fi 6 commercial use.
Enterprise Networks Usher in the Wi-Fi 6 Era
The booming digital economy and explosion of emerging digital technologies have led to the world developing faster than anticipated. It is possible that more development will occur in one year than the last 100 years. For enterprises, new opportunities and blue oceans are on the verge of reality, while industry disruption as well as shuffling are prevalent. Whether enterprises proactively embrace opportunities to stimulate innovation or passively react so as not to be left behind, digital transformation has already become the norm.
According to research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), digital transformation can be classified into two types: digitized and digital. The digitized process aims to achieve higher efficiency, higher reliability, and lower costs, while the digital process focuses on rapid innovation, revenue generation, and growth. According to a report by the International Data Corporation (IDC), digital transformation has become the core strategy of most enterprises. Direct investment in digital transformation is growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 17.5 percent and is expected to attain US$7.4 trillion by 2020 to 2023.
This sweeping trend will affect network transformation first. In the future, enterprise networks will face unprecedented challenges due to factors such as 86 percent of enterprises using AI, collaboration between hundreds of billions of production and office terminals, “cloudification” requirements for 100 percent of enterprise services, the popularization of new applications with high interactivity, as well as various security issues. A network that is ubiquitous like water and air, on-demand, as well as easy to manage is key to successful digital transformation.
Therefore, it is not difficult to understand how 2019 became the first year for the commercial use of Wi-Fi 6. Wi-Fi has fundamentally been transformed by Wi-Fi 6, which incorporates numerous key 5G technologies. That is, breakthroughs have been achieved in various aspects such as bandwidth, concurrency, latency, transmission range, and battery life. For example, the maximum bandwidth of each terminal and number of concurrent network terminals have both increased more than four times. Furthermore, latency has reduced by more than two thirds. All these improvements create an entirely new user experience. Another advantage that cannot be ignored is the lower deployment and usage costs of Wi-Fi compared to other connection methods.
Wi-Fi 6 will be deployed in 90 percent of enterprises by 2023 according to the Unleashing the Power of Wi-Fi, Enterprise-Grade Wi-Fi 6 Forecast 2019–2023 white paper that was released during the 2019 Mobile World Congress (MWC), as well as the opinions of industry standards organizations and analysts.
How Does Wi-Fi 6 Change Enterprises?
Looking ahead, we may understand the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 better by interpreting some typical scenarios.
For example, in enterprise office scenarios, 4K video conferences anytime and anywhere require a stable bandwidth of at least 40 Mbit/s for each user. Wi-Fi 6 can meet this expectation well because its 1024-QAM technology improves overall network bandwidth and ensures Ultra-HD (UHD) video experience for each user. Another example lies in the industrial production environment that has high requirements on network stability. However, in ultra-high density concurrency scenarios, the data transmission rate and network stability of terminals decrease sharply. To address these pain points, Wi-Fi 6 technologies, such as uplink and downlink Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO) and Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA), improve concurrent capacity and transmission efficiency, ensuring industrial production terminals with continuous and stable operations. Internet of Things (IoT) applications will also gain additional value-added features through Wi-Fi 6. For example, Target Wake Time (TWT) can reduce UE power consumption and save battery life.
“Now is a good time to start planning for Wi-Fi 6. According to the digital transformation strategy and impact of Wi-Fi 6 on ICT infrastructure changes, CIOs and IT leaders need to consider future Wi-Fi 6 upgrades to achieve smoother migration,” said Dr. Osama Aboul-Magd, Chairman of the IEEE 802.11ax standard task group. He also pointed out that with user numbers and coverage being constant, Wi-Fi 6 requires significantly fewer APs than the previous Wi-Fi generations, saving capital expenditure considerably.
To truly use Wi-Fi 6 to enable digital transformation, field-proven and leading commercial Wi-Fi 6 products are essential. As a leading ICT vendor, Huawei is a leader in 5G and a frontrunner of the Wi-Fi 6 industry. The company has been participating in the establishment of next-generation Wi-Fi standards since 2014. It released the industry’s first Wi-Fi 6 AP in 2017, and helped deploy Shanghai’s first enterprise-class Wi-Fi 6 network in 2018. This shows that Huawei plays a key role in end-to-end processes ranging from standard formulation to product development and commercial applications. Integrating the advantages of Huawei’s own 5G technologies, AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 series products use innovative smart antennas and algorithms to build Wi-Fi 6 networks with “zero coverage holes, zero waiting time, and zero packet loss during roaming” for enterprises of all sizes. This allows various industries to accelerate toward a fully connected, intelligent world.
According to the report on global Wi-Fi 6 indoor AP market share from 2018 Q3 to 2019 Q3 by Dell’Oro Group, Huawei ranks first in both the global (excluding North America) and Chinese markets. Huawei Wi-Fi 6 APs have been deployed in five regions worldwide, serving fields such as government, education, finance, energy, airports, and manufacturing. These success cases provide immense demonstration and reference value.
A financial center in the Middle East houses more than 2000 financial companies, as well as ultra-modern office spaces, retail stores, restaurants, art galleries, public green spaces, and hotels. Huawei AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 has helped the financial center build ubiquitous and ultra-broadband digital workspaces. The single-carrier peak rate of Huawei’s Wi-Fi 6 APs attain 3.8 Gbit/s, which is the highest throughput in the industry as verified by Tolly Group, an international authoritative evaluation organization. This all-time high throughput meets the requirements of ultra-broadband service applications, such as 4K/8K HD video. Each AP supports over 200 concurrent connections, ideally suited to guest access requirements in high-density scenarios, including office spaces, public green spaces, and art galleries.
Mondragon University, a renowned university in Spain, has been committed to innovating and developing new education paradigms based on ICT technologies. However, its existing campus network is plagued by poor Wi-Fi roaming experience and frequent signal interruption, which have become the biggest bottlenecks. Huawei AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 utilizes unparalleled four-element smart antennas to enable wireless signals that “move with people,” expanding coverage distance by 20 percent. Huawei’s agile distributed Wi-Fi solution provides high-performance network experience for students in dormitories, improving management efficiency by 90 percent. In addition, the AirEngine-based Dynamic Turbo (an intelligent application acceleration technology) reduces Wi-Fi network latency to 10 ms, meeting requirement for VR/AR teaching without dizziness over long periods.
Airports, stadiums, coffee shops, and other public locations are traditional Wi-Fi deployment scenarios. However, in the past, experience sharply declined as the number of connections increased. A large airport in Asia is one of the busiest in the world, with passenger traffic reaching new heights every year. Huawei AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 is powered by the industry’s fastest Wi-Fi 6 APs that support high concurrency, meeting the wireless access requirements of densely populated airports and ensuring smooth HD video playback. In addition, Huawei AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 supports IoT extension modules, ensuring value-added services, such as asset management as well as positioning and navigation, are effectively deployed in airports.
AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 Network That Goes Beyond Wi-Fi 6
Compared with other Wi-Fi vendors, Huawei is not only the first company to invest in and promote the development of commercial Wi-Fi 6 products, but more importantly, it provides real-world end-to-end Wi-Fi 6 enterprise network solutions. In addition to ubiquitous wireless access with service continuity, Huawei’s solutions also include ultra-broadband, intelligent transmission, as well as intelligent, simplified management and O&M.
In terms of network transmission, CloudEngine (switches) are part of Huawei’s “four-engine” product portfolios. In June 2019, Huawei launched the all-new CloudEngine S series campus switches that are tailored for enterprise digitalization in the Wi-Fi 6 and cloud native era. These switches are available in 16 models in several series: CloudEngine S5700 series (intelligent GE access switches), CloudEngine S6700 series (10GE routing aggregation switches), and CloudEngine S12700E series (industry’s highest-performance core switches).
According to Tolly Group’s test report, the switching capacity of the CloudEngine S12700E is six times that of the industry average. Furthermore, these campus core switches have the highest single-slot bandwidth, highest 100GE port density, and largest system switching capacity. In addition, the CloudEngine S series is one-of-a-kind in the industry with wired and wireless convergence capabilities, a threat deception engine, and the telemetry technology. Based on the new Solar chips, as well as well-trained and optimized network AI algorithms, CloudEngine S series switches can provide zero packet loss and non-blocking services in high concurrency, large capacity, and heavy load scenarios, ensuring the quality of data center-level networks and services.
In terms of network management, the popularization of mobile offices and cloud applications is leading to increasingly intricate network policy management. Built on the Intent-Driven Network (IDN), Huawei’s CloudCampus solution is capable of intent-driven and proactive O&M, delivering “zero-touch” management and O&M.
As an embodiment of the AI-powered network layer, iMaster NCE is the industry’s first network automation and intelligence platform that integrates management, control, analysis, and AI functions. It features full-lifecycle automated management and intelligent O&M of networks. Tailored for campus networks, iMaster NCE-Campus provides unmatched provisioning capabilities such as one-stop network planning, deployment, and policy automation based on service intent. Using big data analytics and AI technologies, iMaster NCE-Campus also proactively identifies and analyzes network faults to implement intelligent closed-loop management.
Eric Xu, Huawei’s Rotating Chairman, revealed in his New Year message that as of 2019, more than 700 cities and 228 Fortune Global 500 companies had chosen Huawei as their digital transformation partner. Wi-Fi 6’s large-scale deployment on enterprise networks has just begun. Driven by vendors such as Huawei, Wi-Fi 6 is expected to truly become a basic network technology with quality assurance that supplies endless power to enterprise production and service digitalization. In the future, we will undoubtedly hear an increasing number of success stories of how Wi-Fi 6 transforms enterprises.