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By Eve Danel

November 11, 2020

LitePoint’s Eve Danel has developed this three-part blog series on Wi-Fi 6E and testing challenges. Throughout this series of blog posts, you’ll learn the basics of operating rules for Wi-Fi 6E in the 6 GHz band, the challenges when validating Wi-Fi 6E designs and what testing solutions LitePoint has available for Wi-Fi 6E.

Wi-Fi 6E Standard and Channels – 802.11ax Operation in the 6 GHz Band

In my previous blog post, I explored the FCC’s decision to open the 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi 6E standard operation, as well as the rules the FCC put in place to protect incumbent users in that space. Today I want to explore the IEEE 802.11ax rules of operation in the 6 GHz band and how they differ from operation in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.

Background on Wi-Fi Standards

Two main groups are responsible for shaping Wi-Fi’s evolution. The IEEE 802.11defines the technical specifications of the wireless LAN standard. The IEEE 802.11ax standard for high efficiency (or HE) covers MAC and PHY layer operation in the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands. It is scheduled to be finalized by the end of 2020.

The Wi-Fi Alliance focuses on certification of Wi-Fi devices for compliance and interoperability, as well as the marketing of Wi-Fi technology. To improve consumer understanding of the various IEEE 802.11 standard generations, the Wi-Fi Alliance decided to create consumer friendly names. The IEEE 802.11ax standard is now referred to as Wi-Fi 6 or the 6th generation of Wi-Fi and operates the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.  Wi-Fi 6E operates in the 6 GHz frequency band. Thousands of devices have received Wi-Fi 6 certification since the program started and the Wi-Fi 6E certification is planned to start sometime in early 2021.

IEEE Rules of Operation

Decisions made by the IEEE 802.11ax group and added to the standard will make Wi-Fi 6E even more efficient.

Arguably one of the most important decisions made by the IEEE 802.11ax group is that it disallows older generation Wi-Fi devices in the 6 GHz band, which is important because it means that only high efficiency 802.11ax devices will be able to operate in this band.

Historically, newer Wi-Fi standards have always provided backward compatibility with older generations. This proved to be a great strength to win over consumers, since network equipment doesn’t need to be completely overhauled at each new generation. This has also been a source of congestion, since older slower legacy equipment is sharing available resources (i.e. spectrum) with newer devices.  In the 6 GHz however, only new high efficiency devices will be allowed to operate.

When using the analogy of a freeway to describe Wi-Fi, the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz band can be compared to congested freeways allowing both fast and slow vehicles, while the 6 GHz band is the equivalent of a new, large freeway that only allows the fastest cars.

With 1200 MHz of spectrum and 59 new 20 MHz channels, a station with a dwell time of 100 ms per channel would require almost 6 seconds to complete a passive scan of the entire band.  The standard implements a new efficient process for clients to discover nearby access points (APs). In Wi-Fi 6E, a process called fast passive scanning is being used to focus on a reduced set of channels called preferred scanning channels (PSC). PSCs are a set of 15 20-MHz channels that are spaced every 80 MHz. The APs will set their primary channel to coincide with the PSC so that it can be easily discovered by a client, and clients will use passive scanning in order to just scan PSCs to look for an AP.

 

To further improve the efficiency of the 6 GHz operation, the standard is also segregating most of the management traffic to other bands. So, a multi-band AP that has 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz will be discoverable by scanning the lower bands. The client will first go into the lower bands, discover the AP there and then move to the 6 GHz band. This way, no probe request frames will need to be sent in the 6 GHz band. This will reduce the probe requests that are sent by stations just trying to find APs because it will not be allowed unless it is a PSC channel.

Wi-Fi 6E Channelization

The 802.11ax standard also defines channel allocations for the 6 GHz band. This allocation determines the center frequencies for 20 MHz, 40 MHz, 80 MHz and 160 MHz channels.

Channels begin at the start frequency of 5950 MHz, leaving just 25 MHz of guard band between the first 6 GHz channels and the upper range of the U-NII 4 band.

If a U-NII band is not allowed in a specific regulatory domain or operates under different rules, then the regulatory specs take precedence over IEEE and channels that are falling on frequencies or overlapping on frequencies that are not supported, are not allowed.

The FCC is providing this pristine new highway of spectrum and the Wi-Fi 6E standard’s rules of operation are ensuring that we can remove the slowest vehicles on the highway. The question now is how do you build the next generation, high performance device that can really take advantage of this new spectrum? There are many challenges to overcome.

In the next post, we’ll explore what testing solutions LitePoint has available for Wi-Fi 6E. In the meantime, please visit the replay of my webinar on this topic.

One of the world’s largest municipality Wi-Fi deployments

STOCKHOLM – October 19,  2020 – The Istanbul city Wi-Fi service, enabled by a solution from Aptilo Networks, has won the Telecoms World Smart Cities Award. The network has around 8,000 access points. Every year, 16 million citizens and 10 million visitors get access to a high-capacity Wi-Fi service.

The administration of Istanbul needed a Wi-Fi service that could scale and provide various stakeholders with advanced functionality. The Aptilo Service Management Platform™ with its Venue Wi-Fi Manager™ multitenancy functionality fulfilled all the requirements.

“With a Wi-Fi network that looks and behaves like a large operator network, we needed a carrier-class solution,” said Erol Özgüner, CIO Istanbul City. “With Aptilo’s advanced functionality for cellular- and Wi-Fi-based IoT connectivity, we already have today the foundation to enter the Internet-of-everything era.”

Users of the Istanbul Wi-Fi service get high bandwidth and short response times wherever they are. There are up to five different quota buckets that control the data consumption and that can be used at different types of locations. The solution from Aptilo keeps track of where the users access the Wi-Fi service and applies the right bucket depending on the location.

The multitenancy functionality in Aptilo’s platform makes it possible for Istanbul city to tailor the look and feel for the different venues. Through banner areas at the login portal, users can get the latest information for that location and view advertisements.

Furthermore, quality-of-service control and quota profiles can be adjusted by location and user group, and for special dates such as national holidays.

“This advanced large-scale Wi-Fi service and the grand vision for the future make Istanbul city a worthy winner of the award,” said Paul Mikkelsen, CEO, Aptilo Networks. “We are very proud to have been part of the project and to have contributed to its success.”

About Aptilo Networks

Aptilo Networks, an Enea company, is a leading provider of carrier-class systems to manage data services with advanced functions for authentication, policy control and charging. Aptilo Service Management Platform™ (SMP) has become synonymous with Wi-Fi service management and Wi-Fi offload in large-scale deployments with 100+ operators in more than 75 countries, and is a critical component of Wi-Fi calling and IoT. For more information, visit www.aptilo.com.

 

By July 13, 2020 Case Studies

As the dawn of the smart city rapidly approaches, the need for reliable and cost-effective connectivity solutions within urban settings has steadily grown. Add to this scenario a marked increase in internet usage that now sees more people and devices using greater amounts of data than ever before, and a unique problem presents itself: how can a smart city provide its residents with widespread Wi-Fi coverage while keeping labor and infrastructure costs under control?
In December of 2019, INTECH GM Nando Ateho found himself considering this very question. He’d been tasked with deploying a wireless network for a five-day outdoor event held on-site at an up-and-coming smart city development in Utah known as Desert Color. The wireless solution required for this event needed to offer three things: seamless connectivity across a large geographic area, ease-of-configuration for a limited labor force, and overall cost-effectiveness.

The solution he found was Apogee by Aura Wireless.

Background

With construction on its first phase of homes having commenced at the beginning of 2019, Desert Color is well into its first year of development. Touting itself as a “master-planned community built around connectivity, community, and sustainability,” Desert Color is already proving to be one of Utah’s premier smart communities.

With an expected development timeline of 20-or-so years, sights are set high for this small city. Among its future plans are resorts, residential areas, shopping centers, recreational zones, parks, and other community centers like office buildings, schools, and churches. Its growth goals are largely geared toward attracting forward-thinking, well-to-do professionals who value an active lifestyle, connecting with the outdoors, and living a futuristic quality-of-life supported by all the amenities IoT-based living can offer.

But in order to make this vision a reality, developers had to first begin attracting prospects and selling homes. Slated for early 2020, the community’s first-ever Parade of Homes event was prepared to do just that.

The Problem

In order to showcase the Desert Color community to prospective home buyers, community planners knew it had to live up to some high expectations. The Parade of Homes event was planned with two simultaneous goals in mind: highlighting its allure as a city rich in beauty, style, and community; and showcasing its technical capabilities as a smart city. As such, Brook Cole of Clyde Development knew he needed to find a wireless network solution that would help Desert Color live up to its budding reputation.

Meant to span five days and cover a geographic area of over 15 acres, the event required a well-planned and strategic wireless infrastructure. Visitors would be moving across the area on foot and in vehicles; they’d need to be able to move outdoors and into tents and even inside buildings with ease. While the natural scenery and unique architecture of the city’s homes are a major selling point, the word “connectivity” is plainly stated within the community’s mission statement. Weak coverage and poor performance were simply not an option.

However, deploying a robust, large-scale Wi-Fi network is difficult and expensive. Covering a 15-acre swath of land typically requires dozens of access points, exponentially increasing hardware costs. Additionally, these large networks require a great deal of hands-on configuration by a team of technicians, which drastically increases labor costs. The usual conclusion is that networks such as these are just not worth it.

But what if there were a solution that could change all that?

The Solution

Once his network solutions options were assessed, Ateho eventually turned to Apogee’s software-defined antennae platform as the cornerstone of his deployment. After taking into consideration Desert Color’s specific needs and requirements, Aura’s team assisted with RF planning by bestowing thoughtful and timely planning and cooperation which would help lay the framework for the upcoming event.

During installation and throughout the Parade of Homes, only two Apogee-equipped access points were required to provide thorough coverage to the 15-acre area. What’s more, Apogee Manager Cloud gave INTECH CTO Leonard Jenkins the ability to not only remotely configure the network, but also be able to remotely manage the network. This meant that instead of dispatching multiple technicians to adjust multiple access points as needed over the course of several days, one technician was able to manage only two Apogee access points from one remote location.

Furthermore, Apogee was able to provide reliable infrastructure support for IoT devices within the area. Because IoT devices are low-powered and, oftentimes, battery-powered, properly connecting them to networks can be challenging. A robust signal – particularly on the return link from the IoT device to the AP – reduces power drain and extends the life of the device, in addition to improving connectivity. Apogee’s asymmetrical gain was ideally suited to overcome these challenges.

From installation and throughout deployment, Jenkins became more and more convinced that Apogee was a wireless solution unlike any other, applauding the system’s ease-of-use, as well as the range and strength of its signal. While providing seamless large-area Wi-Fi coverage across a large span of area can be an insurmountable challenge, Apogee and Apogee Manager Cloud helped provide a reliable network solution for the hundreds of attendees for the Parade of Homes event.

In addition to the remote configuration and optimization that Apogee provides, Jenkins was also impressed with the antenna’s ability to propagate the 5GHz band over very large areas. Typically, the 5GHz band was only utilized for point-to-point; with Apogee, Jenkins documented that 5GHz could be used alongside the 2.4GHz band for point-to-multipoint, thus doubling the number of usable channels and truly delivering two non-interfering networks side-by-side.

But ultimately, it was its long-term cost-effectiveness that brought its benefits full-circle. Ateho’s verdict?  That a better-quality solution with a more efficient signal and easier-to-manage antenna software equals a greater, long-term value.

He plans to deploy Apogee in future projects.

By Taj Manku, CEO | June 14, 2020

Woman monitors her network from her smartphone

Discovering new applications for existing technologies is the definition of innovation. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of because it opens the door to new ways of improving our quality of life, but we recognize it also comes with responsibility.

Here at Cognitive Systems, we’ve developed a solution called WiFi Motion that uses existing WiFi signals in the home to enable motion detection. Also referred to as WiFi Sensing, this technology already has numerous applications for service providers within the security, health care, enterprise and smart home markets. WiFi Motion’s capabilities are sure to expand as we work with partners and others in the space to uncover even more uses, but not without some necessary guardrails in place.

The need for a more complete set of standards

Current possibilities aside, WiFi Sensing technology won’t reach its full potential unless stakeholders work together to implement standards around its development. While there are currently adequate standards in place that cover the core functions of WiFi Motion, a more robust set is required to achieve new and more complex use cases. These standards will help others work with existing applications and also create new ones, while ensuring consistency across various platforms.

In the early stages of working on WiFi Motion, we found ourselves explaining WiFi Sensing to each new chip vendor we worked with. This simply wasn’t efficient or sustainable. Going forward, we need a universally recognized industry definition, and a defined set of API to be used as a guideline for anyone creating chips.

Finding the right partners to move WiFi Sensing forward

As one of the first companies to develop a commercially-viable solution using WiFi Sensing, we became aware of our responsibility to help shape the development of the wider technology. To make this happen, we knew we had to align ourselves with others working in the space. There is a lot of room for development, and even competition, in this space. It’s important that we all work together to realize the full potential of WiFi Sensing technology.

We identified the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) as an ideal partner to help raise awareness about WiFi Sensing, while also ensuring it is being explained accurately and consistently throughout the industry. The WBA’s mission is to enable collaboration among service providers, technology companies and organizations who want to drive seamless, interoperable service experiences via WiFi. This made them a natural fit.

Our next step was to establish a working group within the WBA. The NextGen Work Group is the first of its kind and works toward introducing and fostering the adoption of new WiFi applications. Part of the group’s work so far has included publishing the Wi-Fi Sensing Whitepaper, which outlines use cases and requirements for the technology to be utilized in home and enterprise environments. A goal of the whitepaper is to help other companies identify business opportunities or simply grow their revenue by enhancing their current offerings with WiFi Sensing. It also identifies gaps that need to be addressed to fully realize the potential of the technology in the broader industry.

Looking forward to a bright future

We’re proud to say that we’ve gotten the ball rolling on establishing a robust set of standards that will help WiFi Sensing move forward. Cognitive Systems senior engineer Chris Beg has been an integral player in aligning with the WBA, starting the NextGen Work Group and publishing the whitepaper. Last fall Chris presented to the Wireless Next Generation Standing Committee on the future of WiFi Sensing for service providers. Up next, Chris continues the conversation with key players by presenting at this summer’s Wireless Global Congress virtual event.

Ultimately, we’re looking to engage the software community and start coming together in an open source forum to explore what is possible. By strengthening the WiFi industry as a whole, we can all achieve great things together.

AdaptivMIMO technology provides flexible configurations for fast 6 GHz adoption

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Apr. 21, 2020 – ON Semiconductor (Nasdaq: ON), driving energy efficient innovations, announced sampling of its new QCS-AX2 chipset family that supports the 6GHz spectrum band based on the enhanced Wi-Fi 6E standard. Designed with a high performance, flexible architecture to maximize usage of the 6GHz band, the new product family is optimized for high-throughput Wi-Fi applications, such as access points, gateways, and mesh networking solutions for dense environments and underserved areas.

The QCS-AX2 series is built on an integrated baseband and RF (radio frequency) architecture that supports key Wi-Fi 6E features, such as orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA), advanced MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multi-Input, Multi-Output), and 160MHz channel support for faster speeds, and SmartScan channel selection for maximum band utilization. The new product portfolio will include the following:

  • QCS-AX2-A12: tri-band (6GHz/5GHz/2.4GHz) with AdaptivMIMO technology supports flexible 8×8 or 4×4 configurations
  • QCS-AX2-T12: tri-band concurrent 4×4 operation for high performance, cost-effective router solutions
  • QCS-AX2-T8: tri-band concurrent 8-stream configurations for mesh nodes and mainstream access points

 

As the Federal Communications Commission anticipates the opening of the 6GHz band in the United States later this year, up to 1,200 MHz of newly available spectrum will be designated for Wi-Fi and other unlicensed use. With almost 5 times of spectrum more than the current 2.4 GHz and 5GHz bands combined, the 6GHz band is accelerating the development of next generation Wi-Fi 6 applications. While the 6GHz client ecosystem takes time to build out, Wi-Fi infrastructure devices, such as gateways, routers, and access points will need to continue to support existing dual band (2.4GHz/5GHz) clients; infrastructure applications such as 6GHz backhaul between gateways and mesh nodes will lead deployments.

ON Semiconductor’s Wi-Fi 6E solutions are designed to accommodate the transition to the 6GHz band with AdaptivMIMO technology while addressing mainstream 6GHz applications. A Wi-Fi 6E infrastructure device with AdaptivMIMO allows the network to operate in the 5GHz or 6GHz band depending on the clients present in a subscriber’s home network to maximize performance, coverage, and utilization. The QCS-AX2 series provides the Wi-Fi performance and connectivity in congested environments to multiple devices that applications demand.

“We are excited about the tremendous opportunities that Wi-Fi 6E opens for the industry. We are in the forefront of building Wi-Fi 6E platforms that enable even better speed, efficiency and performance for the Home, Enterprise, Automotive and IoT segments,” said Irvind Ghai, Vice President of Marketing, Quantenna Connectivity Solutions at ON Semiconductor. “ON Semiconductor is dedicated to innovation in Wi-Fi technology, and will continue to leverage its connectivity excellence to provide end-to-end solutions that accelerate key Wi-Fi 6E ecosystems.”

“Our new generation of QCS-AX2 with AdaptivMIMO allows OEMs fast time-to-market with optimized performance across the 3 bands. As Wi-Fi 6E infrastructure proliferates, it will seed the 6GHz ecosystems. Client devices will also benefit from improved efficiency, lower latency and jitter, and less interference, providing better user experience across applications and environments,” said Simon Duxbury, General Manager & Vice President, Quantenna Connectivity Solutions, ON Semiconductor.

ON Semiconductor is now sampling the QCS-AX2 solutions to customers.

About ON Semiconductor
ON Semiconductor (Nasdaq: ON) is driving energy efficient innovations, empowering customers to reduce global energy use. The company is a leading supplier of semiconductor-based solutions, offering a comprehensive portfolio of energy efficient power management, analog, sensors, logic, timing, connectivity, discrete, SoC and custom devices. The company’s products help engineers solve their unique design challenges in automotive, communications, computing, consumer, industrial, medical, aerospace and defense applications. ON Semiconductor operates a responsive, reliable, world-class supply chain and quality program, a robust compliance and ethics program, and a network of manufacturing facilities, sales offices and design centers in key markets throughout North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific regions. For more information, visit https://www.onsemi.com.

Adaptive MIMO in the Era of 6GHz Wi-Fi

In 2018 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that opens up a maximum of 1.2GHz of spectrum between 5.925GHz to 7.125GHz for unlicensed use. The newly released spectrum has the potential to offer over twice the spectrum currently allowed in 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The additional channels allow for not only high speeds such as 10Gbps, but also support more users in dense environments such as Multi-Dwelling Units (MDUs). It is obvious that 6GHz has the potential to usher in a new era for Wi-Fi computing. The FCC’s publication of the NPRM puts it on course for eventual legalization, by most accounts, towards the end of 2020. Other countries, such as those in the European Union and in Asia, will follow suit with their own adoption of 6GHz, most likely in 2022.

While there is little doubt that the introduction of 6GHz is a great development, the mechanics of its adoption into everyday devices that we all have and love are a bit more complex. We can look at the adoption of Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) technology as a good model of what will most likely happen. The official 802.11ac specification was published by IEEE in December 2013. By the end of 2016, all smartphones fully adopted 802.11ac. In 2016, there were over 1.4 billion new mobile phones shipped with the majority (over 1 billion) being 802.11ac (Figure 1). If we apply this model for Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) 6GHz client devices, it will also likely be approximately 3 years from when IEEE publishes the 802.11ax specifications (June 2020) to when there will be over 1 billion new Wi-Fi 6 client devices, which will be middle of 2023. However, with the addition of 6GHz regulatory approval by the end of 2020, this timeline will most likely be slightly extended to the end of 2023, three years after the FCC fully legalizes 6GHz operation by end of 2020 (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) Adoption by Client Devices

Figure 2. Overall Timeline for Wi-Fi 6 and 6GHz Adoption

With the introduction of 6GHz, it may be deceptively simple to assume that next-generation Wi-Fi 6 infrastructure devices such as home gateways and access points launching in 2020 will all be designed with a fixed architecture, one that dedicates a fixed 4×4 radio to each of the 3 bands: 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 6GHz (Figure 3). As previously stated, since there will be a small quantity of 6GHz Wi-Fi 6 clients until the end of 2023, a gateway solution that devotes any dedicated 6GHz circuitry will be mostly unused for a significant portion of the time. That means the cost and space associated with these new 6GHz components will essentially be wasted inside the gateway. However, service providers must produce and deploy forward-looking gateways as their replacement cycles tend to be longer than that of client devices. These two competing dynamics present an interesting challenge for service providers who are considering the inclusion of Wi-Fi 6 with 6GHz support in their roadmaps.

Figure 3. Fixed, Triple Frequency 4×4 Design

A potential solution can be found in a technology called Adaptive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output). Adaptive MIMO was first introduced by Quantenna, now a part of ON Semiconductor, in June 2018 as a way for infrastructure devices to be dynamic and change their 5GHz MIMO configuration between one 8×8 radio and two 4×4 radios depending on the end user’s home environment, such as number of client devices, amount of interference from neighbors and other factors. However, this technology can be an even more powerful solution as it can address the complex issue of 6GHz market adoption for Wi-Fi 6 gateways. Adaptive 6GHz MIMO means that one hardware design can adapt itself between one 8×8 5GHz plus one 4×4 2.4GHz radios (Configuration 1) and three 4×4 radios, each operating at 6GHz, 5GHz and 2.4GHz (Configuration 2). When this design is first deployed, the device infrastructure will reflect Configuration 1. By the end of 2023 with the market adoption of Wi-Fi 6 6GHz, the infrastructure device will operate in Configuration 2. This configuration can be controlled using intelligent analytics which determines the prevalence of 6GHz Wi-Fi 6 clients in a network. It is important to note that Adaptive MIMO design incorporates a new, unique, loss-less 5-7GHz FEM (Front End Module).

Figure 4. Adaptive 8×8 Design

The introduction of 6GHz is expected to bring about new performance and usability for Wi-Fi 6 devices. While it offers remarkable improvements in upcoming Wi-Fi 6 networks, it also has the ability to dramatically transform the wireless landscape. The next Wi-Fi standard, IEEE 802.11be, is set to establish 320MHz channel operation in the 6GHz band using up to 16×16 MIMO configuration on infrastructure devices. The combination of these developments can increase speed to over 40Gbps, offer previously unseen range performance, and lead to a new age of advance Wi-Fi applications. However, to get there, infrastructure devices must adopt intelligent and cost-efficient architectures, such as Adaptive MIMO.