Intel Wi-Fi 6: A Whole New Level of Wi-Fi Performance

By Eric McLaughlin, Vice President, Client Computing Group; General Manager, Wireless Solutions Group.

WI-FI 6: A Path to Unparalleled Connectivity

  • Wi-Fi 6 is the most important connectivity advancement in over a decade, providing a key solution to meet the growing demand for more data and bandwidth on more devices. Wi-Fi 6E recently launched and has begun shipping in our partner’s PCs.

  • Intel’s Wireless Solutions Group is working to maximize the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 by innovating for laptops and collaborating with the broader ecosystem for improved end-to-end experiences.

  • Together with 5G, Wi-Fi 6 opens a new era of unparalleled connectivity for people and families, workers and businesses, and societies and economies.

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We’ve learned to accept certain everyday connectivity compromises. We put up with laggy video calls, slow downloads, and the constant battle for faster speeds. It’s frustrating, but we find workarounds. We turn our video quality down, wait for the stream to buffer, and coordinate our family’s schedule to avoid taxing the Wi-Fi. We accept these hassles as inevitable.

But they aren’t. These are technical problems, and we are developing technical solutions.

Our mission at Intel is create technology that enables the experiences that matter most, and we’re optimistic about the future. Because Wi-Fi 6 is now poised to provide us with the tools for unparalleled connectivity, with no compromises.

The Challenge: Data, Demands, and Densification

The root of today’s challenge is the mismatch between our increasingly connected lives and our increasingly outdated Wi-Fi architecture.

For years, people and businesses have been steadily increasing their data and wireless connectivity needs on more devices. We now work and learn remotely, game online, stream ultra-HD videos, make video calls, and more—all at once, on the same crowded, or “dense,” Wi-Fi networks. COVID-19 has only accelerated this trend, with global internet traffic increasing 38% in early 2020 and 80% of the traffic from video, social and gaming.1

For more information about Intel’s connectivity solution, visit here.

With the growing number of Internet users, we need faster, more reliable, lower latency Wi-Fi to meet these needs—now and in the future. It’s estimated that there will be 5.3 billion global internet users by 20232, and more than 60% of mobile traffic will be offloaded to Wi-Fi this year.3 At that point, Wi-Fi will account for a ~$3.5 trillion total contribution to the global economy—greater than the GDP of the United Kingdom.4 5

Yet we are still relying on Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), which launched in 2013 and uses the same architecture as Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n) from 2007. Not only is the technology outdated, the number of connected devices has exploded. 51% of 2022 IP traffic is from Wi-Fi devices and 59% of 2022 mobile data offloaded to Wi-Fi.6

We’ve moved our lives and our jobs into an online world, but much of the Wi-Fi infrastructure hasn’t kept up. As a result, people and businesses are struggling with slow speeds, inconsistent performance, and high latency—the familiar compromises of wireless connectivity.

Our Vision for Wi-Fi 6

We now have a powerful tool to address these challenges. This is Wi-Fi 6—a key development in the wireless connectivity in the last decade.

Intel is working to maximize the benefits of Wi-Fi 6, which solves several fundamental problems. It can split the Wi-Fi network into multiple smaller segments and use data and time scheduling to better manage many different devices, and it can also pack 20% more data into streams. This enables up to 4x greater capacity for greater reliability on dense networks,7 up to 75% lower latency for improved responsiveness,8 and nearly 40% faster speeds.9

To get the most from Wi-Fi 6, we need the right innovations and collaborations:

  • Innovating at the edge. Not all Wi-Fi 6 products are the same. Intel has developed Intel Wi-Fi 6 (Gig+), which includes support for optional, larger 160 MHz channels, and can achieve 1,680 Mbps Wi-Fi speeds—twice as fast as the 840 Mbps on standard 2x2 Wi-Fi 6 80 MHz, and nearly 3X faster than the 600 Mbps on standard 2X2 AC 80 MHz.10 Intel Wi-Fi 6 (Gig+) products, together with similarly enabled routers and access points, can also enable the filtering out of “noise” from nearby signals from other devices and networks, enhancing reliability and improving performance in dense environments.
  • Optimizing networks. Intel’s suite of technologies for laptops and IoT devices enable us to optimize performance on networks that have many different Wi-Fi access points and devices, like offices. For example, when companies use Intel’s built-for-business vPro platform, we can offer next-generation WPA3 wireless security with simplified passwords and stronger encryption, faster speeds for file-sharing and cloud-based apps, and overall improvements in scalability, reliability, security, and performance.
  • Building ecosystem partnerships and setting standards. Intel is collaborating with our OEM partners to optimize Wi-Fi 6 on laptops and IoT devices, as well as working with the broader ecosystem to solve systems-level challenges. We are working with software companies, hardware vendors, and regulatory and standards organizations like the FCC, IEEE, Wi-Fi Alliance, and Wireless Broadband Alliance to help set standards and ensure interoperability.

Looking Ahead: Wi-Fi 6E and 5G

[6GHz is] a once-in-a-generation chance to meet this growing demand for Wi-Fi capacity and even push the boundaries of what consumers think is possible with applications and services.”

- FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Apr’20

Intel is also planning for future advances that will maximize the benefits of Wi-Fi 6—like Wi-Fi 6E. Coming to Intel Platforms in early 2021, Wi-Fi 6E will take advantage of a landmark FCC ruling that opens a new, clean 6 GHz spectrum for unlicensed use in the U.S. This is part of a broader global trend, as countries like the United Kingdom and South Korea are making similar changes. Where today we are limited to 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, adding this third band of 6GHz will alleviate network congestion and increase overall Wi-Fi capacity.

In the U.S., the 6 GHz band will more than double the existing Wi-Fi spectrum, with many more 160 MHz channels, and this spectrum will only be available for new Wi-Fi 6E products. Unencumbered by legacy Wi-Fi devices and networks, 6 GHz Wi-Fi 6E will help make Gigabit Wi-Fi speeds and ultra-low latency Wi-Fi mainstream experiences.

Rivet’s SW solutions build on our industry leading WiFi products by enabling QoS, advanced and automated AP selection, and other capabilities designed to anticipate and avoid typical network challenges in homes, offices, and other venues where PCs are used. We are excited to add these capabilities to the Intel Evo platform, vPro, gaming and other segments in 2021.

Finally, Intel is also planning for how Wi-Fi and 5G will work together. While 5G has received more press and attention, our future connectivity needs will require working seamlessly across both solutions.

Together, these technologies can open the next chapter of connectivity. With the right innovations, they will help improve our daily lives, ensure businesses run smoothly, and strengthen the foundation of our virtual world.

Product and Performance Information

1

Wi-Fi 6 Revolution presentation.

6

~700 Mu Wi-Fi devices 2007: ABI 2Q2019 Wireless Connectivity Technology Segmentation Addressable Markets (MD-WCMT-179) Table 30 “Wi-Fi Enabled Devices, Total Annual and Cumulative Shipments, World Markets, Forecast: 2000 to 2024 (693Mu).

~9.8 Bu Wi-Fi devices 2019: ABI 2Q2019 Wireless Connectivity Technology Segmentation Addressable Markets (MD-WCMT-179) Table 30 “Wi-Fi Enabled Devices, Total Annual and Cumulative Shipments, World Markets, Forecast: 2000 to 2024 (9,833Mu).

~81 MTB Global IP Traffic 2007: Jun-2016 Cisco Visual Networking Index –Forecast and Methodology, 2007–2012. Table 1. Global IP Traffic 2006-2012 (6,577 PB per Month = 80,818,176 TB/Y).

~2.5 BTB Global IP Traffic 2019: Feb-2019 Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Trends, 2017–2022 White Paper. Figure 1. Cisco VNI forecasts 396 EB per month of IP traffic by 2022 (2019 201 EB per Month = 2,469,888,000 TB/Y).

~35 MTB Global Video Traffic 2007: Jun-2008 Cisco Visual Networking Index –Forecast and Methodology, 2007–2012. Table 3. Global Consumer Internet Traffic 2006-2012 (Video = 25+647+99) + page 6 Peer to Peer “video = 65% of P2P = (0.65*1747 = 1136) + Table 11. Global Consumer Non-Internet IP Traffic 2006-2012 965 PB/M) = 2,869 PB/M vs. Table 1. Global IP Traffic 2006-2012 Total IP Traffic = 6,577 PB/M = 44% & 35,248,742 TB/Y.

~1.8 BTB Global Video Traffic 2019: Feb-2019 Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Trends, 2017–2022 White Paper. Figure 13. Global IP traffic by application category, 2019 video portion = 150 EB/M = 1,843,200 TB/Y.

13.802.11AC Nearly 3X Faster: 802.11ac 2x2 80MHz enables 867Mbps maximum theoretical data rates, ~3X (2.9X) faster than standard 802.11agn 2x2 40MHz (30Mbps) as documented in IEEE 802.11 wireless standard specifications, and require the use of similarly configured 802.11ac wireless network routers.

7

Up to 4X Capacity/Scalability: This claim is based on a comparison of overall network capacity for similarly sized 802.11 ax vs. 802.11 ac networks. The IEEE 802.11-14/0165r1 802.11 AX specification amendment defines standardized modifications to both the IEEE 802.11 physical layers (PHY) and the IEEE 802.11 Medium Access Control layer (MAC) that enable at least one mode of operation capable of supporting at least four times improvement in the average throughput per station (measured at the MAC data service access point) in a dense deployment scenario, while maintaining or improving the power efficiency per station. For additional details visit: https://mentor.ieee.org/802.11/dcn/14/11-14-0165-01-0hew-802-11-hew-sg-proposed-par.docx.

8

Up to 75% Latency reduction: Is based on Intel simulation data (79%) of 802.11ax with and without OFDMA using 9 clients. Average latency without OFDM is 36ms, with OFDMA average latency is reduced to 7.6ms. Latency improvement requires that the 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) router and all clients support OFDMA.

9

Nearly 40% Faster: Intel® Wireless-AX claims are based on the comparison (39%) of the expected maximum theoretical data rates for dual spatial stream 802.11ax 80Mhz (1201 Mbps) vs. dual spatial stream 802.11ac 80Mhz (867 Mbps) Wi-Fi solutions as documented in IEEE 802.11ax draft 2.0 spec and IEEE 802.11 wireless standard specifications, and require the use of similarly configured 802.11ax wireless network routers.

10

Wi-Fi 6 Nearly 3X Faster: 802.11ax 2x2 160MHz enables 2402Mbps maximum theoretical data rates, ~3X (2.8X) faster than standard 802.11ac 2x2 80MHz (867Mbps) as documented in IEEE 802.11 wireless standard specifications, and require the use of similarly configured 802.11ax wireless network routers.