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How Upgrades to Distributed Wi-Fi Infrastructure Impacts IoT Technologies

Distributed or mesh Wi-Fi has the ability to transform a house full of devices from loading screens to streaming and connecting flawlessly.
By Cees Links
Jul 05, 2018By Cees Links

Indoor Wi-Fi infrastructure (for instance, in our home or in the office) is undergoing continuous improvements as more connected devices enter the home, whether that be your smartphone and tablet or thermostat and refrigerator. This evolution has created significant challenges, though, especially as today's consumers expect data rates, capacity and range, all while having less tolerance for dead spots or interference from neighbors.

Among these three elements, capacity—multiple users using Wi-Fi at the same time—could be considered the most difficult challenge. Everybody has a router in their house, and every user is connected via the same Wi-Fi channel. This means users share the same bandwidth and raw data rate. Yet, if your son is playing online video games, your daughter is watching YouTube and your wife is in a video conference, you still expect to watch your on-demand movie without latency. These are the new Wi-Fi challenges RF technology must solve.

While repeaters (devices used to extend Wi-Fi signals) can be used, this does not resolve the issue. As bandwidth is shared even more, you communicate with the repeater on the same channel as your repeater connects with the router, effectively doubling the traffic on that same channel.

Distributed Wi-Fi
There is a way of solving this issue. Wi-Fi mesh, also known as distributed Wi-Fi, can make dramatic improvements. With a distributed Wi-Fi infrastructure, every node on the network can talk on its own frequency band to the end user, while simultaneously communicating on other frequency bands with the main router, all while staying connected to the internet.

To put this in perspective, consider that the first version of Wi-Fi effectively used three channels (in the 2.4 GHz band) to avoid using the same channel as neighbors. Tomorrow, "modern Wi-Fi" (with .11ax) will use 40 MHz-wide channels and will effectively support many of those channels in the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz bands simultaneously, making it easier to stay away from the neighbors, and optimizing the usage in a home by enabling operators to have different channels via distributed Wi-Fi with multiple access points.

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