Uplevel Brings Wi-Fi 6 to Progressive MSPs and Their Customers

October 28, 2022
Industry Commentary

Uplevel Systems brings powerful business advantages to help Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and small enterprise customers adopt Wi-Fi 6, the most advanced wireless technology available today. Wi-Fi 6 offers businesses high speed, secure networking, and great battery life.

Almost 15 billion Wi-fi enabled devices are in use worldwide. The latest iteration of WiFi, known as Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax), builds on this giant installed base to deliver yet more performance and capacity to devices and users. This transformative wireless standard uses new technology to scale up network capacity to gigabit levels, and supports multiple simultaneous transfers to users, with no sacrifice of battery life.

In a second phase of implementation, Wi-Fi 6E (‘enhanced’) adds a whole new frequency band, 6 GHz, to the available Wi-Fi spectrum, to further expand capacity and reduce congestion.

The key areas of improvement include: speed, range, multi-device management, latency control, and security. With Wi-Fi 6, many of the technologies that were originally developed for 5G cellular networks have made their way into the LAN domain. In fact, there is a convergence of sorts between Wi-Fi 6 and 5G, in terms of network capacity, device bandwidth, and use cases. (The difference, of course, is that you don’t need to spend $200,000 on a 5G base station!)

WiFi-6: The most Powerful Wireless Technology to Date

All of our partners know well that life and business today revolve around seamless, unobtrusive, and fast wireless connectivity. Everything from gaming to restaurant ordering is built around the expectation that people will wirelessly connect to the Internet. Wi-Fi 6 is yet another step on this path. Now that the standard has been ratified, Uplevel Systems is quickly adopting WiFi-6 to provide MSPs and SMB customers with a core business advantage—versatile, quick, secure, and wireless networking. 

How does Wifi-6 benefit businesses?

There are plenty of sources that will tell you all about the Wi-Fi 6 technology in gory detail, and wrapping your head around the alphabet soup of new technologies (OFDMA, anyone?) takes more space and time than a blog post. But what does all this mean for your customers? Well:

1. Great Network Capacity

With WiFi 6 APs and clients, multiple clients can be on the air transmitting simultaneously (thus multiplying the scarce capacity of that wireless channel). Wi-Fi 5 and older generations were “one speaker at a time only” protocols. The improvement is obvious. (What is not so obvious is that you need a ‘pure’ Wi-Fi 6 network to actually see this improvement - Wi-Fi 5 or older devices will subtract large chunks of network capacity from what’s available - so it may take a little time until all of those pesky Wi-Fi 5 devices disappear and we can realize the full benefit.)

2. Enhanced Battery Life

Wi-Fi 6 access point introduces a twist on the old 802.11 power save protocols, with something called Target Wake Time (TWT) that lets connected devices become more power-efficient. Why does this matter? Well, pretty much all wireless devices have batteries … and battery life is the biggest bugaboo with just about all of them. Wi-Fi 5 and older protocols made plenty of performance draining compromises to conserve battery power. Wi-Fi 6 does away with many of those.

3. Better Performance Outdoors

Wi-Fi 6 has a substantially improved beamforming ability. This is sort of a fallout of the incredibly complex technology required to implement OFDMA, which is a pretty mind-twisting amount of digital signal processing packed into a chip. Now, OFDMA only really works well when at close range. Rather than let all that DSP horsepower go to waste when devices are far apart, though, the Wi-Fi 6 designers used it to build much narrower, targeted beams of RF energy between the clients and APs. (Well, I’m simplifying by a lot - but you get the idea.

A headlight illuminates much further out than a bare lightbulb, doesn’t it?) Well, we’ve measured open-air speeds greater than 300 Mb/s between plain old 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi 6 APs and clients that are 400 feet apart … that’s beamforming. Leave your directional antennas at home.

4. Increase in Throughput

Got 50 separate APs in your neighborhood? Overlapping Basic Service Sets (OBSS), a Wi-Fi 6 improvement, reduces the apparent congestion of dense networks and allows multiple conversations to be going on simultaneously. With Wi-Fi 5 or older, they’d all be just stepping on each other.

5. Increased Range

Same beamforming advantage, but this time used to s-t-r-e-t-c-h that usable range out to some fairly long distances. You might only get 10 or 20 Mb/s, but it will be hundreds of feet away.

6. Raw Speed

Probably won’t be ultra-noticeable relative to Wi-Fi 5, but Wi-Fi 6 tops out at 9.6 Gb/s maximum raw capacity. (Wi-Fi 5 reached a theoretical max of 3.5 Gb/s.) Why not ultra-noticeable? Well, with all Wi-Fi technologies, your mileage may vary.

Those gigabits are really only achievable in a nice quiet environment, with no nasty concrete walls getting in the way, no neighboring APs blasting away at maximum power and legacy rates (like that ever happens, eh?), and so on. But overall … yes, you should see an improvement. If you don’t turn the AP sideways and try again. Ultimately, Wi-Fi 6 should bring things up to the point where other things keep you from maxing out your gigabit link. (Or 2.5 Gb/s link).

7. Infrastructure as a Service at its best

Our brand new Wifi-6 APs support MSPs in enhancing customer experience … and they’re available now! Want to improve your customer’s Wi-Fi experience? Simply swap out your existing Wi-Fi 5 APs (or start with just one), we’ll bump your subscription, and off you go.

Final Note

The new Wi-Fi 6 standard might seem overwhelming, with a whole raft of buzzwords to wrap your head around. And some of those caveats might be a little daunting (“Huh? You mean everything doesn’t just run ten times faster?”) But we’re there to help you negotiate this minefield. Give us a call if you want to know more!

About Uplevel Systems

Uplevel Systems, as a small business IT infrastructure managed service provider, enables any of these options. Uplevel’s subscription offering is the most popular with SMBs, but some prefer Uplevel’s new equipment purchase program and use a CapEx model.