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A Hi-Five for Wi-Fi 6 : TLF 2022

At TLF 2022, held recently, a versatile panel of experts discussed many dimensions of Wi-Fi-6 and IoT at a panel ‘Wi-Fi -6

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At TLF 2022, held recently, a versatile panel of experts discussed many dimensions of Wi-Fi 6 and IoT at a panel ‘Wi-Fi 6: Impact and industry approach & IoT’

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As protocols and standards emerge around Wi-Fi 6, and as the mass-scale deployment of Industrial IoT accelerates; there are some questions that become even more relevant than before. Moderator Amitabh Singhal, Co-Founder/Former President-ISPAI & Founder/Former CEO – NIXI set these considerations rolling in the right direction when he asked some industry experts about Wi-Fi6 and Wi-Fi 6E and their impact on the industry. From Wi-Fi 0 to Wi-Fi 5 and beyond, we have come a long way. So where do we go next, and how? Especially with OFDMA, BSS Colouring, and better efficiency.

The panel –  had experts like Rakesh Upadhyay, CTO, ONEOTT iNTERTAINMENT LTD; Suryanarayan CS, Country Category Manager at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company; and Vikas Gupta, VP - IOT Strategic & Smart Connectivity – Enterprise, Vodafone India Ltd – put the spotlight on the big question – Will Wi-Fi 6 be a game-changer?

More than a Number Hop

“We have been using Wi-Fi for over 20 years. What began as a convenience, and helped people get rid of wired connections – has, now, become an essential part of our lives,” pointed out Rakesh Upadhyay, CTO, ONEOTT iNTERTAINMENT LTD. The main differentiator between Wi-Fi5 and Wi-Fi 6 is its capability and efficiency to connect so many devices, he underlined. “It has come at just the right time. The technologies it uses work well with both downstream and upstream areas – unlike Wi-Fi5. It is also suitable for low-power and low-bandwidth devices. IoT is one such application where there is a need- for devices that need a small bandwidth to talk to the Internet. The battery backup time, removal of unnecessary chatter, spotting, and reduction of interference from nearby devices- make Wi-Fi6 much more efficient and faster than Wi-Fi5. Its next successor – Wi-Fi6 E- would be another game-changer. Once approved- it will see so many applications like VR, AR, IoT that will accelerate with its development.”

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As Suryanarayan CS, Country Category Manager at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company seconded here, Wi-Fi is an essential today- It’s like Roti, Kapda, Makaan, and Wi-Fi. “Last March was an eye-opener. When everyone started to work from home, even people who were not connected before, took a leap. We have finally found the reality of what Wi-Fi is. That journey started the revolution of Wi-Fi- There were issues of connectivity, signals, etc., and over a period of time, all of these got addressed. Wi-Fi also had fears – like signal strength, battery power, etc. Such issues have been fixed by Wi-Fi 6. Enhancement of performance and speed – was amplified by efficiency, with the advent of Wi-Fi6. Moving forward, we will see a lot of sensors that are low-power and need high efficiency. We will also get good throughput, good battery life, data aspects, system performance, and short packets here. This would also be disruptive for gains like low latency, more efficiency for more data rates, compatibility for multiple devices.” He explained the impact of Wi-Fi6, underlining that “At our company, the motto was – wherever people go, you follow with the network.”

As he lauded the Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) and BSS Colouring aspects of Wi-Fi6, he explained how we will witness new use-cases and one big one here is that of support for IoT. “That’s where the next revolution will happen. A lot of outdoor scenarios like smart city, connectivity, etc. would be a new realm of use-cases now. All this would be significant because our usage pattern has changed- from emails to video meetings – which is where Wi-Fi needs to understand what application, device type is in action and how to prioritize them.”

Can all this help us to adopt IoT at a wide scale in India, Vikas Gupta, VP - IOT Strategic & Smart Connectivity – Enterprise, Vodafone India Ltd answered this question by stressing on IoT as being more than a standalone job of one enterprise. “In the last one decade, Wi-Fi adoption in India has been very significant. Today, IoT is an ecosystem – hardware, platforms, applications, services- when they all come together, we get a smart IoT solution. Today, there is notable adoption in India. Automotive, BFSI, and even solar management, water management etc. show high adoption rates of IoT. Thanks to the ‘New Normal’ consumers and enterprises are keen to get a new technology.”

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Cut Out The Noise Please

While the panel covered how industries from healthcare to automotive to manufacturing would witness adoption of IoT, Singhal also encouraged the panel to throw some light on some impediments that can be significant on this adoption path. Upadhyay averred that support from end devices will affect roll-out time. “Normally, our intention is to make cheap IoT devices. This can contradict our requirements. If devices are cheap, they will not support the new evolution. As adoption improves, the scale of economy would work out, I hope. Another key factor would be the need to develop applications for these technologies to work.”

Security concerns would be a big area to watch out for here. The more you connect, the more security worries would emerge, Singhal reminded. Upadhyay outlined the scope of these concerns, “We have to be very careful. Security has to be well planned before deployment. Most of the times loopholes, like default states, help hackers to compromise more devices after getting into one device. Network-level security, access controls, firewalls, regular patches, best practices- that’s the way to go if we want to keep security intact.”

If a CCTV can be used to do a DDOS attack on a network, if a fish tank can be used to attack a casino, if an open-network printer can be used to get into a bank; then, we need to protect these headless devices in IoT – as that can be a new vector for attacks. Gupta advised to adopt network segmentation, strong testing of devices, visibility, secure password practices, continuous patches in firmware, all-time monitoring of IoT devices etc.

“People move, network will follow – that’s what Wi-Fi 6 will truly achieve, as Suryanarayan CS summed up well. But security also needs to follow, he added.

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