Will The New iPhone Drive WiFi 6 Adoption?

I will be honest-before Apple’s big iPhone event on Tuesday, I had hoped for WiFI 6 in their new flagship phones…but I expected that not to happen. The reality is, Apple has never generally rushed to market when it came to new WiFi or cellular standards. Why would they be any different when it came to WiFi 6?


Turns out, the folks at Apple decided to deviate. Even though WiFi 6 is still only a draft as of mid-September 2019, there will be WiFi 6 in each of Apple’s new iPhone 11 models.

Admittedly, this shouldn’t be completely shocking. After all, Samsung already has phones with WiFi 6, as do other vendors. So while Apple came to market with theirs before ratification, they still were far from “early” to market. So, if they aren’t close to first, how can I even wonder if this will be the driver, the catalyst, if you will, for WiFi 6 adoption?

It’s purely speculative, to be honest. Sure, Android (i.e. Samsung) has plenty of market share. But Apple, with it’s ever-popular iPhone line of smart phones, has plenty¬† of market share as well. They have a good bit of traction in the enterprise space. Executives like their shiny new status symbols, don’t they? None are shinier or newer than the soon to be released iPhone 11 and 11 Pro.

iphone 11 new.jpg

While plenty of executives will want-and probably get-their 11…a high percentage of those new iPhone users won’t even get to benefit from 802.11ax in their offices. Odds are their companies have yet to roll out WiFi 6 compliant hardware. Now, forgetting that most executives probably won’t be hip enough to know what their phone can do that their enterprise WLAN cannot, there is something it could do.

Smart network managers keep an eye on connected devices. This helps you see trends, and understand the devices that you frequently see on your network. Chances are it was this you kept an eye on shortly before disabling legacy 802.11 prime and b data rates-once you knew you weren’t going to break any devices, you could safely eliminate the slower data rates.

With the newer phones, you can keep an eye on the client hardware information. As you see more devices capable of WiFi 6, you can begin to make a plan for corporate migration. I recall watching metrics on a daily, weekly and monthly basis several years back. It was during an SSID retirement project, so I had to eye the metrics fairly regularly. One other item on the report was devices and model information. As I watched the SSID retirement, I was also observing a gradual increase in newer iPhone numbers. Knowing that we were seeing a steady increase of newer and more capable devices, we knew we could start planning a move to 5ghz only SSIDs.

Observing the uptick of new iPhones (and, for that matter, newer Android devices) will help you know when your organization should be ready to really begin to deploy WiFi 6 APs. So with this in mind, yes, I do expect Apple’s newest phones to serve as a catalyst for technology adoption. For whatever reason, the Apple releases illicit more of a response from folks, even if the Samsung devices unveiled a few weeks earlier arguably offer better specs.

Couple the iPhone announcements with an anticipated (but not yet announced) October event that might reveal newer MacBooks and iPads also with WiFI 6, and we might finally be at a point where it’s beginning to make more sense to consider updating your corporate infrastructure to be WiFi 6 capable.

Of course, that being said, there’s still the matter of getting enterprise WiFi 6 gear to be ready for prime time. Some vendors are probably more prepared for that then others…but it’s probably a good time to begin evaluating both the infrastructure and client devies in your test labs.


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