As we celebrate the end of 2020 and look forward to 2021, the hospitality and gaming industry faces many new challenges and opportunities. One of these is the introduction of WiFi 6 and 5G networks. I will discuss the impacts of these new technologies and how security aspects of the new standards will impact their use in the industry.
What is WiFi 6? Well, to explain that we need to understand what WiFi 5 is first, to understand the enhancements that the new standard will bring. The governing body that created these standards is known as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and you have probably heard or seen the name before in other technical discussions. The standards and specifications from the IEEE provide manufactures a framework to develop their products and solutions so that they can operate with each other. For example, your laptop should be able to go from any WiFi network to another WiFi network without having to install any new technology for it to work. You may get security challenges but that is a matter of configuration and does not require you to install anything new. By establishing these standards, manufactures can then develop new or add-on technologies and then enhance them to differentiate their solutions in the marketplace. WiFi 5 and WiFi 6 are used to denote the generations of the technology, but they are also known as 802.11ac for WiFi 5 and 802.11ax for WiFi 6. Meant to simplify and distinguish between different generations of WiFi products, the naming system assigns a number to each protocol. Higher WiFi numbers correspond to newer devices, technology and better performance. In other words, the IEEE 802.11 n, ac, and ax can be confusing to consumers, so those names are out, and WiFi 4 through WiFi 6 are in. The good news is that these technologies are designed to be backwards compatible so a WiFi 4 compatible device can work with a WiFi 6 access point. The technology used to send data wirelessly is radio frequency. Radio frequencies is the number of electromagnetic waves in one second, also known as a Hertz or Hz. One Hz equals one cycle per second. One megahertz (MHz) equals one million cycles per second. Generally, microwaves are radio frequencies measuring more than 1 GHz. In terms of wireless networks, WiFi 4 used 2.4 MHz, WiFi 5 used 2.4 MHz and 5 MHz. And now with the introduction of WiFi 6, it now adds the use of 6 MHz frequencies. The reason why this is so important is that as more traffic is sent on wireless networks the more bandwidth is needed. Recently Cisco, a major network manufacturer, reported that wireless networks will carry 51% of global network traffic by 2022 in their Annual Internet Report Whitepaper. So, with the additional availability of this new frequency, it allows new devices to use this 6 MHz frequency for higher bandwidths. So now that we understand the names and frequency spectrums, let us discuss what matters to users – bandwidth. Bandwidth equates to performance, and to explain this I will use an analogy