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How much better is WiFi 6 really?

How much better is WiFi 6 really? November 19, 2021 Plasma Cloud Networking, New Products

In many aspects modern life has become inseparable from the Internet. Our every day actions are intertwined with and depended on this seemingly omnipresent force – may it be for work, online shopping, video calls, live inventory updates from your fridge, you name it. The fact of the matter is, the Internet is all around us and WiFi networks are an integral part of it. The ever growing adoption of WiFi led to an expectation of no less than a reliable and high performance WiFi connection anywhere at any time. Beyond that, WiFi also needs to be able to effortlessly sustain a diverse ecosystem of WiFi capable devices in a fully automated fashion. Not an easy task considering how widespread WiFi has become and the subsequent handling of signal interference in congested areas, configuration challenges, etc. The latest WiFi standard known as WiFi 6 or 802.11ax, has brought us a lot of new exciting technologies as discussed in our previous article. Continuing this journey of discovering WiFi 6, this article is centered around real world deployments of WiFi 6 devices. How do they perform in the field? What’s the impact of WiFi 6 on user experience? The Plasma Cloud team spared no effort to evaluate its benefits with a series of insightful performance tests. PAX1800 outperforms all previous models To gain a better understanding of WiFi 6 benefits, we tested our new 802.11ax Access Point, the PAX1800, against our best performing 802.11ac model, the PA2200. Often, those performance tests are carried out in a Wi-Fi chamber, a theoretical setup to obtain perfect results hardly achievable in the real world. However, the Plasma Cloud team chose to use a standard working office as testing environment. These results will offer you great insight into how our Access Points compare in a common real world deployment. A detailed description of our test setup can be found at the end of the article. Testing Locations Performance tests were carried out from five different locations as indicated in the floor plan below. The WiFi icon on the bottom right marks the position of the Access Points. The dots show the locations where throughput was measured:

  • Best case: right next to the AP;

  • Thin wall: in the room next to the AP with only a thin wall in between;

  • Thick wall: in the room next to the AP with a thick concrete wall in between;

  • Three walls: a few rooms away from the AP with three thin walls in between;

  • Three walls plus: a few rooms away from the AP with more than three thick concrete walls in between.

Floor plan of office used for Plasma Cloud WiFi 6 performance tests.Throughput graphs The following graphs show the up- and download throughput from the perspective of a WiFi client connected to either the PA2200 or PAX1800 Access Point. The orange color represents the measured throughput obtained from the PA2200 (802.11ac / WiFi 5) Access Point, while the blue color represents the measured results using the PAX1800 (802.11ax / WiFi 6). The test setup was identical for both Access Points and WiFi bands. Since most users are interested in actual file transfer speeds, the Plasma Cloud team focused on exactly that. Any WiFi 6 client would be able to reproduce similar results using performance measurement tools like https://speedtest.net and https://fast.com. Throughput on 2.4GHz band The following graph shows the download throughput from the perspective of a WiFi client connected to either the PA2200 or PAX1800 Access Point on the 2.4GHz band. The test results clearly demonstrate that the PAX1800 throughput always exceeds the levels obtained with the PA2200 Access Point. The main driving factor is the upgrade of the 2.4GHz WiFi standard from 802.11n to 802.11ax (see our previous article for details). This is the first major upgrade to WiFi on the 2.4GHz band since 2009. The physical properties of the 2.4GHz wave length allow WiFi signals to penetrate multiple concrete walls and still achieve decent throughput levels. The second graph depicts the upload throughput from the perspective of a WiFi client connected to either the PA2200 or PAX1800 on the 2.4GHz band. Once more, using the PAX1800 yields much higher throughput levels compared to the PA2200. Typically, the download performance is of greater concern for WiFi clients in most scenarios. Still, in times where video conferencing is more and more common, an upload performance boost is more than welcome. In summary: Whatever the WiFi client position, the PAX1800 delivers superior up- and download throughput compared to the PA2200 on the 2.4GHz band. Throughput on the 5GHz band Similar to before, the graph below depicts the download throughput measured by the WiFi client when connected to either the PA2200 or PAX1800 on the 5GHz band. The download throughput using the PAX1800 is a whopping 40% higher compared to the PA2200 when the WiFi client is in direct or almost direct line of sight to the Access Point. That is a significant increase considering that the PA2200, our best performing WiFi 5 model, already delivers up to 500MBit/s throughput. With the PAX1800, you will be able to finally max out your Gigabit cable infrastructure! As 5GHz waves aren’t able to penetrate obstacles such as concrete walls as well as 2.4GHz waves do, there is no significant difference between WiFi 5 and WiFi 6 on the obstructed positions. Depending on the use case, this 5GHz wave property can work in your favor as it allows for a denser 5GHz deployments. The graph below depicts the upload throughput measured by the WiFi client when connected to either the PA2200 or PAX1800 on the 5GHz band. The measured upload throughput follows the same pattern as the download throughput on the 5GHz band. The WiFi 6 model was able to deliver a significant boost in performance compared to the equivalent WiFi 5 model. Overall, the rest results show that, although the PA2200 already offers great performance, WiFi 6 is still able to bring it to the next level. The performance gain on the obstructed positions is again hampered by the ability of 5GHz waves to penetrate obstacles. The PAX1800 still has a slight edge due to the improved receive sensitivity. Test setup Details of our throughput test setup can be found in the table below.

  • AP location: ceiling mounted

  • WiFi Client: laptop with 2×2 WiFi 6/11ax card

  • WiFi country code: USA

2.4GHz band5GHz bandchannel644channel width20MHz80MHzImportant factors in throughput measurements WiFi throughput is highly dependent on a number factors which have to be taken into consideration when testing and comparing throughput:

  • Properties of the WiFi band: 2.4GHz waves penetrate obstacles such as walls, doors and other items much better than 5GHz waves. Consequently, the 2.4GHz band will often achieve a better range but also suffer from interference because neighboring 2.4GHz networks also achieve a high range.

  • TX power: The higher the TX power the better walls and other obstacles can be penetrated. The maximum TX power is influenced by numerous factors, most notably government regulations. Some WiFi channels require a reduced TX power (so-called “edge channels”) compared to other channels inside the same WiFi band.

  • Interference: WiFi interference from neighboring WiFi networks and even interference from non-WiFi sources such as Bluetooth, baby monitors, microwave ovens, etc. can hamper the WiFi experience.

  • Physical obstacles: A clear line of sight will always yield the best WiFi throughput. While WiFi has gotten better at dealing with reflections and collisions of signals, WiFi throughput may still be affected when obstacles are present. The result can range from “manageable” to “impenetrable” depending on the material the obstacles consist of.

Improve your wireless connection with the PAX1800 We have just seen how the PAX1800 can significantly improve WiFi performance in your office, but its potential surely does not stop at that. This WiFi 6 Access Point is an all rounder, and also performs amazingly outside those office walls. In fact, it might just be the perfect model everywhere, at any time. Thanks to the new WiFi 6 technology, it can greatly boost your wireless connection in a large variety of real-word environments: from Education, Healthcare, Hospitality, Enterprise, Industrial, Outdoor, Home & Smart working environments and many more. And the cherry on top: the PAX1800 is also compatible with devices running older WiFi standards, even though they might not be able to exploit the full range of capabilities brought by the WiFi 6 technology. Curious to try this new device and finally boost your wireless network? Discover all the characteristics of the PAX1800, and reach out to the closest distributor to get yours. 2.4GHz, 5GHz, access points, PAX1800, performance, throughput tests, WiFi 6

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