Extreme Networks Readies WiFi 6 Access Points

FUTURE TECH ON THE WAY: The vendor will roll out 802.11ax wireless solutions this year as computing and storage are pushed out to the network edge by IoT, mobility and other trends.

WiFi6

Extreme Networks is unveiling new 802.11ax WiFi access points, the latest move by an enterprise networking vendor to deliver WiFi 6 capabilities to enterprises to bolster their wireless capabilities at the network edge.

The six new access points, which are powerful enough to be deployed in sports stadiums but also are aimed at indoor and outdoor environments, comprise the company’s ExtremeMobility 500 series and are part of Extreme’s Smart OmniEdge solution for the network edge. In conjunction with the new access points, Extreme officials also are introducing a new family of ExtremeSwitching network switches aimed at edge devices.

As more compute processing and storage gets moved out to the edge to address the rapid proliferation of smart, connected devices and systems, vendors are building out their portfolios to include wireless networking products that can meet the demand for improved performance, bandwidth and latency.

Testing the Limits of Current Wi-Fi Standards

"Our customers are testing the limits of today's Wi-Fi standards daily at football games, eSports tournaments, emergency rooms, retail shops, college campuses and more,” Mike Leibovitz, senior director of product management and strategy at Extreme, said in a media advisory. “If there is a failure--if they get it wrong--it won't just be providing a poor experience, they'll lose customers.”

When talking about mobile connectivity, much of the attention is given to upcoming 5G broadband. However, a lot of wireless traffic still runs over WiFi, and the move to WiFi 6—also known as 802.11ax—will bring significant benefits, according to Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research.

“WiFi 6 is the first WiFi standard created with the assumption that everything is connected,” Kerravala told eWEEK, adding that previous WiFi standards were built with the idea that wireless connectivity essentially is a complement to wired networking.

However, according to a study by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) released last year, almost 70 percent of smartphone data is carried over WiFi. In addition, there are 8 million WiFi devices used worldwide and according to a survey, 80 percent of respondents said they plan to deploy next-generation WiFI by 2020.

9 Billion IoT Devices Now in Use

That will be important as the number of wireless devices rises, the internet of things (IoT) grows and modern applications such as augmented and virtual reality and 4K video become more mainstream. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, 3 billion mobile and IoT devices shipped in 2018 and more than 9 billion are in use.

WiFi 6 will make WiFi networks faster (about four to 10 times faster than current WiFi) and less congested, and it will lead to better battery life for devices, Kerravala said. A technology called orthogonal frequency division multiple access (ODMFA) means that more devices will be able to share a single access point, improving performance and easing congestion.

A new feature in WiFi 6 will enable access points to tell a device when to go to sleep when there is no work to do and then schedules a time to wake, which will 

The 802.11ax standard is close to ratification, but already vendors ranging from Huawei and Areohive to Aruba Networks and Extreme have come out with products support it. WiFi 6 devices are still maybe a year away, Kerravala said, although current devices will benefit from the use of the standard. Given that ratification of the standard will come soon, enterprises planning to refresh their networks should consider installing 802.11ax equipment, the analyst said.

According to Extreme officials, the ExtremeMobility 500 access points will provide four times the capacity of current systems to support more devices and more immersive applications. In addition, the access points will be able to leverage features in the vendor’s Smart OmniEdge solution, which offers not only integrated wired and wireless networking but also artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning—via ExtremeAI—for automated tuning of the network for performance and experience.

New Products Coming in April

They also come with three modes of software-programmable radios for optimized 5GHz coverage, an integrated Bluetooth radio and built-in WPA3 security and Extreme AirDefense intrusion prevention system. The access points will be able to take advantage of the ExtremeSwitching X465 stackable, multi-rate Gigabit Ethernet switches, which include MACsec and 60/90W power-over-Ethernet (PoE). There also is optional integration with other Extreme applications, such as ExtremeAnalytic, ExtremeLocatio and ExtremeGuest.

The new products will be available in April.

Extreme Networks during the past several years has been growing its partnerships with sports stadiums, which pose challenging environments for wireless networks not only because of the sheer size of the buildings and the large numbers of people at the events but also because of the growing use of mobile devices during the events and the drive by stadium owners and sports teams to improve the fan experience though digital displays and services.

Extreme officials said the new access points and switches will enable stadium-level connectivity in enterprises and other businesses.

“As a WiFi solutions provider for 28 NFL stadiums, as well as numerous collegiate and pro sports venues, Extreme is an expert in solving the challenging issues of dense, outdoor networking,” Leibovitz said.