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WBA unveils ‘world-first’ combination of Wi-Fi 6E, OpenRoaming

Trial of combined wireless technologies at Polytechnic Institute of Viseu said to showcase the future of higher education, including 8K video and interactive experiences in classrooms

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) has announced what it claims is a successful proof-of-concept trial of Wi-Fi 6E at a major university campus in Europe, which included what is said to be the first time Wi-Fi 6E has been tested on a network connected to WBA OpenRoaming.

Designed to enable seamless handover between cellular and Wi-Fi networks, OpenRoaming was first announced in 2020 and commercially deployed a year later. It is based on a common set of standards to bridge the gap between cellular and Wi-Fi, offering users frictionless connectivity as users roam between guest Wi-Fi networks and public Wi-Fi hotspots, combining the convenience of mobile roaming with Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, allowing devices to connect to Wi-Fi networks securely and automatically without the user needing to log in more than once.

Available at more than one million hotspots worldwide, WBA OpenRoaming is now in Release 3, and is designed to make the business and commercial aspects of roaming easier than ever, as well as, importantly, cut back on hundreds of hours of legal and administrative time when establishing roaming settlement agreements. It is also intended to enable enterprises, device OEMs, service providers and others to provide performance guarantees, and – with Wi-Fi 6 and 6E – a carrier-grade experience as users roam between different public Wi-Fi venues.

The trial was conducted at the Polytechnic Institute of Viseu (IPV) in Portugal, the first organisation in Portugal to participate in WBA OpenRoaming, which enables students, teachers and other users on campus to automatically connect to a high-speed, secure, carrier-grade Wi-Fi 6 network wherever they are, indoors and outdoors, without experiencing disruption to their wireless network connection.

WBA described it as a milestone towards a full deployment that will give faculty and students new options for interacting with online resources such as video, both in classroom and remotely. The trial was a collaboration between IPV and Extreme Networks, as well as Broadcom, Intel and Samsung. It covered a wide variety of bandwidth-intensive and latency-sensitive video use cases in a high-density environment, including an 8K video feed across the Wi-Fi 6E network, using a Wi-Fi 6E-enabled device as the broadcast platform. Scenarios included remote teaching with HD video in the classroom and simultaneous student access to HD and 8K videos for remote learning.

It is also said to support fast handover for roaming between mobile and Wi-Fi networks, enabling users to stay connected as they move on and off campus without impacting performance, no matter how many users are on the network.

For the trial, Extreme deployed four of its AP4000 Wi-Fi 6E access points in a 1,400-square-metre venue that IPV uses to host on-campus events. Broadcom, Intel and Samsung provided laptops, smartphones and tablets enabled with 6E chipsets to run the trials. Extreme observed a maximum download speed of 1.7 Gbps during the trial close to the AP4000’s maximum possible throughput. Future trials will be conducted as new devices with 6E chipsets hit the market, including augmented and virtual reality devices that will enable immersive classroom experiences and provide faculty and students with new ways to interact.

Read more about Wi-Fi 6E

Among the key outcomes of the trial cited by the WBA is the ability to enable IPV to increase its offerings for immersive hybrid learning, which it says is quickly becoming a more popular option for students in Europe. IPV is a technology-driven university, and Wi-Fi 6E will enable it to increase its use of technology for students on and off campus, giving them the skills necessary to obtain a job after graduating.

Additionally, IPV delivers regional Wi-Fi for the Viseu municipality, and Wi-Fi 6E will ensure it has the bandwidth necessary to offer connectivity for students and local citizens who need to use it. IPV is also currently exploring the possibility of using OpenRoaming to seamlessly integrate its Wi-Fi 6E network with cellular networks.

“Having a Wi-Fi 6E network on campus will open the door for us to increase our usage of emerging technology in the classroom,” said Luís Almeida, senior network administrator at Instituto Politécnico de Viseu.

“We can make our labs more immersive, increase the resources that we offer students online, and ensure that students have the same learning experience whether they are in the classroom or consuming lessons remotely. As soon as we are able to roll Wi-Fi 6E out across our entire campus, we know our students, educators, and all who connect to our network will immediately see the benefits of being able to connect in a new, clean spectrum.”

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