The future of connectivity

3rd December 2018
Alex Lynn

What is the future direction of connectivity? By now everyone is familiar with the range of issues – and range issues – that happen with your home WiFi, just as everyone is used to hearing grand promises made by the oncoming storm of 5G; but how much of a part will WiFi have left to play? Electronic Specifier caught up with Cees Links, GM at Qorvo, who shared his thoughts on the future of connectivity.

When in the basement or attic of your house, it is fairly common to experience a poor connection to your home WiFi as you get further away from your router. You may have 100mbps by the router, but much less in other parts of your house. Another problem familiar to most is having to compete for bandwidth with the other people in your house or building. As such we know there are limits on WiFi, as more and more people and devices try to share bandwidth.

The next generation of WiFi, WiFi 6, helps you to support multiple channels at the same time. Currently, when using an extender, on your device you have to select the extender which has a different ID to your router, but with WiFi 6 you will have one ID for all of the extenders in your house, and the network will find the best channel for you with the best connectivity and will switch as you move around automatically.

Because of this, you don’t have to worry about SSIDs anymore, and you automatically get the best connection for your location.

To achieve this, instead of buying a router alone and perhaps picking up extenders at a later date, you will buy the router and repeaters together, spreading them through the house and creating a network in your house that automatically bounces you to the best connection, while the connectors automatically connect to the router. WiFi 6 also automatically chooses the best channel for you to be on, helping to lessen the competition for bandwidth. In this way, WiFi 6 automatically optimises itself for the user.

In the wireless market right now, 5G is making a lot of noise, on this Links stated: “Two things are very clear. First of all 70% of the wireless connectivity today goes over WiFi, and only 30% goes over 4G. There has always been a bit of a tussle between 3G, 4G and WiFi, now of course with 5G you hear people asking why we still need WiFi? One reason we still need WiFi is that you need three times as many base stations for 5G to also cover for the WiFi traffic, if 5G intended to cover that, as currently WiFi supports 70% of the traffic.

“Moreover, the range of a 5G base station is about half of the range of a 4G base station, so if the range is halved you need four times as many base stations to cover the same area. So if you need four times as many base stations to cover the same area and three times as many to also adopt the WiFi traffic, then you need twelve times as many base stations to cover all of the traffic and push WiFi off the market. So in all fairness, we don’t think that is going to happen.”

Link also explained that Qorvo aims to have a ‘pod in every room’ providing WiFi 6, but that does not mean it has to be the only thing that it provides. As well as WiFi 6, the pod also aims to connect Zigbee and Bluetooth sensors, and contains a microphone and a speaker, which in turn would mean that there is potential to integrate AI systems such as Alexa into the pods, allowing the user to talk to the internet in every room.

This kind of connectivity, thus far only seen in Sci-Fi films, is shaping up to be a very real and not so distant future for us, and Links predicts homes to function like this, enabled by WiFi 6, within three to five years.

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