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The root of today’s challenge is the mismatch between our increasingly connected lives and our increasingly outdated Wi-Fi architecture.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
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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 Not only is the technology outdated, the number of connected devices has exploded. 51% of 2022 IP traffic is from Wi-Fi devices and 59% of 2022 mobile data offloaded to Wi-Fi.6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.”
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.