Whenever there is a meaningful technology advance, CIOs count the days until the official launch date and CFOs count zeros on invoices. The release of the Wi-Fi 802.11ax standard early next year should be an easy change for both of them.
For the non-technical, the Wi-Fi Alliance has graciously introduced a new, simpler naming system for wireless LAN (Local Area Network, like you have in your home and office). Instead of memorizing the features and compatibilities of the "b, g, n, ac, and ax" that appear after the IEEE 802.11 designation, all one needs to know now is 4, 5, and 6...at least for a couple of years. Expect to start seeing "Wi-Fi 6" on product packaging as early as Cyber Monday this year.
Even if LAN performance is adequate for your needs at present, there may still be some pain points that Wi-Fi 6 is intended to address. Look ahead to the number of wireless printers you plan to add, or how many field staff might plop down at the same time to view a training video. As you grow and add office staff, will you buy more network cable or install Wi-Fi cards in new desktop PCs? Remember that Wi-Fi 6 gets more capacity out of existing bandwidth as well as adding speed, so it can accommodate more users.
Existing routers and wireless network cards and chips will continue to work. Though Wi-Fi 6 will be backward compatible, the full benefit will not arrive until all your equipment is 6 enabled. Even so, you will not be able to do that on January 1 even it you wanted to. A full upgrade will have to wait until manufacturers release compatible equipment, software developers make their upgrades, and Internet service providers decide to make it available.
Of course, the new Wi-Fi 6 routers will also be backward compatible, which means you could upgrade now and wait for the rest to catch up. The better-known brands are listed today for around $400 but prices always come down after a technology has been around for a while.
All of this only applies if you support wireless laptops and mobile devices in your office area. If all the PCs in your office are wired to your LAN, naturally, all of this is moot. Most home care agency headquarters and branches, however, do provide wireless connectivity for those who need it.
For further research, get to know the IEEE and the Wi-Fi Alliance. In addition to the usual suspects — Cisco, LinkSys, Netgear, ASUS, D-Link, etc. — consider one or two lesser knowns such as Aerohive, EERO, Edimax, and Charter. NetWorkWorld has a comprehensive device overview in its October 1 online edition.
©2018 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. homecaretechreport.com One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only. firstname.lastname@example.org