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Wi-Fi news from Spirent Communications

Where Wi-Fi 6/6E represented a paradigm shift with associated testing requirements, Wi-Fi 7 promises to refine and expand Wi-Fi 6 functionality. This underscores the importance of having a smart testing strategy in place now to ensure a seamless evolution. Learn more about what’s coming with Wi-Fi 7.

Each generation of Wi-Fi has delivered higher data rates with a focus on improving performance for end users. It’s an increasingly tall order—consider the average family surrounded by devices all contending for the same airwaves. Or the same scenario faced by an enterprise user.

Wi-Fi 6 aimed to solve this dynamic in home and at the office. It was a paradigm shift that introduced new functionality and mechanisms to better support multiple users. Close on Wi-Fi 6’s heels came Wi-Fi 6E, which incorporated use of the 6 GHz spectrum.

Anticipating what’s next, the industry has its sights set on Wi-Fi 7, which promises to refine and expand Wi-Fi 6 functionality in the 6 GHz spectrum. It adds new features and mechanisms aimed at finally tackling issues that have persistently snarled certain Wi-Fi use cases.

While higher throughput—up to 12 Gbps—is the main benefit of Wi-Fi 7, it is not achieved easily.

Let’s explore why, and implications, starting with a look at Wi-Fi 7’s core capabilities and benefits.

320 MHz bandwidth for much more data
Similar to Wi-Fi 6E, Wi-Fi 7 uses the 6 GHz spectrum that can support channels as wide as 320 MHz—twice what is supported by Wi-Fi 6E and four times Wi-Fi 6. In fact, with Wi-Fi 7, you can get three 320 MHz channels in the 6 GHz band. Because a wider channel can transmit more data, Wi-Fi 7’s pipe is larger than ever.

But is that spectrum actually usable? Such a wide 320 MHz channel is likely to have an interferer in the band which means sections of the channel might be unusable. Wi-Fi 7 deals with this by using a mechanism to puncture out that part of the spectrum so that it is partitioned, but the rest of the 320 MHz channel can be used.

Elevated order modulation for 20% higher speed
Quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) conveys data over radio waves using discrete points in the constellation diagram. Each discrete point represents a number of bits of data. The more allowable discrete points, the more data that can be transmitted. Wi-Fi 6 provides 1024 (point) QAM, a 25% increase data rate from Wi-Fi 5. Wi-Fi 7 has increased it another 20% to 4096 QAM, which is 12 data bits per symbol.

The problem with this high order modulation is the impact of channel noise, which makes demodulation difficult. Although 4096 QAM is fast, it needs a high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) to work properly. That limits its use to short operating distances of about 18 feet—inferior for some applications, but excellent for others, such as virtual reality.

Multiple Resource Units provide better spectrum efficiency
OFDMA improves performance by allowing simultaneous transmissions between multiple clients. With Wi-Fi 6 and LTE, a channel can be divided into Resource Units (RUs), which are frequency groupings. Each device is allocated one RU. To provide better spectrum efficiency, Wi-Fi 7 allows multiple RUs to be allocated to each device, making use of otherwise potentially unused spectrum.

Multi-link operation increases link and channel efficiency
In traditional Wi-Fi mesh networks, each mesh node communicates with the devices close to it on a single band and the mesh nodes communicate with each other. This is sometimes not an efficient approach for device-to-device traffic. Instead, with Wi-Fi 7, multi-link operation (MLO) enables multiple simultaneous links to operate in separate channels, with each link operating independently. For example, 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 6GHz radios can all be used as though they were one.

MLO is an important new feature in Wi-Fi 7. It is a unified and consistent framework to consistently manage multiple links, reducing management overhead. By aggregating links on different channels, MLO increases throughput. It also improves latency by using multiple links in parallel for flexible channel access. Reliability can be increased by sending duplicated data on multiple links, and quality of service (QoS) can be improved by assigning traffic to appropriate links.

Enhanced QoS management for priority access
Normally, all devices contend for a single channel on a first come first served basis. This is a non-starter for applications like voice calls, where timing is critical.

Wi-Fi 7 introduced enhanced QoS Management so that devices can request guaranteed time. For example, they would inform the access point that a voice call will need 5 ms every 20 ms. The access point will then pre-allocate the channel if possible. This guarantees access to the channel when the voice packet is transmitted. Enhanced QoS management provides smoother channel access management than previous first come, first served methods.

Restricted service periods for deterministic latency
Latency is important for enhanced reality. Wi-Fi 6 improved latency with OFDMA but, depending on the number of gamers in the house, the latency could fluctuate significantly. Wi-Fi 7 can provide deterministic latency that reserves what you need when you need it.

Wi-Fi 7 testing considerations
Wi-Fi 6’s new features had major testing implications which need to be further refined for Wi-Fi 7. The biggest impact is multi-link operation, which will need new testing methodology and test plans for its more consistent, but a different approach compared to standard mesh device testing. Similarly, testing methodologies need to be enhanced for targeted QoS wait time.

As always, test planning will leverage Wi-Fi Alliance test plans when they become available. In the meanwhile, maintaining an up-to-date testing approach for Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E is essential to keep pace with evolving Wi-Fi technology.

Learn about Spirent’s Test as a Service for Wi-Fi devices and read the eBook Testing Wi-Fi for High-Performance Use Cases.

Unique TaaS option enables Wi-Fi manufacturers to access the most sophisticated test procedures on an as-required basis

FREDERICK, MD – August 9, 2022 – Spirent Communications plc (LSE:SPT), the leading provider of test and assurance solutions for next-generation devices and networks, today announced the launch of a new “Send Us Your Device” Test as a Service (TaaS) option for Wi-Fi customers. The first of its kind from a manufacturer of advanced Wi-Fi testbeds, the service allows access to the advanced capabilities of Spirent’s OCTOBOX emulation and testing solution to organizations where the capital expenditure and considerable expertise required to own and manage such complex test setups may not be an option.The growing complexity of Wi-Fi technology is requiring developers and manufacturers to rethink their approach to performance testing for new Wi-Fi enabled devices. The progression of Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, growth of mesh multi-point access networks, and expectations around 5G and Wi-Fi convergence are creating new application and business models which require fresh approaches to testing.“Owning and managing complex test setups for rapidly evolving Wi-Fi technologies may not make business sense for some manufacturers and developers,” says Doug Roberts, general manager of Spirent’s Lifecycle Service Assurance business. “As the recognized market leader in Wi-Fi emulation and test capabilities, this new Spirent service addresses the needs of these businesses by providing instant access to advanced testing and failure analysis that will greatly reduce their time to market and increase quality of performance.”The new service is targeted at companies with Wi-Fi testing needs but little or no onsite test facilities of their own, as well as organizations like chipset developers, IoT and consumer device makers, and network equipment manufacturers that need to perform regular Wi-Fi testing but may not have the in-house expertise to create, deploy and efficiently execute the range of performance tests the industry now requires. It is anticipated that Spirent OCTOBOX owners and others with existing labs will also find the service beneficial when they experience occasional bandwidth overflow at their own testing facility.

Available to customers globally, the service is based at Spirent’s Massachusetts research facility where OCTOBOX testbeds are developed and manufactured. This allows Spirent to easily scale up and down testing services for customers based on their ever-changing needs and leverage the company’s unrivalled Wi-Fi emulation and testing expertise. The Spirent lab also provides test environments that are engineered with optimized hardware to ensure all devices are validated against the highest quality standards accepted for deployment by carriers and enterprises, such as TR-398 and RFC 2544.

“While many test facilities use software-based testbeds, these are unable to perform realistic test scenarios that model actual deployments,” said Roberts. “They often lack the ability to produce deterministic results which is essential for repeatability. By utilizing our OCTOBOX testbeds along with our automation framework, we emulate real world scenarios such as congestion, interference, distance, and movement – all of which affect the quality of the user experience.”

For more information about Spirent’s Test as a Service for Wi-Fi Devices, visit

Consumers are leaning heavier on Wi-Fi to meet their connectivity needs, making comprehensive Wi-Fi network and device testing more important than ever.

Going on two decades, Wi-Fi has delivered simple, inexpensive wireless connectivity for the masses. It was never perfect, but the convenience and generally fine performance for most applications made it good enough for most.

Now, the stakes are higher.

Consumers are requiring more demanding use cases and more powerful apps. Despite its promises, 5G connectivity remains limited. This has meant everyone from personal to enterprise users have been leaning heavier than ever on Wi-Fi to meet connectivity needs.

This has been a driving force behind a whole new generation of Wi-Fi tech and adoption. Whether working or playing from home, we expect Wi-Fi to operate flawlessly with high performance and reliability. This is especially true as Wi-Fi cements a role in mission-critical private networks that support emerging industry applications.

Wi-Fi 6 and 6E are being positioned to meet these new roles and requirements. The new Wi-Fi standards provide distributed connectivity, high throughput, and low latency. In particular, the radio interface has received an overhaul, with modulation and spectral efficiency on a completely new level.

Wi-Fi 6 routers, extenders, and mesh networks are being installed in homes and offices to provide wider coverage, support more users, and accommodate a growing range of devices. Each brings pros and cons, but whichever is chosen, it is safe to say Wi-Fi networks have evolved far beyond initial roles as simple routers.

In fact, the changes seen in Wi-Fi 6/6E introduce challenges that are in some ways more significant than the migration from 4G to 5G.

New Wi-Fi complexity means device testing has grown in complexity, too
As expectations of Wi-Fi surge, so too does the need for precise, comprehensive Wi-Fi network testing. As always, testing must address conformance to standards, interoperability, and performance. With Wi-Fi, many factors can impact performance, such as walls, electrical interference, , signal reflection, and other Wi-Fi and wireless usage in the area. All Wi-Fi 6/6E devices must be tested against these factors in controlled, repeatable ways.

Wi-Fi 6/6E sees multiple standards in play, including TR-398 performance for routers and access points, RFC-2544 network device benchmarking specification, and others in the offing. Still, as this next generation of Wi-Fi comes to market quickly, comprehensive test and interoperability standards have yet to be developed.

Example of RFC-2544 test to determine maximum throughput behavior of the device under test

As such, testing Wi-Fi 6/6E devices has become more complicated than traditional Wi-Fi device testing. Trying to test manually not only makes little economic sense, but it has become nearly impossible.

Automated testing of Wi-Fi 6/6E devices
To overcome the complexity of testing a growing number of Wi-Fi 6/6E devices, automated device hardware and software testing is essential for cost-efficient, scalable, accurate, timely, and repeatable results.

Traditionally, test teams must research and keep up to date with evolving standards to create and execute tests. Alternatively, automated Wi-Fi automation packages from test experts like Spirent can be leveraged. Such automated test packages reflect existing standards and, where standards don’t yet exist such as for mesh networks, expertly define appropriate tests. Executing automated test software on your testbed enables fast, 24×7 testing. And all those resources that were grinding through test scenarios can instead put energies into evaluating results.

Spirent Wi-Fi 6/6E automated test packages
Spirent, the Wi-Fi testing market leader, offers a wireless test bed that validates Wi-Fi networks and devices. Its software automation packages automate standards-based Wi-Fi test plans to assess conformance, interoperability, and performance.

To accelerate Wi-Fi 6/6E testing, test automation packages spanning mesh interoperability performance testing of devices and device performance evaluation through RFC 2544 benchmark tests have been developed.

Learn more about how Spirent automated Wi-Fi test packages can enable you to quickly assess Wi-Fi device conformance to standards, interoperability, and performance.

Vertex and OCTOBOX, Together at Last

Not a celebrity power couple, but a union that recognizes we need a better way to simplify network assurance in an increasingly complex world.

The advancement of technology has done great things for society. Today, innovations from autonomous vehicles to advanced pacemakers rely on more than microprocessors and software but the underlying network that seamlessly connects everything together. Yet issues with connectivity – from poor latency to instability under certain scenarios – can have a massive impact on the viability of many critical use cases. For both device manufacturers and service providers, network assurance testing is of paramount importance – but it’s a task that is becoming increasingly complex due to the highly varied array of network types and usage scenarios that must be validated.

This need to simplify and improve these assurance processes is one of the reasons why Spirent and octoScope became a single company last March. Everybody in the industry knows that OCTOBOX is a leading testbed for automated validation of Wi-Fi networks and devices. Even when we were rivals, from an engineer’s standpoint, we could not help admiring the compact yet stackable approach that made it easy to create a robust testbed suited to a wide variety of scenarios.

However, as Spirent, before we joined forces, we still had many joint customers that needed to perform more specialist assurance scenarios that were not well suited to OCTOBOX. Especially for granular channel emulation or for use cases where complex mobility was involved. For these customers, it meant potentially setting up dual test beds running Spirent and OCTOBOX products for very different workloads. This also required integrating these disparate solutions and then trying to tie the data together into a coherent set of results. Not an impossible task but far from ideal.

Two heads…

In a world getting more complex, this highlights one of the fundamental benefits of our union – the ability to create new products that combine our expertise and technologies into a better overall solution. A coherent approach that is not only easier to use but also more suited to the diversity of use cases that we are all seeing across our modern society. It has been nearly a year of intense engineering work, but the first fruits of that vision have ripened. We are proud to announce the launch of an integrated solution that combines the modular nature of OCTOBOX with Vertex, our channel emulator able to replicate the comprehensive noise and spatial conditions of even the most complex wireless channels.

In simple terms, we now have a solution that combines best in class traffic emulation, channel emulation and performance evaluation into an integrated platform. And this arrives at a time where we are seeing an explosion in new devices like wearables and industrial IoT along with a major shift due to the emergence of 5G that will spawn new use cases that will really push legacy testing methodologies. No matter the vertical market, we are all being forced to answer new questions: How will this device work on an airplane’s Wi-Fi network from take-off to landing? What happens if a medical device loses connection as it’s being moved between hospital wards? What impact will load have on network latency for a particular sensor used on a busy factory production line? Can an autonomous vehicle seamlessly move between 5G and Wi-Fi based control without incident? We could ask pages and pages of questions like these that need to be answered before innovation can go from the drawing board to real world application!

Keep it simple

There are literally hundreds of scenarios where the answers will not just impact physical product design, but also have a ripple effect on device placement and day-to-day operating procedures. Making it easier to simulate these scenarios, gain answers and then adapt to change is fundamentally important for everybody concerned with test and assurance.

Even with our integrated OCTOBOX / Vertex solution now heading out into the field for real world use, this ongoing strategy to overcome complexity will continue. Other ways in which we can integrate the best of octoScope and third-party technologies into better solutions continues within our R&D teams. It must, because we know that the world will always find new ways to blend technology and connectivity to create amazing ideas. Hopefully, we can equip the people who make sure these things work in the real world with the right tools to get this vital job done efficiently and accurately with simple-to-use platforms.

As the demand for 5G and Wi-Fi 6 continues to grow at a rapid pace and their standards become increasingly entwined, there has never been a better time to look at the possibility of convergence between the two technologies.

In this executive briefing, STL Partners interviewed parties from both the supply and demand side of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 for their feedback on the outlook of convergence in the wireless markets. They discuss the ongoing debate between convergence, coexistence, and competition, the view from key industry bodies, and more:

  • Clarity on the definitions of convergence and coexistence
  • Market context for convergence and types of customers requesting convergence solutions
  • Two models for convergence: resilience and switchover and associated use cases
  • The barriers carriers face for convergence to be widely accepted

Between existing and emerging use cases, the demand for reliable Wi-Fi isn’t going away. Learn why Wi-Fi testing today is critical for tomorrow’s wireless world

There are more than 16 billion wireless devices in the world today, driving $3.3 trillion in global economic value. The industry will ship an additional 4 billion Wi-Fi devices in 2021 alone.

This incredible growth is driven not only by existing use cases, but also emerging ones. From shopping malls and office buildings to factories and hospitals, reliance on Wi-Fi is pervasive and there’s a heightened priority to rigorously test Wi-Fi products before they ship.

Tech thought leader Diana Adams recently joined me to talk about key insights from Spirent’s new eBook, Testing Wi-Fi for High-Performance Use Cases. Watch the video below as we discuss how Wi-Fi testing today is critical for tomorrow’s wireless world.

Wi-Fi Testing Today Is Critical for Tomorrow’s Wireless World – Spirent

To learn more about Wi-Fi testing, download the eBook.

Testing Wi-Fi for High-Performance Use Cases

High-performance use cases such as Work From Home, industrial IoT, telehealth and 4K streaming video are driving adoption of a new generation of Wi-Fi connectivity. These use cases come with high expectations even as the complexity of Wi-Fi networks and the interoperability challenges surge. How can service providers and vendors ensure Wi-Fi 6/6E and beyond deliver the performance their customers demand? They must thoroughly test new Wi-Fi products and services in controlled, repeatable conditions that mimic the real-world.

Created by Spirent’s team of Wi-Fi experts, this ebook explains:

  • The history and development of Wi-Fi standards
  • How Wi-Fi testing is accomplished and the importance of controlled variables
  • The 3 key steps in Wi-Fi testing: traffic emulation, channel emulation & performance evaluation
  • The types and importance of test automation

Key Considerations for Wi-Fi 6E Testing

Learn how to validate 802.11 WLAN AP and device performance, ensure network security, maximize service coverage.

Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing Access (OFDMA) introduced in Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) is one of the most important features in this generation of Wi-Fi technology. However, testing Wi-Fi 6E OFDMA can be a challenging task due to the complex nature of features defined in 802.11ax standard.This white paper provides an overview of 802.11ax, OFDMA triggering mechanisms, info exchange protocol, and MU PPDU transmission. It also offers an in-depth look at the essentials for OFDMA testing with a special focus on OFDMA operational scenarios. The latest industry-leading solutions will be shared for testing Wi-Fi 6E enhancements in a controlled environment and creating realistic, meaningful traffic models for OFDMA use cases.


Service providers and device makers can no longer make do with homegrown testbed solutions for Wi-Fi 6. Learn how a turnkey, automated and modular approach represents the new must-have for Wi-Fi testing.

You could say there’s an inverse correlation between how easy Wi-Fi has made broadband connectivity and how complicated mass market Wi-Fi device testing has become. Consider the plight of service providers and device makers tasked with testing Wi-Fi in recent years: constantly acquiring multiple pieces of testing equipment from multiple vendors, managing integrations, adding more and more test chambers with more antennas, running substantial cabling between antennas and chambers, and figuring out how to properly isolate components for repeatable testing. That was challenging enough when Wi-Fi was a mostly standalone, consumer-focused technology. But with Wi-Fi 6 underpinning new high-performance service offerings and expanding 5G convergence on the horizon, “complicated” can no longer be tolerated when it comes to testing.

This escalating challenge served as the backdrop for Spirent’s recent acquisition of octoScope. When I founded octoScope to streamline Wi-Fi testing, the burdens on the teams actually doing the testing were already mounting. Now, with Wi-Fi 6 and 5G poised to join forces to address trends across #WFH, industry 4.0, healthcare anywhere, fixed wireless access, and far beyond, stakeholders simply don’t have time for testing headaches. With that in mind, it’s no longer feasible for service providers and device makers to continue trying to make do with homegrown testbed solutions. Not when profitability, smooth customer experiences and time-to-market are on the line.

“It’s no longer feasible for service providers and device makers to continue trying to make do with homegrown testbed solutions. Not when profitability, smooth customer experiences and time-to-market are on the line.”

Wi-Fi 6 driving new testing needs

The complexity of traditional Wi-Fi testing environments has steadily grown over time. There were roaming, handoffs and mesh networks to be tested across access points and devices using dozens of pieces of testing equipment and hardware from multiple providers. All those devices under test and test systems had to be isolated in an array of chambers and interconnected via hundreds of cable connections, as expanding needs like traffic loading and ever-increasing numbers of antennas were added to the equation.

Wi-Fi 6 and now Wi-Fi 6E, fueled by more than a gigahertz of new spectrum in several countries, introduces even more testing requirements. More capacity, longer battery life, latency improvements, extended range, throughput increases, QoS guarantees, even more users – and it all has to be repeatable across a range of environments.

Service providers and device makers can’t keep running to multiple vendors for standards-based and high-performance testing and they can’t be consumed with managing a complex array of chambers and antennas and the cabling between them. Really, there’s only one way forward: a complete solution that can be deployed quickly and configured for precisely the new testing needs at hand. With Wi-Fi 6/6E, a turnkey, modular approach to testing has emerged not as a nice-to-have, but a necessity.

“There’s only one way forward: a complete solution that can be deployed quickly and configured for precisely the new testing needs at hand. With Wi-Fi 6/6E, a turnkey, modular approach to testing has emerged not as a nice-to-have, but a necessity.”

Defining a complete Wi-Fi test platform, on-demand

A modern, unified Wi-Fi testing platform built to accommodate traditional and emerging requirements will be capable of delivering channel emulation, testbed automation, full layer 2-7 testing and load testing – but only as needed in the moment. A modular approach addresses the full range of needs any service provider or device maker would bring, from standards-based and pre-certification testing, all the way through to advanced options for high-performance testing. It is supported by highly-realistic channel and network traffic emulation that allows stress testing based on real-world conditions.

Streamlining Wi-F 6 testing requires a modular approach that allows automated testbeds consisting of isolation chambers, antennas, emulators and test instruments to be rapidly configured and deployed.

Today, Wi-Fi chipset, access point, residential gateway and connected device vendors rightly place a premium on automation and ease of integration to existing systems when selecting Wi-Fi testbeds. In response, a comprehensive testing solution must support automated benchmarking of product performance and validation of functionality and scalability, while presenting simple interfaces and options for integration with existing lab automation.

On the service provider side, operators offering a Wi-Fi service place a high value on automation and ease of use when selecting Wi-Fi testbeds. Their focus is on home and business network environments that “just work” and provide high levels of service that reduce call center inquiries, truck rolls and churn. Delivering this experience at scale to upwards of millions of customers for a range of environments means automated test and assurance processes are a must. In enterprise environments, SLAs for Wi-Fi will increasingly become a reality and pre-deployment testing will go a long way toward ensuring service providers meet promises. From device performance validation and vendor selection to pre-deployment testing, software upgrade testing and recreation of field issues for problem solving, automation will be the common denominator amongst successful Wi-Fi 6 deployments.

The path ahead for better Wi-Fi testing

Modular solutions capable of generating highly-realistic traffic, authentically replicating a range of deployment environments, reducing traditional complexity headaches and supporting automated, repeatable testing scenarios represent the new must-haves for Wi-Fi testing. With octoScope now part of the Spirent family of test solutions, we’re better positioned than ever to offer the industry a one-stop shop for these must-haves, while pursuing octoScope’s original mission of streamlining Wi-Fi testing with a renewed sense of purpose and urgency.

The emergence of use cases for work from home (WFH), small business, hospitals, factories, IoT, and the onslaught of Covid, elevated Wi-Fi’s importance, making it the new global wireless workhorse. This seismic shift requires a completely new approach to testing. Learn about the new generation of testing solutions that address this challenge.

Best effort. That about sums up expectations of Wi-Fi among daily users. In the coffee shop? Airport? The park? Our homes? We take what we can get. Some networks are better than others, but in the end, it’s always been “just Wi-Fi.”

Lately, the emergence of use cases for work from home (WFH), small business, hospitals, factories, and IoT, and the onslaught of Covid, has elevated the importance of Wi-Fi, pushing it into the role of global wireless workhorse for our generation, and we expect, for the future. Yet, for all the performance demands being placed on Wi-Fi, it is tested infrequently and inconsistently. This stands in stark contrast to mobile networks, which are tested extensively by operators.

But this is changing. The rapid evolution of use cases, introduction of Wi-Fi 6/6E, rivaling 5G tech and Wi-Fi’s anticipated convergence and harmonization with 5G represent a sea change. The latest tech advancements see Wi-Fi all grown up, with new responsibilities and expectations, and all the complexities of a mature, sophisticated technology. Especially for indoor environments, Wi-Fi 6/6E has the potential to rival what 5G can deliver, at a fraction of the cost.

Considering the COVID-19 impact on Wi-Fi in the wireless ecosystem – which won’t likely change post-pandemic – service providers (SPs) will need to “up their game” to deliver the performance and QoS required to continue the productivity gains and economic trends established pre-pandemic. But offering bulletproof performance requires operators to adopt unprecedented, advanced testing and validation strategies.

In this new era of Wi-Fi, there’s no more room for error. Performance issues won’t just get a shoulder shrug. They’ll impact business revenues. Degrade user experiences. They’ll affect the bottom line. Meanwhile, competitive pressures will intensify at an accelerating velocity. Speed to market for a host of new devices with expanded feature sets will drive competitive battles. Just as importantly, it will necessitate a completely new approach to testing.

“Competitive pressures will intensify at an accelerating velocity. Speed to market for a host of new devices with expanded feature sets will drive competitive battles. Just as importantly, it will necessitate a completely new approach to testing.”

Goodbye disaggregation, hello results

In a previous post, octoScope founder (and now Senior VP of Wi-Fi Products with Spirent) Fanny Mlinarsky, discussed the rising urgency to streamline and automate Wi-Fi testing. Homegrown, multi-vendor testing shops based on garden-variety test products just weren’t meant for scale. Originally, within the more confined requirements of Wi-Fi’s earlier incarnation, they got the job done. But now, with Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E offering customers 5G speeds and latency, based on a new set of standards, it’s a non-starter.

Today, Spirent recognizes a critical opportunity to evolve from slow and expensive DIY testing to turnkey, configurable Wi-Fi test suites that deliver a seamlessly integrated testbed. All without prohibitively large and expensive chambers typically employed for performance testing that comprised previous approaches.

Evolution to a unified approach to Wi-Fi testing

It should be noted that a unified solution does more than just streamline processes – it impacts business outcomes.

Moving ahead, operators and device makers don’t want to buy test equipment – they want to buy results. And they need them as quickly as possible. Testing is emerging as not just a checkpoint before launch, but a driver of innovation itself. Wi-Fi 6 won’t be possible with a best-effort approach. It must be about maximizing performance results and getting them to market rapidly with advanced unified solutions.

Wi-Fi testing strategies for success

Spirent recognizes five key strategies for Wi-Fi 6 testing that merit serious consideration:

  • Rely on solutions, not boxes. Originally, Wi-Fi testing was considered so complicated that some companies skipped it all altogether. Those that did conduct testing relied on a range of customized solutions they set up and managed on their own. Now, however, attempting to apply the old playbook to today’s testing requirements simply won’t deliver the performance, speed and efficiency demands. Look for standards-based, end-to-end high-performance testing solutions that harness products, technologies, and expertise in one unified approach. This should also be easy to integrate and built for specific types of devices, and scale for rollouts or deployment complexity. When you have the right solution for the job, the right results follow.
  • Emulate real world environments. It’s not enough to anticipate Wi-Fi 6 traffic patterns in testing, they must mirror what will be encountered outside the lab. Isolating devices via a multi-chamber approach and injecting actual traffic or impairments for repeatable results is the first step toward planning for unknown trouble scenarios that previously only turned up after a product shipped. Testing environments must accurately represent real-world applications and experiences. That means modeling applications, conducting over-the-air connection testing, and focusing on latency impacts along the way.
  • Optimize for mesh testing. As mesh networks become more commonplace, there is an opportunity to greatly improve connectivity throughout the home and enterprise. But with users and devices moving constantly within fixed environments, optimizing connections at any given moment across multiple access points in a range of structural environments poses a major challenge. The ability to emulate a limitless number of environments, simulating distance, obstructions, motion and more will be critical in ensuring top performance. Especially as the market awaits approved standards to design against.
  • Automate for comprehensive and rapid results. Global consolidation of lab space through next-gen automation has become a growing need in testing as the size of some Wi-Fi test systems are often quite large. When customers purchase multiple units, they face serious space constraints. Additionally, the complexity of comprehensive Wi-Fi testing has reached a stage where next-gen test automation must be incorporated for continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD). Automated test suites must encompass a range of channel and traffic emulation for validating the device performance of YouTube video, video conferencing, gaming, security cameras, factory automation, and so many applications in daily use within wireless environments. Cutting-edge lab and test automation are now Wi-Fi testing table stakes.
  • Account for scale requirements in testing. One size does not fit all for Wi-Fi testing, making it ideal to have a choice of pre-integrated testbed systems that can meet exacting needs, regardless of the project testing scope. Where one customer might only need to simulate a few client devices, another might need to do this for 50 to 100 devices by adding instruments and software. The ability to merge specialized products with advanced automation can deliver best-in-class testbed creation that is easy to deploy, can be sized for specific requirements and is extendable as future demands necessitate.

Wi-Fi’s new role in WFH, along with new use cases for small business, hospitals, factories, IoT, and Wi-Fi 6’s promise, all represent a world of opportunity where this ubiquitous connectivity tech finally stands on its own as a highly capable, and highly performant solution for complex devices, services and access environments. But Wi-Fi’s full potential can only now be achieved with an evolved and holistic advanced test strategy that mirrors the ambitions of the technology itself.