As Wi-Fi gains more and more popularity, it is evolving from a best-effort to a managed performance technology. Managed networks becoming the new normal both in the enterprise and the home thanks to a series of innovations from mesh networks to self-healing mechanisms.
According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, Wi-Fi traditional limitations take the form of three key pillars: manageability, mobility, and performance. The Wi-Fi Alliance has recently launched an enhanced version of their Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Vantage program, with two new CERTIFICATION programs: Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Agile Multiband and Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Optimized Connectivity. The whole aim of the Vantage program reduce complexity while ensuring better connectivity.
Wi-Fi Vantage: This is the umbrella term that incorporates the actual technologies of the program. When Vantage was introduced last year, there were two technologies: Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac, and Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint. With the new enhancement, there are two new features: Agile Multiband and Optimized Connectivity. So far 1400 phones and 400 access points have been passpoint certified. Passpoint is natively built into Android devices as well as OiS and Windows devices.,
The passpoint is independent of the PHY layer so 802.11 n access points can be passpoint certified. However, the Vantage program requires some of the features of 802.11 ac including MU-MIMO to ensure the required performance advertised.
Agile Multiband: Based on IEEE k,v,r,u IEEE amendments , Agile Multiband gives Wi-Fi devices the ability to adapt to changing network conditions. User devices can communicate with infrastructure devices to help balance the network load and improve the user experience by intelligently steering to different access points (APs), bands, and channels. The agile multiband features:
- Dynamic monitoring: client and AP collect and exchange information about the Wi-Fi radio environment to evaluate the best possible connection – i.e. avoiding “sticky client”
- Intelligent steering: mechanisms allow AP to guide client device to recommended band, channel, or AP to balance network traffic or meet other management needs
- Fast transitions: enables devices to re-authenticate quickly with WPA2 security when roaming to improve experience with latency sensitive applications (i.e. voice over Wi-Fi)
Optimized Connectivity: Based on IEEE 802.11ai and 802.11k – Fast Initial Link Setup (FILS) the second update to Vantage basically just complements the first, in that it helps in the discovery of and initial connectivity to Wi-Fi networks. It makes sessions more efficient by requiring less time for network management communication, which means more time for user data communication. The optimized connectivity features:
- Optimized discovery: improved scanning procedures for faster network and AP discovery; metrics that aid in network selection
- Optimized authentication (FILS Authentication): Faster initial authentication and IP layer connectivity by reducing number of exchanges
- Efficient transmissions: reduction in management frames allows devices to spend less time exchanging management information and more time moving data
Vantage can be deployed into equipment without hardware updates,
At the end of the day, Wi-Fi Vantage and its four component technologies aim to offer users and network providers a better Wi-Fi experience in all types of environments. It is important to note that Vantage is driven by the operator working group, thus ensuring both MNOs and MSOs wish list in considered in the program.
The CERTIFICATION program for Agile Multiband is already in effect, and the program for Optimized Connectivity is set to begin later this year. The next development will include the 802.11ax new standard in 2018-2019 which supports high density environment as well as a more diverse set of devices, from low bandwidth IoT to high bandwidth video streaming.