We all have experience with Wi-Fi troubles at home once in a while, or even more often! Typically, it’s because people are streaming a movie, playing an online game and listening to music online — all at the same time, or some similar multi-user scenario. There are also the out-of-range instances, for example that the bedroom is located far away from the router, and trying to watch a video in the bedroom results in endless loading and buffering.
Many of us have tried to improve things by using repeaters. Repeaters are meant to extend coverage area of the Wi-Fi network by receiving the Wi-Fi signal, storing it and forwarding this signal. But sometimes it is not enough, and in many cases, the signal is also weakened, due to interference with other nearby wireless technologies.
In addition to this, everybody usually uses the same Wi-Fi channel in the home, which means users share the same bandwidth and raw data rate. This is also why it can get difficult to have a quality Wi-Fi connection.
A truly connected smart home should have the capacity for multiple users and connected devices to stream simultaneously. The solution might be closer than we think. With the new Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11ax standard, expected to be released in 2019, our homes will have the capability and capacity for supporting a lot more wirelessly-connected applications at the same time.
Wi-Fi Mesh Network Is A Better Answer
Now, instead of a repeater with the need for changing the network manually, a Wi-Fi mesh network is a better answer. Distributed Wi-Fi, or placing one pod in every room, is the more convenient approach. Every room in a house will be equipped with a pod that serves as a wireless access point with the same network address. The pod connects to the router, which then connects to the internet, addressing the need for capacity.
Wi-Fi 802.11ax also facilitates multiple channels simultaneously. This infrastructure will support more efficient Wi-Fi performance everywhere in the home. And everybody will now be able to have the maximum data rate to run all apps at the same time. With a distributed Wi-Fi infrastructure, every node on the network can talk on its own frequency band to the pod or to the router, while simultaneously communicating on other frequency bands with the main router and staying connected to the internet.
Distributed Wi-Fi provides capacity, whole home coverage and high-speed connectivity everywhere. The secret to success is to use RF front-ends (RFFEs), with the right filtering and power amplification technology to avoiding interference, while maximizing output power and range.
Let’s go beyond considering only Wi-Fi and factor in other Internet of Things devices, like sensors, placed at some remote parts of your house, using other wireless technologies like Zigbee, Thread or Bluetooth. You might want to have one system for it all, instead of different infrastructures living on their own, especially as we expect IoT devices in the home to multiply in the future.
To achieve a hyper-connected smart home, and a complete mesh infrastructure, the pod in every room concept can also serve and support IoT communications. This includes the home’s increased Wi-Fi requirements as well as Zigbee, Thread and Bluetooth devices. These devices could even be controlled via voice assistance and/or interaction.
With IEEE 802.11ax, all devices talk to the wireless router on multiple channels, without the need for extra gateways. Each technology then has its own purpose: Wi-Fi for content (internet, emails, videos), Zigbee for the sense-and-control networking (energy management, security), and Bluetooth for connecting devices and personal appliances (like a smart watch), all supported by one infrastructure, and with robust interference reduction enabling multiple radio systems. There’s no need for Zigbee or Bluetooth to support meshing, which runs down the battery life of the nodes. If you have distributed Wi-Fi, then the Wi-Fi takes care of the meshing. Streamlined service and support is an extra bonus for the users. And it means far fewer service calls or truck rolls, which also mean saving money for operators. Imagine also all the possibilities of smart home use cases that can be created thanks to this infrastructure.
Indoor wireless infrastructure is undergoing continuous improvements as more connected devices enter the home, whether that be your smartphone and tablet, or thermostat and refrigerator. This evolution has created significant challenges, but IEEE 802.11ax and a distributed Wi-Fi infrastructure will solve them.
*Contributed by Cees Links, General Manager, Qorvo Wireless Connectivity Business Unit
Cees Links is a pioneer of the wireless data industry, the father of Wi-Fi and the man who led the team that created and popularized Wi-Fi. Links was the founder and CEO of GreenPeak Technologies, a smart home and IoT radio communications semi-conductor company, now part of Qorvo. Links was recognized as Wi-Fi pioneer with the Golden Mousetrap Lifetime Achievement award.