5 questions to answer before deploying Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 offers many valuable new features including speed and higher density, but it’s different from its predecessors, so make sure your wired network and your organization are ready for it.

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The Wi-FI 6 standard (802.11ax) is bringing many exciting improvements to Wi-Fi that make it an enticing option. These include speed, in the form of real-world multi-gigabit wireless connections, but also support for high-density networks like those in stadiums. However, it will take some careful thought and planning to know when to take the leap to Wi-Fi 6.

Do you need the speed?

To make multi-gigabit wireless speeds possible, most Wi-Fi 6 access points (AP) ship with a 2.5Gbps or 5Gbps LAN connection, whereas nearly all Wi-Fi 5 APs have a 1Gbps interface. Connecting a Wi-Fi 6 AP to a typical gigabit network is possible but will bottleneck the speeds of the Wi-Fi so clients won’t be able to realize connection speeds over 1Gbps to the internal LAN or internet.

On the other hand, you might not need such fast Wi-Fi-access speeds. For casual Wi-Fi usage by smartphones and laptops in an office you probably don’t. But it would help on networks with a high-density of users or those with sensitive or high-throughput applications like streaming 4K videos – especially if the content is coming from within the LAN instead of the Internet.

Is your wired network ready?

Evaluate your current network to see what needs upgrading on the wired side in order to get the multi-gigabit support. Here’s what to look for:

  • Switches: Check the maximum data rate supported by any switches located between the APs and the router. If the Wi-Fi clients will be accessing network shares on the LAN, follow the path that the traffic will travel, and evaluate those switches as well.
  • Power-over-Ethernet: If using PoE via the switch or external injectors to power the APs, check which PoE standard and data rates they support. Keep in mind that most Wi-Fi 6 APs will require compliance with at least the PoE+ standard (802.3at). Though some APs will support the legacy PoE standard (802.3af), it will usually reduce the performance of the AP and most likely only support a maximum data rate of 1Gbps. For future-proofing your PoE, consider the newer PoE++ standard (802.3bt) if it’s available on a switch or injector.
  • Cabling: To get better than 1Gbps on the wired side, you need to have at least Cat6 cabling out to the APs and any connections between them and the router. For future-proofing, consider Cat6a, Cat7, Cat7a, or, if it’s available and plausible, Cat8. If you have the legacy Cat5e or older cabling, keep in mind you might not have to re-cable every Ethernet outlet. Think about

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