Wi-Fi has become a necessity for devices instead of just a promising technology. The consumer expectations are significantly increasing for a reliable and faster Wi-Fi connection everywhere. According to Netgear, there will be 20 billion IoT devices worldwide in 2020, more than 2.6x the number of devices then the previous year.
In addition, Wi-Fi speeds have grown 650x over the past two decades; the maximum theoretical speed of 802.11 was 2 Mbps in 1997 which has now increased to 10,000 Mbps in 2019 with Wi-Fi 6 (802.11 ax).
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11 ax) has greatly improved the core performance by increasing the speeds, preventing IoT from slowing down, and prolonging the battery life of connected devices, but there are still challenges in delivering a great Wi-Fi technology.
1. Enough coverage to support mobility
A Wi-Fi network operates on stationary access points (AP) that provide the internet coverage by connecting to one another. As the user moves within the same network between the coverage range of one AP to another, the network should adapt their physical movement by migrating the device without disruptions. However, the Wi-Fi quality may suffer due to oversubscribed APs, under or over utilization of the available spectrum, and poor client roaming experiences. Therefore, it’s necessary to plan according to the level of coverage to support user mobility.
2. Maintain a strong signal without interference
Since Wi-Fi is unrestricted, a user may suffer poor experience due to the interfering signals of microwave ovens, radio, cordless phones and Bluetooth devices. Other Wi-Fi networks, walls and floors also interfere with the Wi-Fi network that prevents maintaining a strong and clear signal. It’s a big problem to deploy a Wi-Fi network in a large environment as the other Wi-Fi APs can interfere with each other. Thus, it’s necessary to recognize the interfering sources in a Wi-Fi infrastructure and use techniques to abate them.
3. Vulnerability due to security
Without adopting the best measures for securing the network, you’re allowing hackers to access and steal potentially sensitive data. It’s a challenge to secure Wi-Fi from these potential vulnerabilities as a great number of users, devices and applications access the network at any one time. Therefore, it’s recommended by network experts and vendors to adhere to the best security practices and use security defenses built into equipment.
4. Large number of overlay standards and networks
As the IoT is growing, the number of wireless devices is increasing at a fast pace. These devices and applications not only use Wi-Fi, but they also connect over LTE, Bluetooth, RFID, etc. Hence, a traditional AP may need to support tasks other than Wi-Fi. For the operation and management of many standards and networks, it’s necessary to plan carefully. In an ideal infrastructure, a single network should be able to run all the standards and networks using the same security and management architectures for every wireless connected device.
5. Infrastructure needs to support Wi-Fi performance
In order to meet the growing Wi-Fi demands, the wired infrastructure plays an equally important role in providing high performance, reliable and scalable Wi-Fi. Latest PoE standards and multi-gigabit Ethernet technologies require sufficient speed and performance in the switching underlay to provide high performance Wi-Fi that maintains connectivity and simplifies management.
6. Deployment constraints affect efficiency
The space restricted locations, such as vehicles, furniture and light poles are the physical constraints that prevent Wi-Fi deployment. It’s complex to deploy access points in harsh environments with optimal network performance, therefore, it requires extensive field surveys and design guidelines to make Wi-Fi deployment easier and make use of technology that automates and simplifies this process. The performance expectations will improve if a channel is operating with fewer APs since it reduces the possibility of adjacent and co-channel interference and noise.
7. High density creates challenges
High density areas with a large number of devices and users connecting simultaneously deteriorates Wi-Fi network performance. Examples of such spaces are stadiums, convention centers, universities, auditoriums, etc. When one AP needs to serve many devices at the same time, this leads to poor user experience. A user experience can improve by solving the common AP problems, i.e. a device can connect to one AP while roaming instead of switching to a closer AP, and the device’s inability to select between the two reasonable APs. Thus, a decision made by an AP can optimize Wi-Fi performance.
8. Applications require greater capacity
In today’s world, applications such as live streaming, video streaming, and augmented and virtual reality require greater bandwidth leading to performance degradation. The requirement for greater bandwidth saturates the capacity of an AP, making it vital to determine the application requirements and throughput to have sufficient AP capacity.