Wi-Fi 6e, 6GHz and the Wi-Fi Professional: an introspection

As I post this blog from a computer with a Wi-Fi 6e adapter, connected to a Wi-Fi 6e Access Point over 6GHz, I’m struck at just how far behind the times the average Wi-Fi Professional is. It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape of our world, and the uptake of Wi-Fi in the home environment for production/corporate/commercial use has obviously skyrocketed. What does this have to do with the average Wi-Fi Professional being behind the time? Let me rewind the clock just a few weeks. I fielded an escalation from a corporate executive that was working from home. This is obviously nothing new given the Work From Home adaption that we’ve all had to accommodate, but this executive in particular was fed up with his experience at home and went out and bought a new router to go with his newly issued corporate laptop. After unboxing and setting it up, he was having issues and so did the most obvious thing – engaged his support team. Here’s where things go south quickly. His new laptop has an Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6e client (which has been available for months at the time of this writing) and his new router sported “the fastest Wi-Fi connections available” – yes, over 6GHz. Fast forward to today and I’m saddled with a support case for an executive that is using technologies that I don’t have access to or tools to troubleshoot (much less design). I did what any dutiful Wi-Fi Professional would do in this case, I bought the same things he did and got to wrenching. The experience of troubleshooting a Wi-Fi connection without tools is one that I thought was long behind me. Having no Spectrum Analyzer, no channel scanner, no packet captures, no nothing – means that I was basically taking shots in the dark trying to figure out what was going on. This is the inverse of what happened to me the first time I saw a channel scanner, saw an CCK spectral mask on a spectrum analyzer, captured my first 4 way handshake – the elation of visibility came crashing down around me so rapidly, it was like someone turned off every light in my vicinity and left me wandering in the dark.

A Wi-Fi Professional is only as good as their tools. Yes you need learning, yes you need to understand what your tools tell you, yes you need to train on them so you can learn them properly, and yes – that skill contributes to a Wi-Fi Professionals overall efficacy, but what do you get when you have a Professional that knows what should be going on, knows where to look for the problem, but is left without being able to do so? You have a lame Wi-Fi Professional. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi Professional has suffered a few significant blows in recent memory. The first was when Work From Home really started to kick in and we realized that none of our tools were built for supporting that kind of environment – and now, 6GHz isn’t just “coming soon”. It’s not coming next year, not coming next quarter, not coming next month. It’s here today and real people are using it for real work. The world has changed and adapted, but we haven’t. The Wi-Fi Professional is hurting today and for all the bluster of the marketing around Wi-Fi 6e – the only real strategy we have is to stick our heads in the sand and recommend that people do not adopt 6Ghz solutions because we’re not ready. This puts us behind the curve, and for a group of professionals that are proud to be on the leading edge of market trends and supporting those around us that are passionate about technology, it’s embarrassing.

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