Wi-Fi 6E: Powering the Next Generation of Connectivity

Connectivity
With insights from Extreme Networks, we consider how Wi-Fi 6E can offer increased network reliability and how AI is transforming network management

As the world strives to be more connected, a fast and reliable Wi-Fi connection is a necessary piece of the puzzle.
Within a business context, expanding network coverage not only improves connectivity, but holds the power to transform myriad spaces into hubs for innovation.

Extreme Networks (Extreme) is one such company dedicated to boosting wireless connectivity to accelerate global digital transformation. The networking company has been improving its 6 GHz and Wi-Fi 6E offerings via its extensive partnerships with leading organisations, highlighting how its customers can further their commitment to customer experience.

Mobile Magazine spoke with leading company executives at Extreme Connect 2024 in Texas in April, about what the future of connectivity means for the company and how the company is harnessing new technologies to improve customer experience.

Extreme Networks: Improving customer connectivity with Wi-Fi 6E

Extreme remains a market leader, providing best-in-class connectivity. It was the first vendor to ship enterprise-grade Wi-Fi 6E and is now helping its customers leverage 6 GHz Wi-Fi across outdoor spaces.

“Wi-Fi 6E allows our customers to improve reliability and throughput for Wi-Fi sustainability,” Markus Nispel, CTO EMEA at Extreme says. “There’s more capacity with 6GHz Wi-Fi as customers are predominantly using wireless technologies.

“It comes not only as Wi-Fi, but also in the form of other IoT technologies that we also integrated into that Wi-Fi 7 access point.”

The Wi-Fi 6E standard adds support for the 6GHz spectrum, in addition to offering faster wireless speeds and lower latencies. All this, as Norman Rice, Chief Commercial Officer at Extreme explains, helps connectivity on the path towards the next generation of connectivity: Wi-Fi 7.

“The promise of Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 is a significant leap above Wi-Fi 6,” Norman says. “The communication between you and your device is uninterrupted wherever you go, you’re not competing with other people for space. The end result is you never lose your connection, nor the quality of your connection.”

This was particularly the case with Extreme’s partnership with leading baseball team, the San Francisco Giants. As they had existing Extreme infrastructure, all they had to do was flip a switch and turn Wi-Fi 6E on, as Norman explains.

“The benefits for several generations of Wi-Fi have been marginal, but now the devices are getting smarter and the data flow is getting stronger,” he says.

A post-pandemic world: Engaging the market

Network reliability has emerged as a much larger conversation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to WifiForward, internet traffic grew by 40% during peak business areas in 2020.

As a result, more businesses are having to wrestle with the requirements of hybrid or remote working patterns, changing office culture as well as boosting global demands for robust Wi-Fi connections. Part of these changes include embracing digital transformation efforts.

Extreme is not immune to these challenges.

“The biggest trend is real estate footprint goes down,” Norman highlights. “We've gone down 50% in three years - we're hybrid, but our remote workforce is 80% remote, which isn’t unusual. 

Markus explains that, as EMEA CTO, he has noticed a difference in the European and American markets over the course of the pandemic.

“Over the last four years, there was a catch-up effect,” he says. “For example, in Germany alone, we had five times higher growth rates in terms of customers moving to the cloud than the rest of the world.

“Right now, we see technology adoption being on par with the US. In Europe, because staff shortage and cost is a bigger problem, automation and digital transformation is actually accelerating in Europe. European enterprises have recognised that the only way to survive is to transform faster.”

There are specific needs around cloud and data sovereignty in Europe that Extreme has also had to address. The company’s solution, Extreme Cloud Edge, enables customers to run a cloud infrastructure in their own environment that addresses these concerns.

“It's not forcing them to the cloud, but instead bringing the cloud to them, so they can consume it the same way others consume it, but it's being delivered in a protected environment,” Markus says.

The power of AI in network management

In addition to the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) has been touted as a strategy to improve connectivity and revolutionise user experience. Some of the benefits it offers enterprises include faster troubleshooting, optimisation and problem prediction.

Traditional AI and machine learning capabilities will work together to solve customer challenges and further optimise networks by making tailored suggestions.

“Initially it will help to accelerate troubleshooting and operational processes,” Markus highlights.

Yet, with widespread AI innovation continuing to impact the industry, it is just as important to maintain stakeholder and customer trust. This will come by adopting an AI-as-copilot mindset, rather than having the technology replace existing infrastructure.

“Building trust is going to be important early on and that's a big focus of our development - making sure that what the system is providing as guidance is accurate, helpful, relevant and also harmless. Yet, businesses still need to add their own capabilities on top of it.

Extreme confronts these issues with its Extreme Fabric product, 

“Extreme Fabric is a network within a network, which means every single communication is unique, it's hyper-segmented,” Norman states. “We're seeing more regulation and more industries pressing for hyper-segmentation. This technology does it automatically from the day it was born.”

“A lot of customers want cloud Wi-Fi and Fabric, so they can manage operations from one place. Hyper segmentation is really important because it protects people's information.”

Optimising forward-thinking opportunities

Extreme Networks sees itself as a well-positioned networking provider as it seeks to capitalise on AI opportunities within networking.

“Changes happening in the competitive landscape provide opportunities for us,” Norman says. “I'm excited about our position as a pure-play networking provider, with strong technical acumen and a customer-first policy. We can be very disruptive in our market and we've got different economic models to help simulate that.”

Likewise, with AI, Markus adds that the technology is an opportunity for Extreme to differentiate itself as a business.

“AI will allow our customers to do more with less,” he says. “We want to help customers to implement and deliver the promises of an infinite enterprise at scale.

“AI will change how customers will interact with Extreme.”

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