Smart Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi Performance at Home

author: Alejandro Gandara


How has Wi-Fi performance at home evolved?

This article belongs to a monographic series about the importance of good Wi-Fi performance, which constitutes a fundamental advance in connectivity and a key infrastructure for digital transformation.

Wi-Fi evolution has continuously grown in households, together with the evolution of broadband connections, the penetration of smartphones and smart devices and the rise of on-demand services.

Some years ago, most households connections were, at best, ADSL. However, routers allowed up to 54 Mbps link speeds, so there was no speed limit beyond the one of the copper wire. With the arrival of the fiber connection, service providers started to offer much higher speeds and ADSL connections began to be a limiting factor, with speeds, sometimes, below the contracted one.

It is a fact that Wi-Fi 5 standard specifies a series of mechanisms and schemes where it is possible to exceed the network speed (MIMO, bandwidth, 5 GHz, …), but this depends on the router and the browsing device that we are using. This conditions the maximum real speed to which users can browse, as it is mentioned in MedUX previous article on Wi-Fi performance, Do you know how is the real speed connection of a Wi-Fi network?. Therefore, today this limitation can be present in connections based on very high speed fiber (300-600 Mbps) if we do not use the suitable devices, although the router far supports the contracted speed.

In 2012, Wi-Fi was present in 25% of world’s homes. Nowadays, we can say that the presence of this technology in the residential environment has increased exponentially, becoming the most popular Internet access technology globally and, at the same time, has increased the challenges it has to face.

This deployment allows more people and devices to be connected at the same time. However, this may cause excess loads across the network, which will possibly result in a network congestion, especially with the new high-demand services. In addition, considering Wi-Fi is a shared medium, there could be a risk of high interference due to many active wireless access points, which significantly limits the user experience. That is, new problems, which did not exist before, are emerging now, especially those related to spectrum and bandwidth. The objective of the new Wi-Fi standard is to solve the problems derived from this interrelation.

Earlier, using 2.4 GHz bandwidth was enough to meet the existing needs, offering a series of channels where it was difficult to match someone close (in fact, routers have the ability to read the environment and know the best available channel to avoid interference). Plus, link speeds were enough to reach the contracted speed. Together with the deployment growth, a new band, the 5 GHz band, has been enabled, with a greater number of channels and higher bandwidths. This ensures a good quality in high demand services and improved access techniques that allow better connection speeds.

Also, we should mention the importance of the number of devices connected at home. Not only a laptop or a smartphone, but nowadays barely any object can be connected to the Internet, and this is giving way to a new paradigma: the Internet of Things (IoT), which gather together smart speakers, thermostats, light bulbs, locks, air conditioners, clocks, surveillance cameras, etc. As it can be seen in Figure 1, in recent years, the development of these devices has been exponential.

Figure 1: Evolution on the number of IoT devices connected | Source: The Connectivist

The fact of having almost “everything” connected also requires some connection mechanisms to ensure a correct functioning of all devices, since, as we have already mentioned, the medium is shared and the devices “compete against each other” for the best access. This could lead to possible collisions and retransmissions, and thus limiting the Wi-Fi performance.

To face all these challenges related to higher speeds, more devices connected and high-demand services, Wi-Fi 6 standard has been established. This latest certified Wi-Fi update presents a series of access mechanisms that aim to leverage the medium to the full and offer the best user experience.

Wi-Fi 6 is ready to provide greater bandwidths and manage devices more efficiently, whatever their nature is, allowing full integration with the Internet of Things. At the same time, it provides new transmission and reception techniques, to ensure that each device has the maximum link speed required. This will stop network speeds to be a limiting element that prevents users from taking full advantage of the fiber network. Hereunder are some of the improvements and functionalities of the new Wi-Fi update:

  • High-order modulations: 1024-QAM
  • OFDMA in download and upload channels.
  • MU-MIMO 8×8 and MU-MIMO in the ascending channel.
  • Reduction of energy consumption.
  • Inclusion of narrow transmission channels
  • Improvement of outdoor performance

Do you want to know more about the importance of the quality of the experience for the new incoming trend of home connectivity? Subscribe to the blog newsletter and follow us on our social networks to not miss our related articles.

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Author: Alejandro Gandara

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