By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
Wi-Fi 6 test system leader Spirent has in short order racked up deals with a raft of AP and CPE vendors as well as Tier-1 service providers – even many household name telcos. The wins are part of an industry-wide push to accelerate time-to-market of performance-verified and fully tested Wi-Fi 6 systems to deliver what consumers and business want: Great Wi-Fi 6 services, Spirent says.
The Wi-Fi 6 standard is here and the race is on for vendors and service providers to launch a new generation of Wi-Fi equipment and services. But the complexity and sheer number of new features in Wi-Fi 6 also means that new Wi-Fi 6 functionality is not trivial and requires detailed verification. Test system vendor Spirent say they are working closely with vendors and operators to that end.
Wi-Fi 6 is not only about speed
“Wi-Fi 6 offers a ton of great new functionality and performance, but now more than ever we need to be careful and diligent in making sure we fulfil the Wi-Fi 6 promise. At the same time, there’s no time to waste. We’re working intensively to make Wi-Fi 6 happen now,” says Abu Islam, Director of Business Development at Spirent Communications.
Abu Islam says to get the performance that everyone wants, Wi-Fi 6 features – OFDMA, 8×8 or 4×4 MIMO, MU-MIMO, 1024 QAM, up to 160 MHz channels – need to be tested also under loaded conditions and at range. Add to this verification of features critical for a great user experience including band steering, roaming, multi-AP capabilities, and WPA3 security.
“Wi-Fi 6 is about speed – but it’s also about so much more. We work with service providers and vendors to verify improved QoS, longer battery life, better coverage, and more. This is the right way to make sure the industry delivers on the Wi-Fi 6 promise,” Abu Islam says.
Getting the testing right
For service providers Wi-Fi testing is all about reducing risks and getting to market fast without sacrificing service quality. The way to do this is to build automated, repeatable test cases focused on exact deployment scenarios and – most importantly – the customer experience, Spirent says. Test platforms should also include capabilities for reproducing and debugging any real-world issues.
The company recommends a test solution including verifying connectivity performance, testing individual features, and verifying scalability (loading). A typical suite of tests starts with Wi-Fi 6 performance and feature verification, then moves on to authentication with the new WPA3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 3) security protocol , Spirent says.
“Add to this that we need to make sure that Wi-Fi 6 systems work in legacy mode and obeys functions such as DFS, and that the AP and router or CPE product delivers stable performance. All of this is critical for both vendors and service providers before any Wi-Fi 6 product is launched,” Abu Islam says.
Interoperability & airtime fairness
With so much new functionality to verify in Wi-Fi 6, vendors and service providers are evolving their approach to testing, Spirent says. The company is for example right now working with customers to develop the right way to measure OFDMA throughput and latency for both uplink and downlink.
Other current challenges include how to test airtime fairness when Wi-Fi 6 APs interwork with legacy clients. “And interoperability between chipset vendors continues to be a critical to the success of Wi-Fi 6 overall, so we’re strongly focused on that,” Abu Islam says.
Testing the world’s first Wi-Fi 6 APs
Spirent announced availability of their TestCenter WLAN 802.11ax platform in November of last year. Since then the company has worked extensively to make sure all members of the Wi-Fi ecosystem have the right tools to get Wi-Fi 6 to market, and was honoured with the coveted “Grand Prize” for its Wi-Fi 6 test solution at Interop Tokyo 2019.
For more details and to meet the Spirent experts, register now for Wi-Fi NOW International in London UK on November 12-14!