As claimed by Qualcomm in a recent report: “Wi-Fi 6 is about to transform connectivity. The next-generation Wi-Fi connectivity technology – along with the emerging 5G cellular generation – will shake up the way we connect with each other”.
So, what makes Wi-Fi 6 (or 802.11ax) so special and what are the solutions available on the market today to help design high-bandwidth IoT applications?
Wi-Fi 6 is the latest evolution of the 802.11 standard. It is designed to bring a series of improvements such as increased network speed, capacity and responsiveness.
Wi-Fi 6 brings network performance up to a level that will enable new applications in virtually every segment. The new standard also enables more client devices – and many times more IoT devices – to operate unimpeded on the network. It enables more audio, video and other real-time data. Taken together, it means the wireless network is available for myriad new real-time applications.
Still according to Qualcomm, the segment that will enjoy the greatest near-term benefit of 802.11ax is public Wi-Fi: large venues, busy campuses and congested mass-transit hubs. In terms of rapid acceleration, however, the public segment may be eclipsed by the home market, which is already beginning to see Wi-Fi 6 routers appear on store shelves. As well, the home segment may be the first to see revolutionary new use cases, as Wi-Fi 6 gives a foundational capability needed to boost new IoT devices and applications into the mainstream. The automotive market will probably take a little more time to develop – but it may be the most purely revolutionary segment in view today.
Wi-Fi 6 and 5G
First of all, let’s be clear: Wi-Fi 6 is not 5G. Although Wi-Fi 6 supports some similar features as 5G like improvements in network speed, capacity and latency, Wi-Fi 6 is not an alternative to 5G but a complement. Wi-Fi 6 and 5G are different technologies built for very different use cases. 5G is designed for wide area networking whereas Wi-Fi 6 offers high speed, low-latency connectivity for local area networks.
In order to better understand the key technologies, benefits and use cases brought by Wi-Fi 6, we have interviewed Doron Zhang, Chief Operation Officer at Quectel about their portfolio of Wi-Fi 6 products and we discussed how their new Wi-Fi modules can be used to complement 5G in real world applications.
IoT Business News: Compared to the previous versions of the standard, Wi-Fi 6 offers a significant boost in terms of data rate (up to 4 times more). Could you please describe your new Wi-Fi 6 modules?
Doron Zhang (Quectel): Our FG50X module series are industrial grade Wi-Fi 6 modules while the AF50T is automotive grade. Both solutions are high-performance wireless modules supporting 802.11ax and BT 5.1. They both support 2 × 2 MU-MIMO communication and simultaneous operation on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz with dual MAC. They can reach a maximum data rate of 1774.5 Mbps.
Our Wi-Fi 6 modules support key technologies like OFDMA, MU-MIMO, TWT and 1024 QAM modulation to boost the data throughput, operate at low-power consumption and support up to 32 clients simultaneously.
We believe that a certain number of applications will require both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G and therefore special efforts have been made on hardware and software design to guarantee an excellent co-existence of our Wi-Fi 6 modules with our 5G solutions.
Thanks to their compact size and extended temperature range, the FG50X and AF50T modules can easily be embedded not only in Wi-Fi 6 only applications but also in industrial, consumer and automotive applications combining Wi-Fi 6 and 5G.
IoT Business News: How do you think your new Wi-Fi 6 products could benefit the IoT industry? Which markets are you specifically targeting with this technology?
Doron Zhang (Quectel): We see many IoT applications and use cases requiring high-throughput and low-latency wireless communication capabilities like Virtual Reality or industrial control systems. Battery-operated devices generally require low-power consumption, which is a key feature of our new modules.
What’s more, as the number and density of IoT devices increases dramatically everywhere, we need technologies like Wi-Fi 6 to support a high number of simultaneous connections while avoiding interference due to cross coverage. By using OFDMA, MU-MIMO, TWT, BSS coloring and Spatial Reuse Techniques, our Wi-Fi 6 modules offer excellent performance and resistance to interference even when the density of devices becomes high.
In terms of target markets, our FG50X is designed for consumer and industrial applications while the AF50T targets the automotive market.
More specifically, the FG50X is perfectly adapted to address the following segments:
- High definition video systems requiring high bandwidth communications and low latency, such as 4K/8K set top boxes, smart TVs and AR/VR devices.
- Network communications, such as Wi-Fi 6 gateways, CPE and devices requiring high throughput and an efficient management of connections.
- Industrial systems requiring low latency.
The AF50T is designed for the automotive industry. Typical applications for this module include infotainment systems and telematics units. This module can be used to provide high performance in-car access points (AP) with 2.4GHz and 5GHz concurrency, and P2P connection for cell phone screencast.
IoT Business News: You mention that your new Wi-Fi 6 modules perfectly co-exist with your 5G products. What are the typical applications where it makes sense to combine Wi-Fi 6 with 5G?
Doron Zhang (Quectel): Typical applications where it makes sense to combine our FG50X with one of our 5G modules are MiFi(1) and CPE(2) devices.
MiFi devices can be used whilst traveling while CPE is used indoors. They bridge Wi-Fi and 5G networks and share the 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi 6 AP concurrently which allows many devices like laptops and cell phones to connect to the Internet by using Wi-Fi in perfect co-existence with 5G connectivity.
A typical application combining our AF50T Wi-Fi 6 module with our 5G automotive module is the T-box(3), which can provide in car 2.4GHz and 5GHz access points concurrently with the Wi-Fi 6 and 5G working in harmony.
IoT Business News: What is the availability date for both the FG50X and the AF50T modules?
Doron Zhang (Quectel): Both FG50X and AF50T samples are available now. They are already integrated in many customers’ products like MiFi, CPE, T-Box, etc.
IoT Business News: At MWC last year Quectel was launching the first 5G modules for the IoT market. Where are you today with your 5G products range?
Doron Zhang (Quectel): We have recently made a statement on the commercial deployment of our 5G modules. We started shipping our RG500Q-EA 5G module in volumes at the end of Q1 and we anticipate a strong ramp up all through this year.
IoT Business News: Which markets and applications are the first adopters of your 5G modules? Do you have a specific use case or success story you could share with our readers?
Doron Zhang (Quectel): Our 5G modules are available for all the markets deploying 5G: Europe, APAC including China and Australia, North America.
The typical applications for our first 5G modules are Fixed Wireless Access, Live Broadcast solutions, and industrial gateways for Smart Industry applications.
(2) Customer Premises Equipment
(3) Telematics box