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Wi-Fi

How Automation Helps Wi-Fi 6 and 6E Deliver on Great Expectations

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Consumers are leaning heavier on Wi-Fi to meet their connectivity needs, making comprehensive Wi-Fi network and device testing more important than ever.

Going on two decades, Wi-Fi has delivered simple, inexpensive wireless connectivity for the masses. It was never perfect, but the convenience and generally fine performance for most applications made it good enough for most.

Now, the stakes are higher.

Consumers are requiring more demanding use cases and more powerful apps. Despite its promises, 5G connectivity remains limited. This has meant everyone from personal to enterprise users have been leaning heavier than ever on Wi-Fi to meet connectivity needs.

This has been a driving force behind a whole new generation of Wi-Fi tech and adoption. Whether working or playing from home, we expect Wi-Fi to operate flawlessly with high performance and reliability. This is especially true as Wi-Fi cements a role in mission-critical private networks that support emerging industry applications.

Wi-Fi 6 and 6E are being positioned to meet these new roles and requirements. The new Wi-Fi standards provide distributed connectivity, high throughput, and low latency. In particular, the radio interface has received an overhaul, with modulation and spectral efficiency on a completely new level.

Wi-Fi 6 routers, extenders, and mesh networks are being installed in homes and offices to provide wider coverage, support more users, and accommodate a growing range of devices. Each brings pros and cons, but whichever is chosen, it is safe to say Wi-Fi networks have evolved far beyond initial roles as simple routers.

In fact, the changes seen in Wi-Fi 6/6E introduce challenges that are in some ways more significant than the migration from 4G to 5G.

New Wi-Fi complexity means device testing has grown in complexity, too

As expectations of Wi-Fi surge, so too does the need for precise, comprehensive Wi-Fi network testing. As always, testing must address conformance to standards, interoperability, and performance. With Wi-Fi, many factors can impact performance, such as walls, electrical interference, , signal reflection, and other Wi-Fi and wireless usage in the area. All Wi-Fi 6/6E devices must be tested against these factors in controlled, repeatable ways.

Wi-Fi 6/6E sees multiple standards in play, including TR-398 performance for routers and access points, RFC-2544 network device benchmarking specification, and others in the offing. Still, as this next generation of Wi-Fi comes to market quickly, comprehensive test and interoperability standards have yet to be developed.

Example of RFC-2544 test to determine maximum throughput behavior of the device under test

As such, testing Wi-Fi 6/6E devices has become more complicated than traditional Wi-Fi device testing. Trying to test manually not only makes little economic sense, but it has become nearly impossible.

Automated testing of Wi-Fi 6/6E devices

To overcome the complexity of testing a growing number of Wi-Fi 6/6E devices, automated device hardware and software testing is essential for cost-efficient, scalable, accurate, timely, and repeatable results.

Traditionally, test teams must research and keep up to date with evolving standards to create and execute tests. Alternatively, automated Wi-Fi automation packages from test experts like Spirent can be leveraged. Such automated test packages reflect existing standards and, where standards don’t yet exist such as for mesh networks, expertly define appropriate tests. Executing automated test software on your testbed enables fast, 24x7 testing. And all those resources that were grinding through test scenarios can instead put energies into evaluating results.

Spirent Wi-Fi 6/6E automated test packages

Spirent, the Wi-Fi testing market leader, offers a wireless test bed that validates Wi-Fi networks and devices. Its software automation packages automate standards-based Wi-Fi test plans to assess conformance, interoperability, and performance.

To accelerate Wi-Fi 6/6E testing, test automation packages spanning mesh interoperability performance testing of devices and device performance evaluation through RFC 2544 benchmark tests have been developed.

Learn more about how Spirent automated Wi-Fi test packages can enable you to quickly assess Wi-Fi device conformance to standards, interoperability, and performance.

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Janne Linkola

Director, Product Management

Janne Linkola is a director of product management for Spirent’s Lifecycle Service Assurance business unit. Janne has spent most of his career at operators in various engineering and product development roles. He was a Fellow of Wireless Architecture at Altice USA leading their next generation Wi-Fi initiatives and worked for T-Mobile USA heading product development for Wi-Fi calling and other initiatives. Most recently, Janne worked as director of marketing at octoScope and joined the Spirent team as part of the octoScope acquisition. Janne has an MScEE from Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland.