802.11AX NOW CALLED WIFI 6

The IEEE is now adopting new nomenclature for Wi-Fi. Instead of the existing and well know system of 802.11 they are now using a number scheme.

  • 802.11n becomes WiFi 4
  • 802.11ac becomes WiFi 5
  • 802.11ax becomes WiFi  6

Given the new scheme the IEEE hopes to make it easier for consumers to work with wireless hardware much the way Bluetooth works. Bluetooth 5 is available with the Intel 9260 which is the current 802.11ac wave 2 card  they are mass producing. Apparently the IEEE wants to sync with Bluetooth to some extent.

We are aware that the IEEE plans to start testing 802.11ax hardware early in 2019. Once hardware interoperability has been established we expect later in 2019 to see standards complaint access points and WiFi adapters.

802.11ax is expected to achieve up to 11 gigabit speeds with wide 160 MHz channels. Work is being done to free up 6 GHz to that more channels for WiFi can be made available but this may not be ready until 2022.

Existing WiFi hardware that claims to be tri-band is misleading. At present there is the overcrowded 2.4 Ghz band and there is the 5 Ghz band. There is no third band. There are some 4T4R access points which are designed to handle multiple users.

We question the move to the numbered scheme as most consumers are sophisticated enough to understand basic network speeds etc. The imagination can handle thousands of people at a hockey game all taking photos and many posting them to social media etc.

It remains to be seen how well consumers will accept this simplified naming system.

FIBER

The move to such high speeds as 802.11ax will require faster category 8 cabling along with 10GBASE-T infrastructure to prevent bottlenecking.. Faster Ethernet hardware is readily available for places that need to install a lot of access points. Copper is limited in distance which is why fiber is the cable of choice. Copper is only suitable for up to 100 meter distances.

Fiber is faster and modern standards can handle 100 gigabit speeds over a pair of fibers at a distance of over 40 km. Lower cost 40GBASE-ER4 is available for stadiums and other large open areas. 100GBASE-ER4 is still too expensive but prices are falling to under $10,000 per port.

Longer distances for fiber do have some problems with attenuation of the signal. This is more of an issue for longer backbone links across the continent than for most cities.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Corning passive fiber hub

Courtesy Telus

The Corning Gen III fiber feeder in the photo offers 448 ports in a standard rack mounted box. More recent hardware has even higher port densities.

The easiest and most accurate way is to perform an Optical Time Domain Reflectometer (OTDR) trace of the actual link. This will give you the actual loss values for all events (connectors, splices, and fiber loss) in the link.

Each yellow fiber operates at 150 megabit speed and they connect to various office buildings in the downtown core of Victoria. Each link costs corporate users about $10,000 per month.

Banks, brokers and other businesses all need fast internet to handle their day to day operations which is why Telus spent a fortune to wire up the city with fiber.

The white fibers connect to the Telus internet backbone located nearby in one of the downtown central office switch buildings. Each of the central office buildings is interconnected with high speed fiber links to handle the modern internet demands, Other fibers interconnect with the US and across Canada.

CELLULAR

Cellular services have also become faster which has demanded fiber backbones. More competition in cellular internet has resulted in lower prices but Canada is still the most expensive place on the planet for mobile phones.

3G can reach 21 megabits but in most areas consumers  are lucky to get 3.5 megabit speeds. LTE is faster and some users have seen 60 megabit speeds.

Canada has about 80% market penetration for LTE and ranks 26th in the world behind India etc. Upgrading the hardware periodically is expensive due to very high labor costs. While the rest of the world is building LTE Canada has been falling behind.

Part of the problem in Canada besides high labor costs is that mountains are problem. BC is largely all mountains  and spare population areas are another problem.

Cisco has cellular options for their Aeronet WiFi boxes which is one solution for rural users who may not have cellular service. Many northern ares are very sparsely populated.

A voice call needs a measly 64 kilobit speed. A single fiber can handle every call at once. The demands for data have so far outstripped voice requirements its hard to imagine.

FIBER TO THE HOME

Recently Telus has been installing fiber to more and more residences. Internet speeds for consumers are the same as the more expensive corporate services with the expectation that the links are not saturated 100% of the time. 150 megabit speeds are lower cost for consumers as faster equipment becomes expensive fast.

Cable internet can provide 150 megabit speeds which competes with fiber. Fiber can achieve higher speeds than coaxial cable could ever imagine and terabit speeds are possible. Cable internet has been raised to 300 megabit in some areas to compete with fiber.,

Victoria is largely granite which makes it hard to run fiber underground. The large scale fiber infrastructure makes sense to provide fiber to every consumer. Not many of these boxes are needed for most urban situations. Many low cost apartments have been fitted by the cable company for 30 megabit Wi-Fi access.

448 fiber ports on each side is enough for a large neighbourhood

TARIFF

Telus and its counterparts have a tariff which the Crown granted long ago before the rise of computers and the internet,. The tariff granted a monopoly which unfortunately also attracted organized labour. Over time the publicly switched telephone network worked fairly well.

The birth of the PC started to use the telephone network for data. Speeds grew over time until too many computers pressured change. At the same time, the birth of the cellular phone was seen as a monopoly breaker. In Canada, Telus and its counterparts received a small termination fee for connecting to telephone system.

Today, few still use the old style telephone as the cost of mobile phones has fallen far below the cost of a fixed line. The cellular phone is  called a disruptive technology. To survive Telus and their counterparts had to adopt cellular services to compete with others. Consolidation has lead the large carriers to become the  dominant players.

With compulsory unlocked phones, more and more lower cost services have emerged for the so-called bring your own device market. Telus, Rogers and Bell now all offer lower cost services for this market. The carriers still have financing for those not wealthy enough to  spend $1000 for an overpriced iPhone.