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Assuring Optimal Wi-Fi 6 User Experiences

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Spirent Wi-Fi 6 Performance Test Solution was recently awarded Best of Show Runner-up for Interop Tokyo 2020. Learn how its unique capabilities help assure new Wi-Fi 6 devices live up to their high demands and expectations.
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While previous generations of Wi-Fi primarily focused on faster throughput, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) delivers improved capacity, latency, and efficiency – allowing us to use Wi-Fi technology in new and different ways.

This is important, as Wi-Fi 6 introduces new high challenge environments such as large indoor areas or dense and congested public outdoor areas. These new enhanced capabilities have a considerable impact on traditional Wi-Fi testing. To fully evaluate device performance in these increasingly demanding deployment scenarios, the incorporation of channel emulation into the test strategy becomes critical.

New Strategies for Testing Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 provides key benefits that were not available with previous generations, including:

  • Tri-band support: operation in 2.4 & 5 GHz bands plus new 6 GHz band (Wi-Fi 6e)

  • Increasing average throughput per station by at least 4x in dense deployment scenarios

  • Improvements to station power efficiency, channel, and bandwidth efficiency

These new requirements create complex scenarios that can greatly impact user experience and directly affect test strategy.

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Channel emulation can replace or minimize the need for costly field testing by creating countless real-world scenarios in the lab.

The Value of Adding Channel Emulation to the Wi-Fi 6 Test Bed

The addition of a channel emulator into the WLAN emulation test bed has become an important factor in comprehensive Wi-Fi 6 performance testing.

So, what is a channel emulator? It is a complex instrument used to emulate air interfaces in wireless communications (5G-NR, LTE, proprietary, Wi-Fi, etc.). It mimics the real-world radio channel including all the complex aspects that can interfere with a signal (buildings, motion, speed, reflections, path loss, noise, etc.). It uses mathematical channel models to represent all these effects, which are a powerful method for bringing the real world into the lab and have been instrumental in advancing the cellular user experience we all enjoy today.

Channel emulation can replace or minimize the need for costly field testing by creating countless real-world scenarios in the lab. Testing in a lab environment is less expensive, more reliable, repeatable, can be automated, improves quality, and reduces time to market.

Not All Devices are Created Equal

In the following example, we wanted to see how two new Wi-Fi 6 access points from different manufacturers would perform under the exact same input power and traffic load conditions. We focused on a set of five outdoor channel models specified in IEEE 802.11 standards requirements. The graphs below show the results of that testing, where each color represents a different outdoor model:

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While Device A struggles to maintain a consistent signal, Device B reaches as much as 66% higher data throughput for the Urban Micro Line of Sight (UMi LOS) model. Although Device B generally performs better with stronger power levels, Device A can hold onto the connection at lower power levels (or longer distances).

Such factors must be taken into consideration when evaluating devices for their target application. In this case, Device B would perform better in smaller, denser spaces, while Device A might do better in larger, more spread out areas.

A Complete Wi-Fi 6 Performance Test System

The following system incorporates all the IEEE recommended indoor and outdoor channel models to provide comprehensive testing of new Wi-Fi 6 technologies to help assure superior user experiences.

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This powerful Wi-Fi 6 performance test system leverages the industry-leading Spirent TestCenter Wi-Fi 6 C50 platform to generate traffic and act as an end device or access point (depending on the type of DUT). The addition of Spirent Vertex Channel Emulator helps simulate a myriad of high-challenge propagation scenarios (either specified by IEEE or customized for specific needs), while the Vertex High Frequency Converter can be included if frequencies over 6GHz are being tested.

For more details on the overall solution, refer to the solution brief Performance Testing of Wi-Fi 6 Devices. A brief demo is also available here.

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Mary Jane Viscomi
Mary Jane Viscomi

senior technical marketing engineer

Mary Jane (MJ) Viscomi is a Senior Technical Marketing Engineer for Spirent’s Connected Devices Business Unit. She is responsible for working with technical teams to communicate market, solution, technology, and product value internally to global sales as well externally through collateral, website, and social media across all Connected Devices product lines: channel emulation, network emulation, and user experience tools. MJ has held various sales and marketing roles throughout her career spanning power distribution, asset management software, and telecommunications. She has a Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical Engineering from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.