Why WiFi 6 Might Become the Next Backbone Network

eWEEK NETWORKING ANALYSIS: When WiFi 6 adopts millimeter wave technologies, the speed limits are off, and your new backbone network might never see fiber again.


When I wrote about 6GHz WiFi 6 a couple of months ago, it was already clear that wireless communications in the office were about to change dramatically. With WiFi 6, speeds would be up, latency would be down and familiar limitations of WiFi would vanish. The relatively fallow ground of 6GHz meant that compromises due to legacy devices would be gone, making WiFi something that you could use anywhere in the office or on the production floor.

So imagine WiFi 6 at 60GHz. With all of that extra bandwidth, wireless capacity would move far beyond the current limitations of fiber networks in the office. While there will still be a role for fiber outside of the office, inside the office, 60GHz WiFi 6 will simplify enterprise networking by providing a multi-gigabit infrastructure without the disruption of cabling or the expense of wired infrastructure.

One company that’s working to make these capabilities possible is Cambium Networks, which has already announced a line of 60GHz WiFi 6 products that can support the wireless backbone of the future. The new products are expected to arrive this summer and should include high-speed cloud access in addition to 60GHz wireless access points and related infrastructure.

Ancestors of Cambium Provided Breakthrough Tech

The products that Cambium is introducing include a pair of WiFi 6 access points, six multi-gigabit switches and enhanced cloud-based software. According to a statement from Cambium, these new products stem from the company’s acquisition of Xirrus WiFi products, which is a strong start. Xirrus was a critical pioneer in the wireless networking space, building on its predecessor Xircom, the company that introduced wireless networking for portable computers. I first found Xircom at a Comdex show in 1987, and it was clear that this (then) blindingly fast wireless connectivity would transform the industry.

Xircom was acquired by Intel, with CEO Dirk Gates subsequently forming Xirrus, which was a major player in enterprise WiFi. This solid foundation provides a wealth of experience for Cambium as it moves into enterprise WiFi 6 and the millimeter wave spectrum. Cambium already builds several lines of industrial WiFi products using the 802.11ac standard that can provide data rates in excess of a gigabit per second. 

“From New York to Naples to Nigeria, everyone wants super-fast wireless connections,” Atul Bhatnagar, president and CEO of Cambium Networks, said in a media advisory. “By bringing together Wi-Fi 6 and 60GHz solutions with cloud software, we’re changing the game with unified wireless that can serve any city, any enterprise, any school, any business or any industry at a fraction of the cost of wired networks. With this new wave of technology, wireless is the new fiber, and it simply just works.”

One Key Component: Software-Defined Radios

Part of the reason for the flexibility Cambium displays is because the company uses software-defined radios in its new network devices. This allows the operational characteristics to be defined from a cloud-based server, so that the radios supporting the 60GHz communications can be defined as needed, speeding up deployment and reducing the time required to put the WiFi access point radios into operation.

Cambium said its software-defined, multi-radio architecture allows companies to improve coverage for more concurrent users, which the company claims can ease the transition to WiFi 6. Making the transition to a wireless backbone using the 60GHz WiFi software-defined infrastructure should ease the transition even more, because it will nearly eliminate most of the physical infrastructure that now plagues enterprise networks. The legacy of endless cable management issues will simply disappear.

Wayne Rash, a former executive editor of eWEEK, is a longtime contributor to our publication and a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...