back to article RTFM: Wireless Broadband Alliance squeezes out 40-page ode to the joy of Wi-Fi 6

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) has released guidelines for engineers who will have to implement Wi-Fi 6, meaning the advent of the 802.11ax standard is truly upon us – despite the fact it is not expected to be officially ratified until late 2019. Wi-Fi 6 involves different propagation and coverage density …

  1. Hans 1

    RTFM: Wireless Broadband Alliance squeezes out 40-page ode to the joy of Wi-Fi 6

    Brexit Party turn their backs, WI-FI 5 ought to be enough for everyone.

  2. Mage Silver badge

    Wi-Fi 6 represents the end of the idea of wiring desks for Ethernet

    That's total nonsense. Wireless is a SHARED channel. WiFi has no licencing or controls.

    Even 15 yo wiring supports 1 Gbps PER DESK to the switch. WiFi is really handy and useful, but it doesn't replace wiring to the desk, which needs power wiring anyway.

    Some of this will allow WiFi to compete with 5G in stadiums and auditoriums. However for the majority of homes and offices it's not going to make much difference in the real world. Perhaps it might help apartments a little, though RF screened walls, ceiling and floor is the best help. You'd want RF screened windows too, which blocks mobile. However if your Mobile number could "swap over" to wired / fibre broadband and connect to the phone via your WiFi point for incoming calls & SMS, not just IP based IM/VOIP (outgoing is easier) that would be more use than supposed super fast 4G/5G and this WiFi. However that would lose revenue for the Mobile companies, which is why they want LTE and "5G" pico-mobile-bases on WiFi bands.

    No doubt WiFi 6 has good things but it's hype to say Corporates will need to change deployment plans or stop wiring desks.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Wi-Fi 6 represents the end of the idea of wiring desks for Ethernet

      Where's the spec for Power over WiFi again?

      1. Charlie van Becelaere

        Re: Wi-Fi 6 represents the end of the idea of wiring desks for Ethernet

        "Where's the spec for Power over WiFi again?"

        Paging Mr Tesla....

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Wi-Fi 6 represents the end of the idea of wiring desks for Ethernet


      A dedicated one-gig tube direct to your PC? Or a fraction-of-a-gig, time-sliced, interferable, unpredictable radio connection shared with everyone in radio range?

      My rule of thumb for people who "just don't get it": Wifi is *at least* 20 times slower than a cable. It's that simple. I'm sure you can demo a really fast connection in a greenfield environment, but in the real world you're sharing it with everyone's mobile phone, tablet, etc. not to mention a huge tract of unlicensed spectrum users in the form of everything from doorbells to microwaves.

      Just assume, no matter what, that Wifi is *at least* 20 times slower. It works. You have a roaming profile on your work PC that takes a minute to log in? Yeah, that's going to take 20 minutes to happen over wifi. I kid you not.

      And when wifi does catch up so that even 1/20th of it is enough to run gigabit, then we'll all have 10G and 40G Ethernet connections anyway (10Gb is actually viable today, if you just have a little money to spend on it - the problem is the backend connection on the switch but if it has the processing power, you can get around that with LACP).

      It's fine for casual browsing. It's fine for home use. But it's 20 times slower than a cable. It's that simple. And the more you use it, deploy it, and mix it up between old and new wifi, the worse that ratio gets.

    3. Fatman

      Re: Wi-Fi 6 represents the end of the idea of wiring desks for Ethernet

      That statement was meant for the clueless ID10Ts in Manglement in an attempt to persuade them to splurge money on new shiny-shiny.

      Troops in the trenches know better. But don't tell Manglement that, they know better.

      Shades of an argument my former CIO had with another C-suite, who was totally clueless. We were renovating a couple of floors in our building when this occurred, with plans already made for Cat 7 F/FTP to be installed. He wanted to save money, and suggested using WiFi for the more than 150 people on each of the two floors. Without telling him, she had the cable installed in the wall, and the switches in place but powered off. Only the WiFi APs were hot. People bitched and moaned about how pathetic the network was. One morning after a month of hearing complaints, she had enough (I would suspect the CEO told her the point was well made) powered up the switches and handed out patch cords to every desktop on those floors, throwing one at the Mangler. "Plug your god damn computer into the orange wall jack, stop whining, and get to work." Mangler just sat there blown away by the sudden speed increase. She took the CEO aside, and I watched as she pointed at that Mangler and gave a `throat slitting move`. The CEO smirked, and nodded in the affirmative. That Mangler was seeking employment opportunities elsewhere before noon.

    4. Sampler

      Re: Wi-Fi 6 represents the end of the idea of wiring desks for Ethernet

      To be fair, where I currently work (as a data scientist, not in the IT role) they don't wire desks in any of the offices, it's wifi for everyone, both main offices in Sydney & Melbourne are over a hundred users, it works and has been fine for the past year and a bit I've been here, even using current spec gear, so yeah, I can see a lot of businesses when rolling out new offices may reconsider the cost of piping a gigabit to the desk - especially as most users would be fine with an old CAT5 100mb to the desk for emailing and a spot of youtube when no one's looking.

      Power users yeah, they're going to need the cable, but vast majority of office drones? I don't think it's coming in the future, I think it's here already for many companies, and, despite the protests above, it works...

      1. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: Wi-Fi 6 represents the end of the idea of wiring desks for Ethernet

        I'll give you my wired gigabit network when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

        1. ArrZarr

          Re: Wi-Fi 6 represents the end of the idea of wiring desks for Ethernet

          Y'know, I was going to post something almost entirely identical to that but you've beaten me to it.

          How DARE you.

          Have a pint.

      2. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Wi-Fi 6 represents the end of the idea of wiring desks for Ethernet

        The sorts of access points that can contain that - not only do they need (multi-)gigabit wiring to themselves, but they also have to mesh together with their neighbours well (which means you need a lot of them) and... they are not cheap. I can pay £600 for a single AP that would cover probably a "room" full of workstations (with maybe 50-100 devices, but range and coverage is the issue, not necessarily the sheer number of devices unless they are all pumping data 24/7).

        Even then, it's not just a case of buying a hundred APs and lumping them in a building, you'll end up with worse wifi than 10 more expensive managed APs, properly sited.

        Add on centralised/cloud management (a must, really, if you guys have any kind of MDM) and it suddenly becomes a lot more expensive than handing your electrician a 305m roll of Cat6 (about £50 worth) and saying "can you put that in the walls for us". Nobody deals in 100Mb any more, either.

        If you have a hundred users on Wifi over two offices in a major city center - you're paying for decent, most likely meshed, managed wifi, probably Ubiquity, Meraki or similar. If you have blanket coverage and not just "the desk areas", then they're paying even more. And they had to pay someone to wire those points in with Cat6, too, or they'd be useless - plus PoE (either switches, or decent injectors with lots of power points around the place to power them up) and decent switches on the back-end to run them all properly.

        By contrast I could probably pay a guy to wire an entire floor with double-Cat6 sockets to every desk for much less than even the points cost, let alone the controller and necessary PoE switches.

        They've done it for the look of the thing, not to save costs. And they are able to because you don't make heavy use of the system. When you do, you're going to have a shock - involving an awfully expensive wifi upgrade. When my switches max out and can no longer supply 48, PoE powered managed ports at Gigabit each, over a fibre 10Gb backend, I might have to pay a couple of grand to swap it out for an equivalent 10Gb switch with 40Gb fibre ports and give everyone an instant free upgrade.

        Fact is, your wifi wouldn't operate at all well without that exact switch sitting in a cupboard somewhere anyway... you've just bought the Wifi on top as a convenience and for the look of the thing.

  3. Mage Silver badge

    And when wifi does catch up

    Maybe IF, a big if. Physics. You'd need 20 to 50 times the spectrum. That's not feasible.

    IR and 20 GHz + WiFi can give near 1 Gbs (but not for shared access), however they are strict Line Of Sight. Maybe suit a cable free "dock" with induction charging on hot desks, with Ethernet and mains wiring!

  4. phuzz Silver badge

    ""I think Wi-Fi 6 represents the end of the idea of wiring desks for Ethernet,"

    You can have my cat5e when I no longer need to transfer multi-GB files around on the regular.

    (I'm sure it's fine for most users, but then 802.11b was good enough for most people.)

    1. Hans 1

      Transfer multi-GB over ether? How about external drives ? USB 3 is actually quite efficient, much faster than ethernet and you do not clog up the network for the others ...

      Never underestimate the bandwidth of a satchel full of USB sticks

      Apologies to M. Tanenbaum

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        On real-life tests, I get about 75MB/s over ethernet and 20MB/s over USB3.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Transfer multi-GB over ether? How about external drives ?

        External drives are all very well, but less useful when the multi-GB file has just been generated on a computer at a different site.

        1. mark4155
          Thumb Up

          Re: Transfer multi-GB over ether? How about external drives ?

          The true meaning of an external drive. When the computer is on another site. USB sticks won't save you then!

      3. Grikath

        Hold on, and let me get the cattleprod.....

        USB sticks in a production environment?!!

      4. keith_w Bronze badge

        Lots of places restrict copying to portable devices.

        Lots of places still use POE IP phones which (AFAIK) still require a desktop connection - and provide an additional connection for a computer. It will be a long time before this all goes away.

  5. Ljugtomten

    My biggest problem with 802.11ax AP's in the consumer market (prosumer?) is that most of them only have 1GBit interface on WAN unless you go for the premium models or products aimed at the professional market (with a price tag of "number of kidneys").

    You can get prosumer models with 2.5GBit WAN without giving up a whole kidney (TP-Link Archer AX6000), but the WAN will still be a bottle neck with many clients..

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Wifi operates entirely on the principle of a shared medium anyway.

      No one client is going to get that 2.5Gbit/s, and if they did, they'd be better off with a cable anyway.

      You have to go some to max out a wifi point, even of today's technology. And if you are, then pretty much you're using the wrong medium anyway.

      Wifi is for casual, low-bandwidth, spiky-connections-acceptable use. Anything else needs to be wired.

      Though you might "get away" with it for years, the second you start adding more stuff on wifi near the existing wifi (not even using it, but just trying to interfere/negotiate with it), your max speed will drop anyway.

      I stream TV over my very busy Wifi at home quite happily, while gaming, downloading, browsing and all my junk is connected. But my work desk is wired for several very good reasons. Even though I'm the IT guy and I literally have a bunch of very expensive Wifi points to hand and one actually in the room above my desk.

      Ethernet for "real work". Wifi for "casual". Yes, I can connect 150+ iPads, Chromebooks, etc. to the access point I use, and it works decently enough for all the ones that my team can physically use simultaneously (i.e. one per person). But you can kill the point with just one huge download unless you prioritise and limit traffic appropriately. I can kill wifi site-wide if there are big updates to push to all the wireless clients (averaging 30-40 clients per AP). I wouldn't ever use Wifi to do huge downloads, copy files, sync network drives, etc.

      Our wifi points are Gigabit. If they max out, they max out. I can't guarantee you a signal, a speed, or any reliability on them. You may well *get* good service in those respects out of them, but I will not guarantee it. Especially when you decide to sit 600 people in a place with a handful of access points and then tell them all to "download this video and watch it". Game over. But if you did that site-wide via a Skype call to all their wired desktops, even across sites, over the local network... not a problem in the slightest. I wouldn't even flinch and I'd guarantee that for you.

      1. Ljugtomten

        True, I also use wired connection for any "real" work (homelab and workstation are on 10GBE).

        The point I was trying to make, is that both 802.11ac and 802.11ax boasts with multiple gigabits per second shared over several connections, they are all limited by that measly 1GBit WAN port and sometimes weak SoC that can't push all that data.

        At home, my WiFi mainly serves a couple of laptops and cellphones. One of my laptops is powerful enough to be able to run several VM's at once, and copying files to/from it would be nice to be able to do at >1GBit when snuggled up in the couch while the missus watches a movie next to me :-)

  6. Donn Bly

    76 per cent of US households are using Wi-Fi as the primary broadband connection

    No, they are not. No, their PRIMARY connection will be fiber, twisted pair, coax, or 4G Cellular.

    The US does not even have 76% takeup of all broadband where it is available, let alone where it is not, and unless the household is on a small rural WISP they probably aren't using WiFi -- and if they are then the WiFi-based WISP doesn't deliver a service level that is compatible with the FCC's current definition of broadband.

    Now, of households with broadband it is certainly probable that 76% or greater have WiFi, but even then many serious home users still use an Ethernet connection on their "primary" devices because they know that the more that they offload from WiFi that everything, WiFi connected or not, will run faster and better.

  7. Charlie van Becelaere

    RTFM: Wireless Broadband Alliance squeezes out 40-page ode to the joy of Wi-Fi 6

    Please tell me I'm not the only one who read this as:

    RoTFM and worried how much worse our coming robot overlords were about to become.

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