Table of Contents
- WiFi Technology Is Changing – Meet 6 GHz WiFi
- Why Does It Matter to Your Property?
- Here are some helpful links to learn more
WiFi Technology Is Changing – Meet 6 GHz WiFi
Modern life is becoming increasingly reliant on secure, reliable, high-speed wireless connectivity, and WiFi solutions are evolving to keep up. In 2020, the FCC opened up some of the 6 GHz spectrum band for unlicensed use, intended primarily for WiFi, marking the most significant technology leap for WiFi since its invention. Both the WiFi 6E standard and the upcoming WiFi 7 standard will use 6 GHz WiFi to improve performance considerably.
The buzz around 6 GHz WiFi has recently increased with the release of Apple products, including the iPhone 15, that support WiFi 6E. As guests and residents start bringing these devices to your property, you’ll want to be ready for them to keep your guests and residents happy.
How Is 6 GHz WiFi Different?
Most current WiFi networks use two frequency bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Essentially, in the 2.4 GHz band, data travels farther at lower speeds, while the 5 GHz band provides faster speeds in a shorter range. Dual-band enabled WiFi devices allow users to connect to the band best suited for a particular application or device; this worked well until these bands became overwhelmed with traffic. This is where 6 GHz enters the picture.
First implemented with the WiFi 6E standard in early 2021, the 6 GHz band supports significantly more channels. This means the network can handle more data at faster speeds with less interruption and higher throughput. The 6 GHz band has more than 20 times the capacity of the 2.4 GHz band and 6.5 times the capacity of the 5 GHz band. The greater throughput and reduced latency offered by this added spectrum enables applications that require greater bandwidth, such as high-definition video, VR, AR, and smart solutions.
WiFi 7 (also known as 802.11 be) is currently in draft status, with final approval expected in early 2024. It also uses the 6 GHz band but goes beyond simply adding channels to changing how those channels are used to improve performance further. Benefits will include faster transmission speeds, lower latency, higher throughput, and better reliability for a transformative experience that will go beyond the applications we use today. You can read more about WiFi 7 in our whitepaper.
What Do You Need to Do to Prepare?
Now that more user devices support WiFi 6E, you’ll want to consider upgrading your guest/resident network to include support for this newer technology. While WiFi 6E devices can use older networks, as devices are generally backward compatible, they won’t be able to use updated networking features unless they’re using a 6 GHz-enabled network. WiFi 6E-enabled gateways, routers, and access points (APs) have been available for some time, and early WiFi 7 equipment is starting to reach the market. As more user devices and network equipment become available, a stronger case is being made for upgrading your network to support 6 GHz WiFi.
Property owners can also prepare by improving other facets of their existing digital infrastructure. We recommend the installation of fiber optic cabling, which has virtually infinite capacity and can operate across longer cable distances. Cat6a twisted pair structured wiring will also work, although it is less future-proof. APs should be placed as close as possible to where guests and residents will use them, using a ratio of one AP per unit if possible.
Why Does It Matter to Your Property?
Today’s WiFi networks are overwhelmed with data, particularly in high-traffic environments such as apartment communities and hotels. WiFi 6E and, even more so, WiFi 7 will alleviate most of today’s connectivity woes with significantly more bandwidth, faster speeds, and “smart WiFi” capabilities. These advances will allow data to move more intelligently, enabling new applications.
These new standards are designed to support more devices with improved performance, reduced interference, and enhanced security. This will provide a better overall experience, especially in properties with many users online simultaneously. And they will also better support IoT devices and smart home solutions that require increased reliability and lower latency.
Perhaps even more important for property owners are the expectations of your guests and residents. As noted previously, Apple recently released the iPhone 15, which offers WiFi 6E functionality. Other Apple devices released within the past year, such as MacBook Pro, Mac Studio, and iPad, are also compatible with WiFi 6E, as are some Android devices. Analysts are expecting next year’s Apple releases to support WiFi 7, and there’s speculation that upcoming Android devices will also include this technology. (In fact, some Android devices have already been released with support for the preliminary WiFi 7 draft technology.)
If your network doesn’t support 6 GHz technology, your guests and residents won’t be able to take advantage of the expected performance boost offered by their new devices. This will likely lead to frustration, dissatisfaction, and complaints. But preparing now for WiFi 6E and WiFi 7 can put you ahead of your competition, helping to make your property the place to be.
For many hotels, while modernizing the WiFi infrastructure and adding APs certainly support a better guest experience, these upgrades were not viewed as a must-have for hoteliers. However, as more WiFi 6E and WiFi 7 devices come onto the market and become popular with guests, there is a greater justification for infrastructure upgrades. WiFi 7 equipment will be able to accommodate thousands of devices with significantly improved connectivity – not just mobile phones and tablets but also sensors and smart devices that can transform the hotel experience. This new technology will have the capacity and intelligence to decide how best to deliver fast, reliable internet to guests and staff alike, regardless of their location within a property, improving both hotel operations and the guest experience for a positive impact on the bottom line.
Only within the last few years have larger apartment and condominium communities begun to consider providing WiFi to individual units. However, the transformative nature of WiFi 7 will likely make community-provided WiFi an industry standard in multi-dwelling environments. With the broader installation of smart building systems including cameras, sensors, environmental controls, and asset tracking systems becoming crucial amenities for an improved resident experience, residents will come to view community WiFi systems like they view roofs, common area access controls, and driveways and parking lots today. Owners who do not keep up with these developments will see the quality and capitalized value of their community suffer.
Today’s students use the Internet more than ever before, and they rely on fast, accessible connections. WiFi 6E and especially WiFi 7 will be able to accommodate far more devices and applications that require greater bandwidth, ensuring ubiquitous Internet access to keep students always connected. Well-performing WiFi is needed for many student housing amenities, including smart buildings, entertainment such as streaming and casting, access controls, and digital signage. Also, the WiFi infrastructure must enable greater capacity, faster speed, and lower latency to support newer devices that use artificial intelligence for proactive monitoring, such as security cameras, smart lighting and HVAC solutions, and leak detectors.
Our modern lives are increasingly dependent on Internet access; soon, we will see a world where more devices are communicating with each other than there are people in the world. 6 GHz WiFi, as used with WiFi 6E and WiFi 7, will offer possibilities for transforming technology in ways we have yet to imagine. We are excited to be part of an industry that continues to have a profound influence on society, creating a future of infinite possibilities.