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WBA Squeezes 700Mbps Out of New WiFi 6 (802.11ax) Network

Thursday, December 5th, 2019 (11:01 am) - Score 1,874

A test conducted by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) on the new Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) standard at the Mettis Aerospace factory in the UK has managed to deliver a real speed of 700Mbps (unclear if this is just download) with latency below 6ms (milliseconds), although that’s a far cry from the multi-Gigabit speeds promised.

The new 802.11ax standard promises theoretical peak data speeds of around 10Gbps (Gigabits per second) via the combined 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio spectrum bands, as well as better management of spectrum in congested environments, faster latency, improved power efficiency and various other changes (see our summary).

Admittedly nobody actually expects to see that kind of performance in the real-world because WiFi networks are notorious for massively under-delivering on their claims, which is partly down to inflated marketing and partly down to reality of how radio waves propagate in a real-world environment, as well as a few other factors (congested spectrum, slow WiFi adapters etc.).

As such while the 27-acre Mettis Aerospace test in the West Midlands might seem on the surface to be a little disappointing, it’s worth noting that the “hostile” industrial environment was an extremely challenging one for wireless signals (e.g. lots of interference and noise from machinery) and the WBA claim that older WiFi technologies simply “failed” to work.

Trial Description

The Wi-Fi 6 technology [using 80 MHz channels] had to prove it was able to provide total connectivity across the factory floor and enable improved synchronization of factory floor machinery and equipment with centralized monitoring and control systems. This required the Wi-Fi network to deliver real-time high bandwidth communications, with very low latency and clear prioritization of data across a large-scale, complex factory environment.

As part of the project, Cisco provided 11 Catalyst 9100 access points (along with WLC and POE Catalyst switches) configured to ensure persistent and consistent signal reliability throughout the day under regularly changing conditions. To help achieve this, iBwave undertook a site survey of the manufacturing floor recorded noise level measurements (with machinery on and off) and gathered essential details about obstructions and the variability of the environment. This was critical to the success of the project due to the prevalence of metal surfaces that can disrupt radio (RF) connectivity.

Cisco and Mettis worked together using survey results to guide the deployment of the access points and to optimize the configuration for the environment. Using devices that included smartphones, tablets, laptops and webcams – equipped with the Broadcom and Intel Wi-Fi 6 chipset [i.e. the Broadcom (R) BCM4375 and Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 chipsets], a series of tests were performed using Ix Chariot software to assess and troubleshoots the networks and the applications both before and after the deployment.

Various features such as augmented reality, 4K video streaming, large file uploads and roaming / latency were tested during the trial. Apparently all of this formed part of the UK Government’s 5G testbed programme for the manufacturing sector, although obviously this is a little bit misleading since 802.11ax does not use the 5G New Radio standard but does share some similar enhancements.

Apparently a future Phase Two trial will focus on further tests of the Mixed reality applications and IoT sensing of key assets. A number of 802.11ax equipped broadband routers and adapters are already available for consumers to buy, although the early kit tends to be quite expensive and there’s little point in adopting it until more of the kit in your network environment has been similarly upgraded.

Nevertheless it’s wise to remember that wireless networks rarely ever deliver on their marketed network speeds. See our ‘Top Tips for Boosting Your Home Wi-Fi Wireless Network Speeds‘ for advice.

Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar Steve

    700Mbps? I’m getting 1000 Mb/s over 802.11ac (wifi 5) using a 4×4 router paired with a 4×4 PCI card (Asus PCE-AC88). Connection rate is 2.1 Gb/s.

    • Avatar mike

      Yeah I’m getting 600Mbps between a Unifi AP and my iPhone which is only 2×2 MIMO. 700Mbps on Wifi 6 is pretty poor.

    • In fairness you are of course comparing a home environment with a dense factory that produces a lot of electrical interference. It’s not very apples to apples. 802.11ac kit allegedly didn’t even work in the factory.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Also the latency on your network will be much higher – on of the advantages of WiFi 6 is the low latency, which makes it more suitable for control in industrial environments.

  2. Avatar kaptainkandikat

    slow news day here at ispreview

  3. Avatar Irshad

    It’s unclear if it provided 700 Mbps per client average across an industrial/ enterprise class network with multiple AP’s. If it did, then it definitely is a remarkable improvement.
    As the author has pointed out this is not home network where you can get over gigabit speed with one client device. If you add 10 client devices to the best home router then you would know how much lower speeds you would achieve.

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