Who should get ready for Wifi 6?

Approach by the end-user

Not a day passes without news about the 5G network. But the Covid-19 crisis has reminded us that the most used wireless technology is still the good old Wifi. Globally secured, stable and with no data limitations, Wifi is still the most proven technology dedicated for small and large facilities, from the families to large companies.

And speaking of it, its latest version is round the corner: Wifi 6 — for 6 GHz.

This article proposes an end-user’s approach, and we will try to find out who should get ready for the upgrade.

Wifi 6 is particularly designed for IoT coverage because it can indeed handle a lot of devices at the same time and consume less power. A similar analogy can reflect an example of McDonald’s installing self-order screens, which enables 20 customers to order at the same time instead of just 4 at the till. Even if the kitchen (your Internet debit) was still the same size, everything would become more fluid.

Thus the justified benefits of Wifi 6 are, among others :

  • greater speed (up to 37% more comparing to WiFi 5)
  • less power consumption (up to 67% gain)
  • dramatically greater number of devices operating at the same time (to know more about, read OFDMA)
  • better outdoor performance

Now, after the pros, let’s consider the cons if you are thinking of switching to the latest wifi version in the upcoming months. The vast majority of existing devices (except, for example, the latest iPhone 11 and SE) won’t be able to connect to/with a Wifi 6 router (using the new technology, hence being forced to use the old one).

Primary routers and devices integrating Wifi 6 are still very pricy.

Some other elements one should consider are as follows:

  • 4G antennas (then 5G) continue to be installed everywhere (more than 1000 only in France in 2019)
  • Telecommunications operators continue to drop data prices with unlimited offers
  • In Europe, roaming costs are now abolished, so you can use 4G on your phone anywhere between Finland and Portugal, for instance, with a Croatian operator.

In Europe, we are still waiting for the WiFi 6 approval, which is likely to happen yet this year, so why don’t we prepare for it in the meantime.

So, let’s take, for example, the following two hotels which hopefully survived the Covid-19 crisis and decide to upgrade their WiFi installation.

  1. The Hotel of the Sea, in Spain, 250 rooms, targeting young travelers on a budget
  2. The Hotel Bellagio, in Italy, 25 rooms, a luxury complex for 40yo C level guests and their families

Hotel of the Sea

To upgrade its installation for WiFi 6, the Hotel of the Sea, with 12 floors building with no garden, will need approximately 70 new routers, in addition to the installation and maintenance costs. However, most of their guests may not have a brand new phone, tablets or computer yet. So they won’t benefit from Wifi 6 and will still be covered by the Wifi 5 technology included in the new router. Also, its guests won’t spend a lot of time in their rooms but rather at the beach and in the nearby downtown, and they are used to a hotel no- so-good and jerky connection. Guests mostly travel from Europe and will use 4G anyway, without extra costs.

In this case, it is better for the hotel to wait until 2022, when WiFi 6 will be less expensive and already widely available.

Hotel Bellagio

On the contrary, the hotel Bellagio needs 15 routers, including the coverage of its two large gardens, where the smart gardening IoT is a legion. Their guests come mostly to relax and stay inside the property and generally continue to work during their holidays. Good wifi connection is for them a deal-breaker. They upgrade their devices every year, the same for their children. So the entire family will spend time being connected at the same time, using a lot of data. In this case, a WiFi 6 upgrade will considerably enhance the staying experience for hotel’s guests at a pretty reasonable cost.

Now if you are an IoT developer, the question should be asked differently than for an IoT user.

If your device has a (actual using) lifetime of more than 5 years, a significant electric power consumption and your clients are ready to pay more to opt for Wifi 6, you should seriously think about it, at least as a paid option.

If your device is frequently replaced and you can optimise the battery consumption otherwise (with services as Qoitech), your clients are mostly in Europe or in another region of the world and not WiFi 6 compliant, perhaps you’d better off waiting 2 or 3 years, especially considering the upcoming recession.

In both situations, the switch should be performed accordingly with your biggest clients. As the situation for many is being uncertain, it is questionable to impose extra costs or reduce your margin to improve the wifi service that has been working fine until now.

So, if it is already confirmed that we will be switching to 5G and Wifi 6 progressively in the next 10 years, consider your own situation and your clients’ before jumping to the “brand new last feature overbid” now. In both cases (a general upgrade or an option), eventually communicate and explain to your clients and partners why you want to switch or wait.

About the author

About me // French Marketer who specialises in B2B tech and IoT. With the background of lobbying and over 10 years experience as creative director, I help IoT start-ups achieving stable growth, meaningful branding and long-lasting demand generation. More on www.dxm-agency.com

French Marketer specialised in tech and IoT / Malmö and Warsaw / dxm-agency.com