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15 June 2021

WiFi aims to fight its corner with 6E as Aruba unveils enterprise package

WiFi has been put on the back foot by 5G in the rapidly expanding industrial IoT sector but the recent release of an enterprise WiFi 6E set of access points (APs) by HPE subsidiary Aruba was designed to be more competitive on that front. However, the main thrust will be to shore up the existing user base among other enterprise sites such as offices and general campuses, rather than emerging applications that call for ultra-low latency or the highest security.

WiFi 6E is the extension of WiFi 6 into the 6 GHz band, which in the USA was opened up in April 2020 for unlicensed use, a move that has now been emulated by around 40 other countries. This more than doubled the amount of spectrum available for WiFi use, allowing applications to move out of the increasingly congested 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.

Aruba claims its new WiFi 6E offering will allow organizations to exploit this increased capacity and wider channels more efficiently, while significantly reducing signal interference and enabling maximum aggregate throughput to reach 3.9Gbps. This it insists will be competitive for advanced applications in industrial IoT, ultra-high definition (UHD) video and extended reality.

The company also claims its package is helping WiFi replace wired predecessors just as private 5G networks are doing, citing the Californian private academic institution Chapman University as a reference site for its APs.

“As we progress in our digital transformation, we are continually adding an increasing number of IoT devices to our network and transitioning to WiFi as our primary network connection rather than Ethernet,” said Mike Ferguson, network manager and enterprise architect at Chapman University. “We are being asked to support an expanded array of mission-critical, high bandwidth applications that support research as well as hyflex (combining face-to-face and online) learning and entertainment, like streaming video, video communications, and AR/VR for our students, professors and staff.”

In this case WiFi is replacing wired Ethernet for existing applications for which wireless is desirable and convenient rather than essential as is the case for robotics and autonomous vehicle control for example. It is those applications enabled by wireless communications and requiring ultra-low latency that will provide a tougher test for WiFi 6E platforms such as Aruba’s. It may be that while the packages thrive in settings such as coffee shops, they may find it harder to penetrate the factory.

At least Aruba’s offering boasts one valuable selling point with its innovation called ultra tri-band filtering. The point is that WiFi 6E operates in three bands, 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 6 GHz, with the upper two separated by just 50 MHz. This leaves potential for interference and Aruba has reduced that risk with some new filtering algorithms, enabling more effective spectrum utilization, the company claimed.