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  • Gagandeep Singh

Wi-Fi 6: Benefits, Top Players and Compatibility

The term wireless communication was introduced in the 19th century and wireless communication technology and wireless communication devices has developed over the subsequent years. Wireless communication devices such as IoT, Smartphones, VR headset, operating over the internet, demand high data transfer rate to communicate. At present, wireless communication include - Wi-Fi, IR wireless communication, Satellite Communication, Broadcast Radio, Microwave Radio, Bluetooth, and ZigBee etc. This article talks about Wi-Fi (mainly 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 standard), a family of radio technologies used for the wireless local area networking (WLAN) devices. There are many different versions of Wi-Fi: 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n (Wi-Fi 4), 802.11h, 802.11i, 802.11-2007, 802.11-2012, 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5), 802.11ad, 802.11af, 802.11-2016, 802.11ah, 802.11ai, 802.11aj, 802.11aq, 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6), 802.11ay. The versions differ between the radio wavebands they operate on, the radio bandwidth they occupy, and the maximum data rates they can support.

Wi-Fi is all about faster and uninterrupted internet and connecting more and more Wi-Fi compatible devices to a single network. As more bandwidth-demanding apps, games, and videos running on laptops and smartphone, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices (such as home automation devices including smart speakers, thermostats, and/or automated doorbells) are increasing, it brings a challenge to provide the same throughput capacity to all devices. IoT devices utilize transfer of small data packets and share the same airspace with audio and video traffic — which slow down a wireless network. In crowded places like restaurants, hospitals, railway stations, airports, and/or stadiums where hundreds of mobile devices are connected, Wi-Fi is the need of an hour.

Current Wi-Fi standard (802.11 ac/Wi-Fi 5) provides a Multiple User- Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) feature for connecting multiple devices to a network via the routers and access points. But the MU-MIMO feature is available for downlink channel only.

To overcome these problems and improve Wi-Fi capability, Wi-Fi alliance is coming up with the new standard i.e. 802.11 ax (known as Wi-Fi 6).

What is Wi-Fi 6?

The Wi-Fi 6 speeds up the internet up to 9.6 Gbps (theoretically) which is 3.5 Gbps up from Wi-Fi 5. That 9.6 Gbps doesn’t have to go to a single computer or Wi-Fi compatible device, rather it can be split up across a whole network of devices. That means more potential speed for each device. Some features of Wi-Fi 6 are listed below which will improve and overcome the problems.

Wi-Fi 6 Isn’t Just About “TOP SPEEDS”

Instead of boosting the speed for individual devices, Wi-Fi 6 is all about improving a network when a bunch of devices is connected to the network. Wi-Fi 6 provides a Multiple User- Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) feature for both Uplink and Downlink channel. It lets router communicate with more devices at once, lets router send data to multiple devices in the same broadcast and lets Wi-Fi device schedule check-ins with the router. Together, those features keep connections strong even as more and more devices start demanding data.

Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) is another technology which is widely used for multiple connected devices to a single network. It is a multi-user variant of OFDM technology that enables a Wi-Fi 6 access point (AP) to connect with many devices at once. OFDMA allows better handling of data packets (such as voice traffic) to be transmitted simultaneously. In dense environments where several IoT devices and other Wi-Fi supported devices are connected, better speed and bandwidth can be given.

Wi-Fi 6 Ensures Longer Battery Life

Another new technology in Wi-Fi 6 allows devices to plan out communications with a router, reducing the amount of time they need to keep their antennas powered on to transmit and search for signals. That means less drain on batteries and improved battery life in turn.

This is all possible because of a feature called Target Wake Time (TWT), which lets router schedule check-in times with devices. Target Wake Time (TWT) is a function that permits an Access Point (AP) to define a specific time or set of times for individual stations to access the medium. When the access point is talking to a device (like IoT device and/or smartphone), it can tell the device exactly when to put its Wi-Fi radio to sleep and exactly when to wake it up to receive the next transmission. This feature is not useful for the device which needs constant internet connectivity like laptops and is meant for smaller, already low-power Wi-Fi devices that just need to update their status every now and then.

Wi-Fi 6 With Improved Security

Last year, Wi-Fi started getting its biggest security update, with a new security protocol WPA3. WPA3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access) is a security protocol which provides enhanced security in public Wi-Fi networks which are open and allow anyone to connect. Individual data encryption is used in WPA3, which encrypts data between the access point and the user even though no password is entered at the time of connection. WPA3 provides protection against Brute-Force Attack where a client attempts to guess the password again and again. This is done by blocking authentication after several failed log-in attempts. WPA3 provides a new strong password-based authentication using Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) protocol which provides robust protection which is resistant to active, passive and dictionary attack. It is a peer-to-peer protocol in which one-way key derived function is used to generate a key. It is difficult for the attacker to crack the code even with the password. WPA3 uses 192-bit security suite aligned with the Commercial National Security Algorithm (CNSA) Suite that protect the government, Defense and industrial network which requires a higher level of security. Current devices and routers can support WPA3, but it’s optional. For Wi-Fi 6 certified devices WPA3 is required.

Wi-Fi 6 Compatibility

IEEE 802.11ax is designed to be excellently forward and backward compatible with 802.11a/g/n/ac devices. In fact, the 802.11ax compatibility design is even simpler and more thorough than 802.11n compatibility with 802.11a devices. An 802.11ax client can communicate with an 802.11a/g/n or IEEE 802.11ac access point using 802.11a/g/n or 802.11ac PLCP Protocol Data units (PPDUs). Therefore, the emergence of 802.11ax clients will not cause problems with existing infrastructure.

The preamble of the 802.11ax formatted packet is an extension of the established 802.11a/g formatted packet. This extension allows the existing Clear Channel Assessment (CCA) mechanisms already in use for 802.11a/g/n and 802.11ac devices to continue in an 802.11ax world. PPDUs are typically followed by an Ack or Block Ack frame sent in an 802.11a/g format PPDU, so compatibility with existing devices is ensured and all can integrity the time commitments established before continuing to contend and transmit as usual.

Wi-Fi 6 - Patent Analysis

Let’s have a look at a patent data set for 802.11 ax (Wi-Fi 6) from 2011 to 2019. The graphs below show the current patent assignees and patent filing trends for Wi-Fi 6 standard. The data set consists of 900 US grant patents over the years. The analysis shows the leading market player for the Wi-Fi 6 standard and how the standard has been evolved over the years in terms of the patent.

From the above graph, it is clear that Intel IP Corporation plus Intel Corporation holds around 436 patents out 900 patent (around 48%) data set which makes Intel front runner in Wi-Fi 6 standard. This clearly shows that Wi-Fi 6 products (routers, access points, IoT devices and/or smartphones) are going to have Intel chips. Qualcomm, a modem chip maker, also holds some amount of Wi-Fi 6 patents i.e. 85 (4th in the race). With Apple holding a very less number of patents indicate that they still have to rely upon either Qualcomm or Intel for implementing Wi-Fi 6 standard.

Wi-Fi 6 standard started evolving in the year 2011 with just 4 US patents granted. Wi-Fi 6 standard slowly evolved and reached at its peak in the year 2015 with 397 US patents granted. By the year 2016 and 2017, the standard has evolved enough and US patent grant falls to 204 and 27 respectively.

On October 27, 2016, Quantenna announced the first 802.11ax silicon, the QSR10G-AX. The chipset is compliant with Draft 1.0 and supports eight 5 GHz streams and four 2.4 GHz streams. In January 2017 Quantenna added the QSR5G-AX to their portfolio with support for four streams in both bands. Both products are aimed at routers and access points. Further, on September 12, 2017, Huawei announced their first 802.11ax access point.

In 2019, latest products include Samsung Galaxy S10 and Cisco Access Points. On March 8, 2019, Samsung released the Galaxy S10 supporting 802.11ax. On April 29, 2019, Cisco announced 802.11ax access point. The ax enabled access point are Catalyst 9115, Catalyst 9117, Catalyst 9120, Meraki MR45 and MR55. With all Wi-Fi 6 certified products already up and running to work on new Wi-Fi standard, full deployment of the standard is expected in late 2019.

Wi-Fi 6 Semianl Patents

1. Apparatus, system and method of communicating a wakeup packet response (US9801133B2)

Date of Patent: October 24, 2017

Current Assignee: Intel Corp.

The patent teaches about an apparatus including a circuitry configured to cause a first wireless device to generate a wakeup packet including a wakeup response policy field to indicate a response policy and to transmit the wakeup packet to a wakeup receiver of a second wireless device over a wakeup Resource Unit (RU) allocation of an Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) structure. The method includes following steps:

  1. To generate a wakeup packet comprising trigger timing information and a wakeup response policy field to indicate a response policy, the wakeup response policy field comprising a value to indicate an Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) packet response policy, the wakeup packet comprising a response Resource Unit (RU) allocation of an OFDMA structure for transmission of a response to wakeup packet.

  2. To transmit the wakeup packet to a wakeup receiver of a second wireless device over a wakeup RU allocation of the OFDMA structure, the wakeup packet to indicate that a radio of the second wireless device is to be woken up, the OFDMA structure comprising the wakeup RU allocation and a plurality of other RU allocations, the wakeup RU allocation allocated for communication of the wakeup packet, the plurality of other RU allocations allocated for OFDMA communication of one or more data packets.

  3. To transmit a trigger frame to the second wireless device based on the trigger timing information

  4. To process reception of said response over the response RU allocation of the OFDMA structure.

2. Techniques for mobile platform power management using Low-Power Wake-Up signals (US9736779B2)

Date of Patent: August 15, 2017

Current Assignee: Intel IP Corp.

The patent discusses the problem of power management for battery powered small form factor platforms (such as smartphones, tablets, wearable devices, and Internet and Things (IoT) devices). A new low - power wake – up radio (LP - WUR) listens to the wireless medium for a wake - up signal with, for example, below 50 µw power consumption. The LP - WUR allows the mobile platform to completely turn off the main wireless radios, such as Wi - Fi, Bluetooth ( BT ), Low - Energy Bluetooth ( BLE ), and the like, and then selectively or opportunistically turn them on only when there is data to transmit or receive based on a wake - up signal.

3. System and method for OFDMA tone allocation in next generation Wi-Fi Networks (US9722740B2)

Date of Patent: August 01, 2017

Current Assignee: Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.

A method for receiving an uplink frame in a wireless network is provided. The method includes receiving an uplink orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) frame over a 20 megahertz (MHz) frequency channel. The uplink OFDMA frame comprises resource units (RUs) communicated by different mobile devices. Each of the RUs in the OFDMA frame carries a separate pilot signal. The method further includes performing residual carrier frequency offset estimation on the uplink OFDMA frame in accordance with the separate pilot signals carried by the RUs. An apparatus for performing this method is also provided.

4. Method of packet classification for 802.11AX US9882687B2

Date of Patent: January 30, 2018

Current Assignee: Intel IP Corp.

The patent teaches a technique for packet classification for IEEE 802.11 ax capable devices. A method is described for determining the modulation and coding scheme used, through robust bit indication in a WLAN 802.11ax frame. Embodiments provide novel networking mechanisms that facilitate a process for obtaining modulation and coding information. A technique for determining whether a legacy frame or frame with equivalent OOK modulation and/or Rep8 coding is used in WLAN IEEE 802.11ax devices is also presented. A device is configured to retrieve information from at least one of the physical layer frames, wherein the information retrieved further includes at least one of an HE-SIG1 and HE-SIG2 field and read a robust packet bit, wherein a same value of the robust packet bit resides in each of the HE-SIG1 and the HE-SIG2 fields. The robust packet bit allowing differentiation between legacy modulation and On-Off Keying (OOK) modulation and process the data in the at least one of the physical layer frames based at least in part on the robust packet bit and a constellation rotation. The above-described system can be implemented on a wireless telecommunications device(s)/system, such an 802.11 transceiver, or the like. Examples of wireless protocols that can be used with this technology include 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac, 802.11ad, 802.11af, 802.11ah, 802.11ai, 802.11aj, 802.11aq, 802.11ax, 802.11u, WiFi, LTE, LTE Unlicensed, 4G, Bluetooth®, WirelessHD, WiGig, 3GPP, Wireless LAN, WiMAX.

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