Making Sense of the IoT Connectivity Landscape
Now that the iPhone 11 and Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus are shipping with Wi-Fi 6 support and new 5G phones and networks are starting to appear, you’re probably wondering about the differences between the network standards and how — or if — they will affect your life.
Understanding the evolving wireless connectivity landscape first requires a reality check. Even though Wi-FI 6 and 5G standards have been finalized at most levels, you still can’t make full use of the networks. There’s plenty of build-out to come, along with wide-scale adoption and purchase of enabled devices, phones and routers.
“5G is going to happen, but not now,” said Craig Mathias, principal with the Farpoint Group. “Given our forecast for critical mass, you can depend on it around 2023.” Before then, expect to be dealing with errors and bugs, he added.
Wi-Fi 6 is also known as 802.11ax, but after years of 802.11 versions from A, B, AC and N, the standards body Wi-FI Alliance came up the new nomenclature along with a new certification program late last year. The alliance certified the Wi-Fi 6 standard in September; the next step is ratification by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
But most people are waiting for speed, not paperwork, especially since Wi-Fi 6 promises it will be 30% faster than the previous generation, with top data speeds of 1.5 to 2 Gbps. Compare that to most home Wi-Fi networks that now offer under 300 Mbps.
To get where it takes seconds rather than minutes to download vast video libraries of your favorite weekend viewing, you’ll need an end-to-end connection, with Wi-Fi 6 supported on the ISP access point and the phone — otherwise you’ll default to the previous generation speed.
In addition to faster download speeds, Wi-Fi 6 features what is known as High Efficiency Wireless technology, such as the ability to handle more simultaneous users on the network, better power utilization and less interference between wireless bands. The new version still offers the usual 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.
The Wi-Fi 6 routers will be 1024-QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation), sending 10 bits of binary code with each transmission, compared to the current Wi-Fi 5 routers that are 256-QAM and send 8 bits of binary at once. That will mean less buffering time and more signals can be handled at once. Wi-Fi relies on transmission of those radio waves.
OFDMA (orthogonal frequency division multiple access) further divides the management capacity of your router. MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input multiple output) allows your router to talk to multiple devices as well.
But how many things do you really need to do at once at home? In the 5G world, the hype has been around for years, but real-world deployments are at least a few years away, thanks to ongoing build-outs. For instance, Verizon, the largest carrier, says it will have 5G in 30 markets by the end of the year. AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint are also just getting started.