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What is band steering, and is it worth the hype?

Nowadays, smart home tech is reigning in every household. Can you imagine a place without a single smart-device today? The increasing number of connected IoT and smart devices undoubtedly raises a problem: with all devices connected to a single 2.4 GHz band, how can we ensure a smooth online experience while streaming, gaming, and video-calling all under the same roof?

The wireless industry’s answer was the introduction the new, 5 GHz band in dual-band routers. Dual-band routers benefit client devices by allowing them to connect to either the 2.4 GHz band with a wider range, or the 5 GHz band for faster throughput and higher performance, alleviating congestion on a single band.

In the early days, the practice was to manually connect devices to either the 2.4 or 5 GHz band based on the requirements of the device, which can be very frustrating to optimize and do on a regular basis. Qualcomm noticed this problem and introduced a solution that would automate this process for the user – Band Steering.

Band steering technology encourages dual-band client devices, such as most modern smartphones, tablets, laptops, and PCs, to generally use the less-congested band.

 

 

Why not connect to the 5 GHz band in the first place?

Some of you may wonder why can’t those client devices just connect to the 5 GHz band from the start? To answer this, let’s examine how the “normal wireless operation” works and how the “band steering operation” works.

 

Steering mechanism

Source: https://documentation.meraki.com/MR/Radio_Settings/Band_Steering_Overview

 

As the illustration demonstrates, both the client devices and the routers are exchanging probes. In a normal wireless operation without band steering, the client device sees wireless probes from both bands (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) and chooses to connect to the strongest one. However, which band is identified as stronger one by the client device depends on another piece of the puzzle.

The 2.4 GHz frequency was adopted for mass wireless use much earlier than the 5 GHz band. To put it simply, the 2.4GHz band is geared more towards wireless signal coverage due to its longer wavelength, while the 5GHz band benefits from faster speeds with its much shorter wavelength. As a result, the 2.4 GHz band can cover larger distances, and most client devices connect to it regardless of how fast or congested it is. What’s more is that once this connection is made, the client device will stay on the same band even if it’s within range of the 5 GHz band and requires a faster network.

So, where does this band steering mechanism come into play? Band steering allows the access point to disable the 2.4 GHz band from probing the client device, so it responds only to the 5 GHz band, reducing the congestion on the 2.4 GHz band while taking advantage of the faster 5GHz band to improve user’s network experience. This way, band steering ensures that end-user devices get faster speeds and less network interference whenever it is possible.

Is Enabling Band Steering worth it?

So far, it sounds like having band steering has no downsides – but then how come we’re asking whether it’s worth enabling? Let us explain.

As the steering mechanism demonstrates, both the access points and client devices can send probes. However, band steering is operated by the access point, and it cannot control how the client device interprets or sends the probes, leaving many client devices unable to be steered to the 5 GHz band.

Moreover, client devices previously associated with the 2.4 GHz band might not be steered even with band steering enabling – they first have to be un-associated from the 2.4GHz band manually. As a result, only idle or new client devices may be band-steered.

Lastly, band-steering technology does not consider the unique traffic conditions. For instance, band steering will not consider the users’ habits of gaming, video streaming, or merely browsing web pages. Therefore, they cannot provide solutions tailored to the need for speed on the client devices.

Ultimately, band steering is a convenient way to prioritize which band the client devices use, and at the end of the day, the control to toggle it On or Off is yours.

Curious about the new and upcoming 6 GHz band? Learn more here

For more information about Mercku’s Connectivity Suite, our hardware and how you can partner with Mercku, please reach out to the team at [email protected]

Thank you for reading our blog! Mercku Blogs covers the latest in wireless technology – subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss our newest releases!

On the off chance that you live in a jam-packed spot, you may have seen times when your Wi-Fi unexpectedly drops off out of the blue. The Wi-Fi routers and neighbours’ devices could be using the same radio channels that meddle with your internet connection. It’s ideal to discover and utilize a Wi-Fi channel that offers less interference and a smoother connection to improve the Wi-Fi speeds and connectivity.

Choosing the optimal Wi-Fi channel can improve your Wi-Fi coverage and signal strength, giving you an overall boost in performance.

Most Wi-Fi routers nowadays are utilizing 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands, while some of the latest routers now equipped with  using the 6 GHz band. Each band is split into channels used by your devices to send and receive information over the network.

Much like cars on a road, information sent across the network via data channels slow down in areas with higher traffic and congestions. The time it takes for a device to send and receive information from the router is increased on the congested channel, and you might be left waiting for your turn to access the web.

Depending on the router you use, you may have some channels that don’t overlap:

  • 4 GHz: 3 non-overlapping channels available
  • 5 GHz: 24 non-overlapping channels available
  • 6 GHz: 14 non-overlapping 80 MHz channels or 7 non-overlapping 160 MHz channels

WI-FI INTERFERENCE:

The reason why some channels aren’t ideal for you to use might be caused by channel interference.
There are a couple of different types of channel interference:

 

Co-Channel interference occurs when many wireless devices are accessing the same channel, causing congestion on that channel.

Non-Wi-Fi interference occurs when other devices that work on non-Wi-Fi 802.11 radio frequencies compete for the same frequency band.

Adjacent-channel interference occurs when information sent is on an adjacent or partly overlapping channel. The channel bleeds over on an overlapping channel, which adds interference.

Luckily for the users, there are ways to mitigate network interference with several types of channel switching.

TYPES OF CHANNEL SWITCHING:

Channel switching and channel width selection enable users to optimize their Wi-Fi performance in 3 ways:

 

Manual Channel Switching:

With manual channel switching, the access point uses the default channel set by the manufacturer. The user is then able to manually change the selected channel based on:

  1. Signal strength
  2. Wireless networks in the neighbourhood and inside their home
  3. Level on interference caused by non-Wi-Fi devices over the radio channels

Today, consumers can find various third-party “wireless network analyzer” apps and software online, giving them an overview of  network performance, signal strength, and channel congestion. The user then is able to determine the optimal channel based on this analysis for maximum speed and stability.

Auto-channel Switching:

Many routers feature auto-channel switching (ACS) feature by default,  and with this enabled, the router will  automatically select the least congested channel for you each time the system boots up. Since auto-channel switching relies on scanning the air once (when it powers on) the change in the wireless environment in the future could cause channel interference, and prompt sluggish Wi-Fi performance.

Dynamic Channel Switching (DCS):

Dynamic channel switching helps the user avoid highly congested channels and lets routers and access points (AP) automatically switch to the least crowded channel without any manual input from the user.

With DCS, the router continuously scans the air for the best available channel and switches to it automatically.

There are several available methods for dynamic channel switching:

  1. Scheduled DCS
    Scheduled DCS mode allows the user to set a desirable time of the day (e.g. every day at 01:00 AM) to scan the environment and perform automatic channel switching to avoid potential network interruptions.
  1. Start-up Mode
    Like regular Automatic Channel Switching, DCS’ Start-up mode works when an AP starts up for the first time and chooses a channel from the available non-congested, non-overlapping channels.
  1. Steady State Mode
    All modern DCS-enabled access points have Steady State Mode set by default. With Steady State Mode, the AP scans different channels at a set time interval (e.g every 15 minutes of every day) and chooses the channel with the least interference. The user is typically able to select the desired time interval for performing the network scan and channel switching themselves.

For more information about Mercku’s Connectivity Suite, our hardware and how you can partner with Mercku, please reach out to the team at [email protected]

Thank you for reading our blog! Mercku Blogs covers the latest in wireless technology – subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss our newest releases!

What is EasyMesh and how it improves your Wi-Fi

 

What is Wi-Fi EasyMesh?

The growing popularity of Wi-Fi mesh networks lies with their core benefit – fast, reliable Wi-Fi in every corner of the house. However, as connectivity and wireless technology continue to evolve, the number of available options from different vendors hit the market at an ever-increasing rate.

 

 

Wi-Fi companies such as Eero, Netgear, Google or Mercku often implement a proprietary mesh networking protocol that only allows their mesh systems to mesh with each other. The networking principles and features between the different mesh systems from these providers are mostly the same but, all of them operate independently. For example, it’s not possible to mesh one Mercku M2 Queen router with two Eero nodes to create one network. With so many options, there was a lack of a reliable industry standard for mesh networks that operators and consumers could reference when selecting their next best Wi-Fi mesh solution.

Historically, the Wi-Fi Alliance leads new initiatives around Wi-Fi standards, and in 2018, they introduced EasyMesh certification to make a mesh industry standard a reality. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh is a Wi-Fi Alliance® certification program that brings a standards-based approach to multiple AP home Wi-Fi networks. EasyMesh establishes controller routers to manage and coordinate activity among the mesh nodes and ensures that each AP does not interfere with the other, bringing both expanded, uniform coverage and more efficient service.

Source: Wi-Fi Alliance

One key benefit of this standard is allowing consumers to combine EasyMesh certified Wi-Fi access points from multiple vendors to create unified mesh networks – regardless of the product line or brand. This feature gives consumers and operators more freedom in deploying their Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 Mesh systems in the future.

What are the benefits of the Wi-Fi EasyMesh standard?

Wi-Fi routers that are Wi-Fi EasyMesh certified will provide a list of useful features to improve the overall user experience. Some of the most important are:

  • Effortless set up: Wi-Fi routers that support EasyMesh will be able to quickly discover each other and set up the network with as little user intervention as possible
  • Flexible deployment: This allows the user to get the best placement of multiple access points in their unique environment, providing extended coverage with high throughput
  • Client steering: AP coordination to steer a client to a specific AP for optimal user experience and effective load balancing
  • Intelligent Networking: Mesh points can self-organize and self-optimize by collecting data on network performance and health, and respond to changing conditions to maximize the performance

As with every new technological standard, there are some limitations to consider as well. For instance, a standardized protocol could mean the loss of unique network features from individual equipment manufacturers. Moreover, it can be hard to pinpoint the cause of bottlenecking or other performance issues on the network with a variety of different APs.

As Wi-Fi Alliance is continuing to develop the standard, EasyMesh R2 brings about even more enhancements to Mesh networking, with standardized Wi-Fi diagnostics, improved channel management, traffic separation mode and enhanced client steering, which we will cover in the future blogs (subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss it!).

Last year, we released the Mercku M6 Wi-Fi 6 Mesh system, which supports EasyMesh R2 standard out of the box. We can’t wait for our users to start deploying the M6 in their custom Mesh networks – alongside other best EasyMesh certified routers in 2021!

Mercku CES M6 Announcement

Mercku’s M6 Wi-Fi 6 system was named the Consumer Technology Association’s Networking Product of the Year in the Mark of Excellence 2021 Awards – an award series that annually recognizes the tech industry’s top smart home innovations.  

Every year, The Mark of Excellence Awards, presented by the Smart Home Division of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, recognizes the best in custom integration and installed technology. The most innovative technology companies compete in more than 20 award categories and are judged by independent experts from established industry leaders. In a year where consumers are spending more time at home than ever before, we are honored to have received the 2021 Mark of Excellence Award for M6 AX Mesh in the Networking Product of the Year category. 

Mercku Wi-Fi6 Mark of Excellence Smart Home Award

 

Mercku M6

This recognition embodies Mercku’s commitment to building the next era of connectivity. By awarding Mercku with the Mark of Excellence Award, CTA spotlights the impact we have on our users’ daily lives and shows the importance of innovative Wi-Fi products as the foundation of all connected smart home technology. We share this award with all our partners, distributors and users around the world, as we are thrilled to lead the way into an innovative, user-centered, connected future.  

Read the full story on CTA.tech

Why you should be excited about 6 GHz Wi-Fi

Why you should be excited about 6 GHz Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi 6E

Have you ever wondered how your laptop, cellphone, or other mobile devices connect to the internet? “Through Wi-Fi”- that’s the most obvious answer. It is, but then how does Wi-Fi communicate with our devices? Well, the quick response is via radio frequencies, and we’ll jump into more detail in just a bit, along with insights on the much anticipated 6 GHz spectrum and what it means for your Wi-Fi experience.

Restricted to the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands in recent years, we have reached the point where there are now more Wi-Fi networks in a building than radio stations available to listen to in a city. In April of 2020, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) announced its approval to allocate an uncharted fresh spectrum, the 6 GHz band, to reduce pressure from current frequency bands while delivering high speeds.

Well, what makes the 6 GHz band different?

 

Comparing Wi-Fi standards

6 GHz has higher throughput

The number of devices connected to Wi-Fi in homes and public areas has significantly increased over the last decade, especially in this era of home automation and IoT. Current frequency bands are not sufficient to cater to growing bandwidth requirements. With the new 6 GHz band, more throughput is available for reasons including an increased number of non-overlapping channels and greater bandwidth.

6 GHz has more non-overlapping channels

There is a limit to the number of channels each band has, which are limited further by the number of non-overlapping channels. These non-overlapping channels are essential in reducing signal interference between devices, ultimately resulting in slower wireless speeds.

The 2.4 GHz band has 11 channels with only three non-overlapping channels (1, 6, 11); therefore, in crowded areas where many devices are connected, signal interference will result in slower internet speeds.

2.4 GHz and 5 GHz non-overlapping Wi-Fi channels

The 5 GHz band overcomes the weaknesses of 2.4 GHz and is ten times wider than the 2.4 GHz band with 24 non-overlapping channels, making it even better. However, some channels of 5 GHz have been in use for the government and the military, so in reality, there are only eight non-overlapping channels available to the public.

The introduction of 6 GHz includes 14 non-overlapping 80 MHz channels, all for public use, reducing the opportunity for co-channel signal interference and ultimately give you better wireless speeds.

6 GHz comes packed with extra bandwidth

The new 6 GHz band will be adding 1,200 MHz of extra bandwidth, meaning users can utilize the 40 MHz and 80 MHz channels plus the newly available 160 MHz channel widths. It is recommended to use smaller channel widths despite reduced throughput to reduce co-channel interference; however, the 6 MHz band overcomes this with extra space on the wireless spectrum. To put this into perspective, 5 GHz band can only support two non-overlapping 80 MHz channels or a single 160 MHz channel, while the 6 GHz band can support fifteen 80 MHz channels and seven 160 MHz channels. This means much less channel overlap and much more bandwidth!

6 GHz and Uniqueness of Mesh Wi-Fi

Similar to how the 5 GHz band has a shorter ranger than 2.4 GHz, higher throughput, a more significant number of channels, and higher bandwidth come at the cost of more considerable signal attenuation in the new 6 GHz band; this is where Mesh Wi-Fi comes in. In a mesh Wi-Fi system, the central router and multiple mesh points may be installed throughout a large space to increase wireless 6 GHz coverage. However, unlike the signal extenders, the units form one seamless and unified blanket network that broadens reach and connectivity strength. When roaming, your device maintains a connection to a single SSID without hiccups in connection, giving you the full potential of 6 GHz Wi-Fi around any space.

Using 6 GHz Wi-Fi at home

6 GHz Wi-Fi delivers 1.2 Gbps at even 7 meters away from an access point with obstructions.

Use Cases:

  • Residential Multi-AP/mesh networks
  • Multiple dwelling units (MDU) Single-AP networks
  • High-density enterprise networks
  • Indoor public venues
  • Industrial IoT

Wi-Fi 6E – The Game changer

The development of 6 GHz and Wi-Fi 6 alone are grand achievements in this new age of Wi-Fi, and combining the two to become Wi-Fi 6E is game-changing for the tech world and the economy. Wi-Fi Alliance* statistics show that the value of Global Wi-Fi will increase by up to $3.47 trillion by 2023, and unlocking 6 GHz Wi-Fi will lead to even more significant economic contributions and a better-connected world.

What to look forward to

Wi-Fi 6E delivers a considerable increase in network efficiency and capacity for dense population centers. Wi-Fi 6E will immediately impact network performance in crowded places such as stadiums or apartment buildings. With the global increase in fibre internet coverage, the necessity of Wi-Fi 6E will increase to leverage the full capacity of gigabit broadband connections.

Much like how there is not much 8K video content available, it’s not as beneficial yet to purchase an 8K television when you can’t use it to its full potential. Similarly, the biggest issue with purchasing Wi-Fi 6E routers is that there are only a few devices on the market capable of using its Wi-Fi 6 features or utilize the 6 GHz band. The few devices available on the market now are using a prototype version of the new standard. In 2021, markets will see an influx of 6E chips for commercial use. With that being said, devices compatible with Wi-Fi 6E will be hitting the mainstream markets within the next few years.

With a completely new spectrum unlocked, we are sure to see many innovative products being released in the future.