May 13 2024

Agencies Should Consider 3 Factors Before Transitioning to Wi-Fi 6E

Learn how to maximize your network before switching to the new standard to realize all its benefits.

Transitioning to Wi-Fi 6E might not be the right call for every agency, despite the fact 1 in 3 Wi-Fi 6 device shipments is expected to be compatible with the standard by 2025.

Wi-Fi 6E adds support for the 6-gigahertz band of wireless spectrum — which was first opened to wireless by the U.S. — while offering significantly faster speeds and lower latency (and therefore, better application, voice, video and virtual reality user experiences).

HPE Aruba Networking anticipates federal uptake of Wi-Fi 6E to increase this year as agencies look to the standard to further their missions.

Nevertheless, agencies should consider three factors before transitioning to Wi-Fi 6E.

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Assess Your Infrastructure’s Compatibility with Wi-Fi 6E

Just as quarterbacks throw the ball better in fair weather than in a raging blizzard, the performance you get from Wi-Fi 6E will depend on the environment it’s in. Unless your infrastructure is optimal, your performance won’t be. So, it's vital to assess your current infrastructure’s ability to support Wi-Fi 6E, as upgrading will require compatible routers, access points and devices.

According to an HP blog post, “Integrating older standard Wi-Fi devices and applications is possible with Wi-Fi 6, but not 6E. It may take some time before the majority of Wi-Fi-enabled devices are 6E compatible. Until then, the range that Wi-Fi 6 delivers is beneficial for most devices that are likely legacy Wi-Fi 4 or 5 devices.”

IT leaders also need to ensure that the network architecture is compatible with Wi-Fi 6E’s 6GHz frequency band. These networks need to support higher data rates and more wireless devices, and deliver a more reliable and efficient wireless experience for users.

Run a Cost-Benefit Analysis Before Making the Switch

Wi-Fi 6E offers numerous advantages, but making the switch can be expensive. To justify the ROI on an upgrade to the expanded standard, IT leaders should perform a cost-benefit analysis.

Often, the overall cost depends on the strength and capability of your current infrastructure.  For example, are you able to keep any of your current devices? Will you have to undergo a complete device overhaul? How much will it cost to make the requisite tweaks to your network architecture?

Balance those costs with the financial savings that Wi-Fi 6E can bring. For instance, immediate savings can stem from the increased efficiency and productivity the enhanced standard provides, which could help agencies recoup some of the $8.8 trillion in global productivity losses each year. Wi-Fi 6E can also help future proof the arrival of Wi-Fi 7 and 8; agencies may experience additional savings in the long term as they won’t need to completely retool their infrastructure for future networks.

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Comply with Wi-Fi 6E Regulations

Because Wi-Fi 6E operates in the 6GHz frequency band, there may be different regulatory restrictions or licensing requirements in some regions, as outlined by the Federal Communications Commission. Further, spectrum usage is often affected by 6E implementation — adding a new frequency band requires adding a new radio, which means swapping dual-band access points for tri-band APs — and there also may be various local regulations that impact how agencies go about making these changes.

The bottom line: Rather than transition to Wi-Fi 6E simply to keep up with the competition, IT leaders should consider these factors and decide if the upgrade is right for their agency.

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