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The Video Coding Licensing Platform as a one-stop-shop

When launching the Video Coding Licensing Platform (VCLP) and the two patent pools on VP9 and AV1 in March 2019, Sisvel and the founding members were strongly convinced about the value that this effort would be delivering to the video coding ecosystem: balancing and meeting the needs of both innovators and implementers.

Here we explain why Sisvel decided to dedicate a full year to fostering the inclusion of additional Patent Owners in VCLP before initiating any licensing operations.

At that time, Sisvel decided to dedicate a full year to fostering the inclusion of additional Patent Owners in VCLP before initiating any licensing operations, striving to create a true One-Stop-Shop for VP9 and AV1, which is the ultimate goal of every patent pool administrator.

In this past year, Sisvel has been humbled by the participation of many new Patent Owners alongside our founding members. The pools now see the active engagement of many key innovators in the video coding domain and we are happy to re-launch the two pools, having now 14 members contributing several hundred patents to the VCLP.

This impressive increase and participation proves that our decision to dedicate time to be as inclusive as possible has paid back, to the benefit of the ecosystem as a whole. Once it became clear that many unlicensed patents were reading on VP9 and AV1, creating an easy, efficient and transparent system to obtain licenses under those patents was important to foster the technology adoption. We believe that the creation of VCLP has achieved this goal, also thanks to the choices made by the Patent Owners and Sisvel, namely maintaining the royalty rates at the same level, notwithstanding the surprising growth of patents offered for license, and keeping content distribution royalty free under the pools are just some examples.

Strong investments have been made in carefully selecting those patents which are now part of the programs, with a two-pronged approach to the evaluation of patents: both seasoned technical domain experts in Sisvel as well as independent and professionally accredited third-party evaluators have been engaged. The validation of the patent portfolios participating to the license offers implied the use of a tremendous level of resources: the investments made to date by Sisvel and the Patent Owners will be key in supporting the market players when assessing Sisvel´s license offer and the necessity for a license. Sisvel will welcome requests of technical discussions to explain how patents offered for license are used when practicing VP9 or AV1.

Today, Sisvel and the VCLP Patent Owners are even more convinced about the value of our efforts: we believe that today is a positive day for the entire innovation ecosystem in the video coding domain.

For more information about the licensing terms, please visit: this link.

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Welcome to Sisvel VP9/AV1 blog

Greetings and welcome to the Sisvel VP9/AV1 blog. I’m Mattia Fogliacco, CEO of Sisvel Group.

As you may know, video codecs have progressed over the last few years on two tracks; standards-based, royalty-bearing codecs like MPEG-2, H.264, and HEVC, and open-source royalty-free codecs like Ogg Theora, VP6-9, and now AV1.

Sisvel VP9/AV1 patent pools

Recently Sisvel announced two patent pools on VP9 and AV1. We formed these pools because after performing extensive technical due diligence, both internally and through highly respected third parties, we believe that the VP9/AV1 codecs as promoted by Google and the Alliance for Open Media (AOM) make use of patents owned by companies participating in the pools. Recognizing that AOM and Google have been positioning VP9 and AV1 as royalty-free, open-source codecs for many years now, we created this blog for several reasons.

First, to keep interested parties aware of key information about the pools as it becomes available. During this summer, we will announce via this blog the availability of the essential patent list, and several new licensors who have added technology to the pools.

Second, since we recognize that the formation of these pools will be an emotionally charged issue for many technology pundits and users, we wanted to create a place to respond to criticism and complaints, and present our side of the story, which roughly is this.

  • Sisvel helps companies monetize their investments in R&D, often via patent pools. We’ve been in business since 1982, have been licensing technology for over 35 years, and have over 60 engineers, licensing, and legal professionals on staff.
  • We believe that patent pools simplify access to new technologies by enabling potential implementors to sign one agreement with one party at a reasonable cost to acquire all rights needed to build products using the covered technologies.
  • We believe that our patent pools have helped accelerate the deployment of the covered technologies for the benefit of the inventors, implementors, and end users. Certainly, in the video codec space, patent pools have clearly accelerated the deployment of video codecs like MPEG-2 and H.264.
  • We believe that AOM members have the complete right to form, in essence, a royalty-free patent pool of their own intellectual property. However, to the extent that AV1 (and VP9) make use of the IP owned by members of our pools, these members have the complete right to seek reasonable royalties from those who implement VP9 and AV1 in their products and services.

That’s it. This blog will be monitored, and we won’t publish any abusive messages. Otherwise, we’re committed to publishing questions and comments on both sides of these issues.

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Welcome to Sisvel Wi-Fi Blog

Hello, I’m Andrea Rombolà, I’m managing the Sisvel’s program on Wi-Fi technology. As you’ll see over the next few months, we’re using this blog to educate readers on Wi-Fi technology, highlight the business opportunities in new and existing markets that it enables, and to present our point of view regarding patent licensing.
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Welcome to the Sisvel Mobile Communication Program

Hello and welcome to our MCP blog!
My name is David Muus and I am the program manager of the Sisvel Mobile Communication Program. As an opening post to this blog, I wanted to give you some key pointers of what Sisvel’s work in licensing patents on cellular technology includes and a brief explanation of elemental questions that you may have, in the form of an FAQ. I hope this lets you better understand our business in general and Sisvel’s Mobile Communication Program in particular.

What is Sisvel’s Mobile Communication Program (MCP)?

The MCP is Sisvel’s joint licensing platform – also known as a pool – to license patents that are essential to cellular standards, such as 2G, 3G and, 4G and used by terminal devices. It is a program where multiple patent holders that own such patents come together and offer their relevant patents together under a single license agreement, managed by Sisvel.

When was the MCP created?

The MCP in its current form was launched in February 2018 but its roots go further back. Specifically, it is a continuation of other separate Sisvel programs that were deployed before 2018: the LTE Patent Pool (2012), the LTE/LTE-A Patent Pool (2015), and the 3G Joint Licensing Program (2017). Now the patents in these pools have been consolidated and made available under one single program.

What is an essential patent?

A standard-essential patent (or SEP) is a patent that covers technology used in a standard like 2G, 3G, and 4G. This means that when such a product uses 4G, it cannot avoid infringing a patent that is standard essential to 4G. Obtaining a license to such a patent is an obligation on the implementor before it makes or sells such a product.

What products need an MCP license?

The MCP licenses terminal products, or in terms of the 3GPP standards: User Equipment (UE). This includes any product ready for use by a consumer that is capable to make use of 3G and 4G networks. Typical products include smartphones, feature phones, tablets, laptops, PC’s, PCI cards, 3G/4G routers, etc. Equally relevant are professional devices, such as point of sales devices, smart meters, cars, etc, if these have been fitted to connect to the 3G and/or 4G networks.

How are patents included in the MCP?

First, a patent owner must agree to the terms of the program, which amongst others grants Sisvel the individual right to license the entire 3G and 4G essential patent portfolio of the participating patent owner.

Then the patent owner must submit its patent families to an evaluation process, which includes independent review, to confirm that the patents are essential to the relevant standard.

Who owns patents in the MCP?

The MCP includes the 3G and 4G essential patent portfolios of 3G Licensing, Airbus DS, Royal KPN, Mitsubishi Electric, Orange, TNO, as well as the patents Sisvel owns itself. Sisvel prides itself in working with this concise and vibrant group of patent owners, who have a good understanding of what is necessary in the highly contentious world of licensing of cellular SEPs.

How do patent owners and Sisvel find each other?

Participation to the MCP is open to any patent owner that has essential patents to the cellular standards we license. The current group of patent owners and Sisvel have found each other because of a set of firm beliefs in licensing patents in the field of telecommunication: (1) we believe in the value of our patents and the innovative toils that they represent – there is a deep understanding of the patents that we represent, supported by Sisvel’s in-house team of telecom engineers, (2) if there is willingness, there is a way. We apply 35+ years of best practices in licensing, first of all, to resolve disputes at the negotiation table, which requires a willingness of patent owners to negotiate creatively and (3) if all else fails, we have to stand by our rights and find our way to court. The terms of our agreements, as well as the way we cooperate, is founded on these three pillars.

Which patents are licensed in the MCP?

The license offered is not limited to a particular list of patents. The program offers portfolio licenses to the essential 3G and 4G patents that the patent owners that join us may own. As such, the total portfolio of patents that are obtained under license may exceed those patents we put in our documentation. Our documentation only includes those patents that have undergone a process of evaluation, this does not mean however that these overviews are limitative, but rather should be seen as a ‘proud list’.

Consequential to offering portfolio licenses, the number of patents in the program fluctuates. New patents may get granted and evaluated essential, or patents may expire. Additionally, the portfolio may increase as new patent owners join the program or current patent owners acquire new patents that they wish to add to the program (for example, Sisvel’s subsidiary 3G Licensing acquired 18 essential patent families from LGE in 2019, which are now licensed under the pool). The program is limited to the patent owners that participate, this means that there are also patents essential to cellular standards that are not licensed under the MCP. At the moment of writing, there are 155 individual patent families in the proud list of the program, of which 84 are believed to have claims essential to 3G and for 106 patents the same applies in relation to 4G.

The patents of patent owners that are in the pool have been successfully asserted against unwilling implementors in diverse jurisdictions. Jurisdictions where the patents have been involved in legal actions the United States, China, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, Italy, and the Netherlands, making it a highly tested and relevant portfolio.

Does Sisvel own patents in the MCP?

Sisvel has a portfolio that includes standard-essential patents that are relevant to 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G that are (or in the case of 5G will be) offered under the MCP. Out of the 155 patent families, 84 are owned by Sisvel, but Sisvel’s portfolio is not static. Sisvel continues to acquire cellular essential patents over time. Sisvel acquired these patents that were filed by inventive powerhouses, like Nokia (2011), Orange (2015), Blackberry (2019), Langbo (2019), and LGE (2019). This growth is expected to continue.

How does Sisvel’s ownership of patents impact the program?

By owning patents in the pool, the interest of Sisvel is perfectly aligned with the partnering patent owners and licensees: we have a strong interest in fostering practices that allow for a successful licensing program.

We can identify with the concerns on both sides of the table under our extensive experience in licensing. We are involved in negotiations as a license administrator since 1982 and as an owner of cellular SEPs since 2011. We understand that in the end, granting a license is a compromise between rights holders and implementors. In our negotiations, we often put ourselves in the shoes of patent owner and implementor alike and weigh the options each party may have and find the best solution for each case. In doing so, we must be creative in finding solutions taking both these perspectives in consideration.

Apart from a deeper understanding of the complexities patent owners must navigate, owning patents in the program enables Sisvel to be a proactive patent owner. We have no difficulty standing by our rights and protecting the position of our patents, our program, and our licensees when confronted with companies holding out on a license, or – more often than you would expect – even hold off any real negotiation. Sadly, this is a necessity in our field of work.

Where do I find the patents?

Sisvel is committed to transparency. On our website (link) we publish patent brochures that list all patents that are believed to be essential to the relevant sections of the cited standards, and these brochures are updated from time to time to keep up with developments in the portfolio.

These brochures also include other relevant information: which claims are considered essential, which sections of the standard are considered relevant (to the level of individual paragraphs, tables, and figures), where to find declarations of essentiality, the priority date of the filing of the patent (to determine the lifetime of the patent) and the international designations of the patents in question.

What are the terms of Sisvel’s MCP license?

The full terms and conditions of the MCP can be found on our website (link). The standard agreement is a running royalty-bearing license with a 3G/4G multimode rate of EUR 0.88 per licensed product, a rate of EUR 0.35 for 3G-only products and a 4G-only rate of EUR 0.53. If an implementor already obtained a license to one of the portfolios of the participating patent owners, we would deduct the royalties that are assigned to such a portfolio for the time such a license is in place.

Can I negotiate with Sisvel?

Upon request, Sisvel can also discuss settlement under license based on a lump sum royalty or any hybrid between lump sum and running royalties. Sisvel understands that different circumstances may require different solutions and is always open to discuss the terms of the offered license to make an appropriate fit between the patents and the products.

That said, we maintain our compliance to the principle to license on fair and reasonable grounds and to not discriminate between licensees. We also offer implementors the opportunity to license the individual portfolios of the patent owners on a bilateral basis.

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What Would the COVID-19 Lockdown Been Like Decades Ago? A Technology Perspective on Video Codecs.

On June 23, 2020, over 500 technology and licensing professionals watched the online Talk on “What would the Covid-19 lockdown have been like decades ago? A technology perspective on video codecs.” The Talk reviewed the recent history of codec innovation and detailed how the patent system and patent pools help fund these efforts.
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Who’s At Fault Here?

For the most part, the editorial response to Sisvel’s AV1/VP9 patent pools has recognized the appropriateness of the pools and their formation. That is, a group of patent owners discovered that AV1 and VP9 infringed upon their patents so they formed a pool to gain compensation from this usage and enable the fair and legal commercialization of these codecs. However, some articles have criticized Sisvel and the patent owners for “imposing a toll on the streaming video highway,” with bloggers being even more obnoxious and critical. Here we explain once more our position.

It’s beyond interesting that these writers position Sisvel and the patent owners as the “bad guys” here, and give a total pass to the parties who have consistently misstated that their technologies are royalty-free and don’t infringe upon third-party IP. However, while forming the pools, Sisvel performed two layers of due diligence that revealed just the opposite; that both VP9 and AV1 use IP contained in the pools.

To be clear, neither Google or AOM asked Sisvel pool members if their use was acceptable; they simply integrated the pool owners’ IP into their codecs. A simple analogy helps illustrate the correct positioning of the parties.

Suppose you owned some property. Without your knowledge, a third-party advised others that they could build houses on your property, and they did so. You later discover this and ask for fair compensation. Who’s at fault here? The third-party who started it all, or you the property owner? In Sisvel’s view, and indeed the view of most who have written about the pools, it’s clearly not the property owner.

Similarly, who’s at fault regarding AV1/VP9? The groups that have consistently misrepresented the royalty-free nature of their technologies while misappropriating third-party IP? Or the pool members who after two layers of due diligence can prove that Google and AOM are leveraging the pool member’s IP without compensation?

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Wi-Fi 6 and 6E: The Perfect Prescription for the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)

Even ten to fifteen years ago, most hospital Wi-Fi networks connected computers and notebooks, and perhaps the odd PDA or medical device. Today, the number of connected medical devices has soared into the millions, with many requiring in-hospital Wi-Fi connections. At the same time, largely COVID-inspired telemedicine is expected to achieve seven-fold growth by 2025, placing additional demands on Wi-Fi networks.

Few doubt the benefits that connected medical devices and telemedicine bring to patient care and operational efficiency. But the combination of more Wi-Fi devices, more access points, and increased bandwidth requirements creates new and increased demands on medical facility Wi-Fi infrastructures.

Fortunately, due to the forward-thinking development strategy adopted by companies contributing to Wi-Fi standards and technologies, Wi-Fi 6 and 6E were designed to handle many of the technical challenges imposed by IoMT and telemedicine. This article will identify these challenges and the new features and capabilities in Wi-Fi 6 and 6E that will enable medical facilities to meet them.

About Wi-Fi 6 and 6E

The standard for wireless local-area networks (WLANs), officially marketed by the Wi-Fi Alliance as Wi-Fi 6, operates over the 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrum bands. Wi-Fi 6E is also based on 802.11ax standard and is an extension of Wi-Fi 6 indicating support for operation also in the 6 GHz wireless spectrum.

As with all Wi-Fi generations, Wi-Fi 6 delivers much faster transfer speeds, with a maximum data rate almost three times faster than Wi-Fi 5 (9.6 Gbps compared to 3.5). However, another major focus of Wi-Fi 6 was to improve efficiency when multiple devices are vying for network access and to minimize contention when multiple routers are installed in the same building or office. One target was to increase “average throughput per user more than four times in high-density environments” another to reduce latency by as much as 75%. This is why Wi-Fi 6 is also called “High-Efficiency Wi-Fi.”

The features implemented to achieve these results make Wi-Fi 6 and 6E uniquely qualified for deployment in healthcare environments. Let’s explore common healthcare-related Wi-Fi challenges and features that enable Wi-Fi 6 to overcome them.

Multiple medical connected devices, many of which use Wi-Fi

Figure 1: Multiple medical connected devices, many of which use Wi-Fi.

Scenario 1: Multiple Devices Seeking Wi-Fi Access

The average hospital room has between 15-20 connected devices, many using Wi-Fi, with some using other communications technologies like Bluetooth. Some may be pulling relatively light duty, like a heart rate monitor pushing a few bytes of data a minute while a laptop retrieving an x-ray or other scan needs to download megabytes of data as quickly as possible. All devices are mission critical.

Previous generations of Wi-Fi communicated to each device sequentially using fixed bandwidth packets. This wasted bandwidth when the available data was less than the capacity of the packets, and increased latency when serving multiple clients, who all had to wait their turn to transmit or receive packets. You see this on the top in Figure 2.

One key new feature in Wi-Fi 6 is Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA), which allows up to 37 clients to share a 80 MHz channel simultaneously, using varying packet sizes, so the heart rate monitor can send just a few bytes of data while the downloading x-ray consumes much more bandwidth. Shown at the bottom of Figure 1, this allows the network to serve more devices more efficiently and reduce network-related latency.

How OFDMA improves throughput, spectrum efficiency, and multi-device traffic capacity

Figure 2. How OFDMA improves throughput, spectrum efficiency, and multi-device traffic capacity (from here).


Wi-Fi 6 also expanded the capacity of Multi-Input Multiple-output (MIMO) technology, which lets a Wi-Fi access point with multiple antennas communicate simultaneously with multiple devices. With Wi-Fi 5, an access point with four antennas could transmit to four devices simultaneously, but the access point could only accept a single upload at a time. Wi-Fi 6 supports up to eight antennas for both download and upload, further reducing latency and improving multiple device support.


Telemedicine is a very high bandwidth bi-directional medium that imposes significant demands on Wi-Fi systems

Figure 3. Telemedicine is a very high bandwidth bi-directional medium that imposes significant demands on Wi-Fi systems.


Telemedicine

Video-conferencing is a highly-demanding application for both upload and download. Obviously, Wi-Fi 6’s increased speed benefits in both directions, but other advanced Wi-Fi technologies also contribute to improved performance.

Increased MIMO is one of them; in addition to allowing an access point with multiple antennas to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously (Downlink, DL, MU-MIMO) as already defined in 802.11ac, 802.11ax also allows devices to communicate with the access point using multiple antennas (Uplink , UL, MU-MIMO). So, a computer with a network card with two antennas could double the Wi-Fi bandwidth by communicating over two antennas.

Wi-Fi 6 also uses a technology called Beamforming to direct signals towards specific clients, improving both throughput and range. Beamforming was part of Wi-Fi 5 but only addressed four users , which Wi-Fi 6 increased to eight. Another efficiency technique is 1024-QAM, which increases the information carried by the Wi-Fi signal from 8-bits to 10-bits, increasing throughput by 25%.

Finally, Wi-Fi 6E compatible devices can also access the 6 GHz wireless spectrum, which adds 14 80 MHz channels and seven 160 MHz channels to the 2.4/5 GHz channels addressed by Wi-Fi 6. Since the 6GHz spectrum isn’t used by previous Wi-Fi generations, there will be less contention for these resources. The availability of this new, higher bandwidth spectrum means faster connections with less interference from legacy devices and better service for video-conferencing and similar bi-directional mediums.


Multiple networks in the same location can increase latency significantly without BSS Coloring

Figure 4. Multiple networks in the same location can increase latency significantly without BSS Coloring.


Multiple Networks and Access Points

Many medical facilities have multiple networks with different access points serving different departments and different classes of users, like guests and internal staff. Though each access point will only serve clients that are properly logged in, they all share the same spectrum, which can introduce latency when devices are vying for connections within their individual networks.

A new Wi-Fi 6 feature called BSS Coloring allows access points to quickly identify devices in their network and ignore devices in other networks. In a crowded Wi-Fi environment, BSS Coloring can dramatically increase throughput and decrease latency, improving overall Wi-Fi efficiency for all users.

Target Wake Time preserves the battery life of battery-powered monitoring devices

Figure 5. Target Wake Time preserves the battery life of battery-powered monitoring devices. Image from here.

Preserving Battery Life of Medical Devices

In-hospital and remote patient monitoring is often performed with battery-powered devices, some of which require a persistent connection to continually send data and some of which can collect data and send updates periodically. In the latter case, a new Wi-Fi 6 feature called Target Wake Time allows devices to schedule times for these periodic uploads. Since Wi-Fi data transmission doesn’t need to be enabled except during these transfers, this extends battery life and reduces Wi-Fi congestion.

Funding Wi-Fi Innovation

As healthcare and other markets continue to push the envelope for improved performance and reliability in increasingly challenging environments, the Wi-Fi development community continues to invest in R&D to meet and exceed these requirements. As a patent pool administrator, Sisvel helps companies that fund this R&D recoup their investment so they can perform more research to deliver even more benefits in future versions.

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Wi-Fi 6 reaches 50% Market Share

If you’ve been wondering if now is a good time to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6, you’re definitely late to the party. The Wi-Fi Alliance recently reported that Wi-Fi 6 surpassed 50% market share in three years, compared to the four years it took for Wi-Fi 5. The Alliance cited several reasons for this fast adoption, including Wi-Fi usage in the Internet of Things (IoT) and improved performance in Wi-Fi dense public areas. However, Wi-Fi 6E appears to be the main draw, with the Alliance reporting that “Wi-Fi 6E has seen...strong adoption in products and in service provider and enterprise deployments.”

About Wi-Fi 6E

As explained here, Wi-Fi 6E is an extension of the Wi-Fi 6 specification that incorporates products that support the 6 GHz wireless spectrum. That is, all Wi-Fi 6 devices (and many previous generations) use the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum, so there’s more contention for this bandwidth. Wi-Fi 6E adds the 6 GHz spectrum, with more channels and less competition for the spectrum.

Note that the availability of the 6 GHz bandwidth is decided on a country-by-country basis. While the US, Canada, and European Union have opened up the 6GHz band for 6E usage, support from other countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, is nascent.

Where 6E is available, it’s made a significant difference in general purpose usages, as well as in healthcare and academia. For example, Turkish phone company Turk Telekom recently tested Wi-Fi 6 in closed lab testing and over the internet, and found that “by operating in the 6 GHz spectrum, interference and latency are dramatically reduced, enhancing the user experience with increased speed and performance worthy of the next generation applications currently being discussed.”

In addition to immediate performance enhancements, company officials see that Wi-Fi 6 “lay[s] the groundwork for Wi-Fi 7 so that citizens can utilize the digitally immersive services that will drive advancements in education, manufacturing, entertainment and more.”

Wi-Fi 6E: Enhanced Security

Beyond the new spectrum, Wi-Fi 6E is also very secure. That’s because Wi-Fi 6E devices, like all Wi-Fi 6 devices, require WPA3 security certification, replacing the legacy WPA2 standard and making Wi-Fi security options more robust than ever. This can be critical in a hospital or similar environment where the need for security is paramount.

For example, when Novant Health rolled out a new Wi-Fi 6E network in October, 2021, they identified WPA3 and Enhanced Open, another wireless security standard from the Wi-Fi Alliance, as key technology drivers. Of course, they loved the speed and pristine spectrum as well, as evidenced by this statement from Allen Rider, Chief Wireless Network Architect. “Wi-Fi 6E brings 1200 Mhz of interference-free spectrum that will enable advanced healthcare deployment scenarios. Our mission-critical, Wi-Fi-enabled care equipment will now have its own clean airspace to ensure the delivery of revolutionary new services.”

Wi-Fi 6E has also proved compelling on ultra-large campuses like the University of Michigan, which recently spent US $11 million dollars to upgrade to 6E, adding over 15,000 network access points, and enabling the University to support a number of key academic needs. For example, in large auditoriums, students can collaborate via Zoom creating subgroups while maintaining social distances. The 6E network also provides the enhanced connectivity to support robots in the Ford Robotics Building, built in collaboration with the Ford Motor Company.

Wi-Fi 6 and 6E are the fruits of the Wi-Fi development community’s continual investment in R&D to produce technological enhancements that solve real problems for Wi-Fi users and enable and enhance new applications. As a patent pool administrator, Sisvel helps companies that fund this R&D recoup their investment so they can perform more research to deliver even more benefits in future versions.



Photo of Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay
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Wi-Fi 6: It’s Not Just About You Anymore

Most consumers see successive versions of Wi-Fi from a very me-centric lens - how much further can I sit from the router and still be productive? Or, can I watch 4K videos on my notebook while sitting in the backyard? And, of course, the most recent versions of Wi-Fi let you sit further and download faster than ever before.

In fact, the main goal that the task group which developed the 802.11ax standard (TGax) set for itself was delivering better performances (higher data rates) in highly dense environments (e.g. offices but also campuses, airports and stadium), by improving the efficiency of the whole network and saving battery life of each device.

But there is a lot more. Wi-Fi 6 will greatly influence our everyday lives, both directly and indirectly. One of the areas where Wi-Fi 6 will have a huge impact is the Internet of Things, or IoT. As defined in Wikipedia, IoT “describes physical objects that are embedded with sensors, processing ability, software, and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet or other communications networks.” A sensor in your refrigerator could alert you if your refrigerant starts leaking, or a medical device could continually send data back to a physician for monitoring.

Bringing connectivity to increasingly smarter devices will deliver significant benefits in markets as diverse as factory automation and national defense. And, as explored in an article entitled Wi-Fi 6 is set to change the future of IoT—Here’s why, new features in Wi-Fi 6 significantly enhance Wi-Fi’s role in IoT, not only with faster throughput but, as we said already, also with power-saving features that extend battery life and better performance in areas congested with multiple Wi-Fi and other signals. 

Wi-Fi is also playing an increasingly important role in automobiles, not only for sending operating data back to the factory but also for high-bandwidth media consumption that often is shared among multiple riders. As detailed in an article entitled How WiFi 6 will enable smarter vehicles, Wi-Fi 6 delivers multiple features that enhance automotive Wi-Fi performance, including the ability to partition bandwidth more effectively so multiple riders can enjoy their movies while under-the-hood monitoring devices can continue to communicate effectively. 

The key point is that where earlier generations of Wi-Fi primarily enabled router-to-computer, phone, tablet, or smart TV communications, newer generations allow a much more diverse set of manufacturers to add features that significantly enhance the utility and marketability of their products. That’s why you’ll see Wi-Fi added to an increasing range of products from air conditioners to toilet seats. 

Bringing it back to the me-centric view that we all share, not only does Wi-Fi 6 let you sit further from your router and enjoy 4K videos, it can also alert you that your air-conditioner is ailing before it fails and significantly enhance connectivity in cars, airplanes, conferences, and other congested use scenarios. So, maybe Wi-Fi 6 is all about you, after all. 

Wi-Fi 6 offers many new features that enable or enhance many products in many industries beyond those mentioned above. Check back for additional posts that will describe these features and their underlying technologies.


Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash
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Wi-Fi 6: the Innovation Continues

For many Wi-Fi users, the data in the table below tells them everything they need to know about Wi-Fi 6; It retains the same bandwidth as Wi-Fi 5, adds back the 5GHz frequency band (and further adds the 6 GHz frequency band – the so-called Wi-Fi 6E) , and other innovations boost the maximum data rate to 9.6 GHz. It’s also backward-compatible to previous versions, so your Wi-Fi 6 router will connect to previous generations just fine, though obviously limited to the highest speed afforded by that generation. 

Feature 

Wi-Fi 4

Wi-Fi 5

Wi-Fi 6

Channel bandwidth (MHz)

20, 40

20, 40, 80, 80 + 80, 160

20, 40, 80, 80 + 80, 160

Frequency bands

2.4 and 5 GHz

5 GHz

2.4 and 5 GHz

Maximum data rate

150 Mbps 

3.5 Gbps

9.6 Gbps

Underlying technology 

IEEE 802.11n

IEEE 802.11ac

IEEE 802.11ax

Table 1. Derived from Wi-Fi Alliance document entitled Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6™: A new era for Wi-Fi® 

Now that we know the high-level numbers, let’s explore some of the innovations that deliver this improved performance, plus the other numerous other technological benefits of Wi-Fi 6. For perspective, it’s always useful to assess a technology by considering the environment it works in and the tasks it’s expected to perform. 

As you can see in Figure 1, Wi-Fi originally transmitted lightweight emails and other primarily business-oriented documents to and from computers and notebooks. Over the years, usage has expanded to include a range of mobile, industrial, and entertainment devices and content like video that requires increasingly higher throughput. To meet these new and challenging requirements, Wi-Fi 6 not only needed to be faster, but it also needed to work more efficiently in environments congested with many Wi-Fi routers and clients, to protect the battery life of Wi-Fi clients, and deliver other features. 

11ax brilliant wifi

Figure 1. The expanding role and increasing demands on Wi-Fi technology (from TechSpot). 

Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA)

One key new feature in Wi-Fi 6 is Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA). As shown in Figure 2, previous Wi-Fi generations communicated serially using fixed bandwidth packets. This wasted bandwidth when the available data was less than the capacity of the packets, and increased latency when serving multiple clients, who all had to wait their turn to transmit or receive packets. 

ofdma

Figure 2. How OFDMA improves throughput, spectrum efficiency, and multi-device traffic capacity (from here). 


As shown at the bottom of Figure 2, OFDMA subdivides the Wi-Fi channel into smaller allocations called “resource units” which can send and retrieve data to multiple clients in parallel, essentially maintaining simultaneous connections with multiple clients. OFDMA also supports data packets of different sizes, so a video-conferencing client can transmit more data faster than a thermometer or medical device. As you can see in the diagram, OFDMA doesn’t increase the bandwidth of the channel, it uses the existing channel more efficiently, which increases overall throughput. 

In addition, OFDMA can also reduce latency with profound results in some applications. For example, one study found that OFDMA reduced upload latency by 99% and download latency by 93% in a classroom environment involving 19 students and one teacher videoconferencing at 3 Mbps each. In this increasingly relevant application, OFDMA made the difference between a  disjointed phone call-from-the-moon experience and a highly interactive learning session. 

 


Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO)

Another Wi-Fi 6 innovation is a further improving in the use of Multi-Input Multiple-output (MIMO) technology, which lets a Wi-Fi access point divide the network resources by the number of antennas on the access point (or AP). Using MIMO, a wireless router with four antennas can send four signals to a device with four antennas, which increases throughput significantly over an access point and device with two antennas. 

As shown on the left in Figure 3, the problem with traditional MIMO is that it can only transmit to a single user at a time, which is why MIMO is sometimes referred to as Single-User MIMO, or SU-MIMO. If that device only has a single antenna, like most mobile phones and tablets, MIMO provides little benefit, as the bandwidth enabled by the extra antennas goes to waste. 

mimo mu mimo
Figure 3. MIMO can only transmit to a single user at a time while MU-MIMO can transmit to multiple users. From here


As the name suggests, multi-user MIMO, or MU-MIMO, allows a single AP to communicate to multiple devices simultaneously, dividing the available bandwidth into individual streams targeting each device. Like OFDMA, MU-MIMO doesn’t create additional bandwidth, it allows existing bandwidth to be used more effectively. 

Note that download MU-MIMO (DL-MU-MIMO) was introduced in Wi-Fi 5, but only addressed up to four terminal devices at the same time and that upload MU-MIMO (UL-MU-MIMO) was not available. Wi-Fi 6 supports up to eight users with up to 4 space-time streams per user (with the total across all users not exceeding 8 space-time streams). and is available for both download and upload, which can dramatically improve performance in high-bandwidth bidirectional applications like videoconferencing.

beamforming technology

Figure 4. Beamforming focuses the Wi-Fi signal towards a specific device, improving speed and range. From here

Interestingly, Wi-Fi 6 uses a technology called Beamforming to direct signals towards specific clients which improves throughput and range (Figure 4). Like DL-MU-MIMO, Beamforming was part of Wi-Fi 5, however Wi-Fi 6 further increases the number of MU-MIMO users which can benefit from this technology. 


1024-QAM

Next up is 1024-QAM. By way of background, quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) is a technique used to transmit information. Wi-Fi 5 uses 256-QAM which carries 8 bits, while Wi-Fi 6 uses 1024-QAM, which uses 10-bits, a bandwidth increase of 25%. One easy-to-understand analogy is a highway that remains the same width but squeezes five lanes into the space previously occupied by four. As shown in Figure 5, if the speed limit remains the same, throughput should increase by 25%. 

wifi 6 data

Figure 5. Wi-Fi 6 uses 1024 - QAM which carries 25% more data. 

BSS Coloring

Another Wi-Fi 6 innovation is BSS coloring, which reduces congestion when multiple access points are available in the same environment. By way of background, each router and set of connected devices is called a Basic Service Set, or BSS. Within a BSS, multiple devices will contend for a channel to the router at any given time. However, when multiple access points operate in the same environment, they will often share the same Wi-Fi channels. 

 To detect when a channel is available, a device within a particular BSS will listen to that channel to detect if any other device is transmitting. In a crowded signal environment, devices from other BSSs could be transmitting on the same channel, falsely indicating that the channel is busy. You see this on the left in Figure 6, where a device attempting to communicate on channel 4 sees activity from two other devices, which may or may not be in the same BSS. 

bss coloring

Figure 6. BSS Coloring reduces contention and improves bandwidth utilization. From here.  


BSS Coloring adds a 6-bit identifier to the signals (not actual colors), so devices can quickly identify devices in their BSS, and ignore devices in other BSSs. On the right in Figure 6, a device in the blue BSS seeking to transmit on channel 4 would ignore signals from the green and orange BSSs, and only detect that the channel was busy if another blue device was transmitting. 

BSS coloring promotes operational efficiency within each BSS and more efficient use of the available Wi-Fi channels. In a stadium, trade-show floor, airport, or other crowded facilities with multiple routers or other access points, BSS Coloring can dramatically increase throughput and decrease latency, improving overall Wi-Fi efficiency for all users. 


Target Wake Time

Finally, Target Wake Time is a feature that allows an access point and device to set a time for the device to wake up and communicate. In the case of battery-powered devices, this can obviously preserve battery life, but it also can reduce network contention by scheduling large data dumps during periods where the network is otherwise underutilized. 

target wake time twt

Figure 7. Target Wake Time allows devices and access points to agree on a transmission time, saving battery life and increasing network efficiency. From here


Funding Innovation

Companies contributing to the Wi-Fi specification have continued to invest hundreds of millions of dollars annually to produce these innovations. This investment has produced a Wi-Fi standard that’s faster, more robust, and includes features that expand Wi-Fi usage into new applications like factory automation, Internet of Things (IoT), healthcare, and many others. However, like any investment, these expenditures only make sense if some revenue is returned. 

Some companies recoup their investment largely via product sales, while others are primarily research organizations that fund their R&D with royalties from the companies that manufacture and sell products that utilize their technologies. As a patent pool administrator, Sisvel helps form and manage patent pools that provide efficient access to the technologies created by their patent owners. 

By working with a patent pool, product developers sign a single contract that delivers access to multiple patented technologies, reducing overall administrative and licensing costs and accelerating time to market. Royalties paid by these licensees enable additional R&D to ensure that Wi-Fi and other technologies continue to meet and anticipate the future needs of current and new users. 

Think about this innovation cycle the next time you use Wi-Fi to watch a 4K HDR movie in your backyard or car, or video conference with colleagues around the globe with pristine quality and minimal latency. Without the advancements funded by royalties, Wi-Fi would be stuck in its 1999 performance envelope, and suitable only for checking email and transferring lightweight office documents. 

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Wi-Fi 6E: What and Where

Wi-Fi 6E is an extension of the Wi-Fi 6 specification that incorporates products that support the 6 GHz wireless spectrum. To explain, all Wi-Fi 6 products support both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrums (see  Fig. 2 below). But only Wi-Fi 6E devices also support the 6 GHz spectrum.

The availability of the 6 GHz bandwidth is decided on a country-by-country basis. While the US, Canada, and European Union have opened up the 6GHz band for 6E usage, support from other countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, is nascent. Figure 1 shows existing support as of December 2021 from this Wi-Fi Alliance link. 

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Figure 1. Countries Enabling Wi-Fi 6E | Wi-Fi Alliance (link)

As Figure 2 shows, the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands contain many fewer channels and fewer high-speed channels than the 6 GHz spectrum. Because all Wi-Fi 6 devices (and many previous generations) use these channels, there’s more contention for this bandwidth, not only within your home or office but also from nearby networks that communicate over the same spectrum.


Figure 2.  Wi-Fi 6E adds the 6 GHz spectrum, with more channels and less bandwidth contention. Image from Wi-Fi 6E: The New Spectrum with 6 GHz Band (volansys.com)

In the US, Canada, and some Latin American countries, the 6 GHz frequency band provides 1200 MHz of spectrum which comprises an additional fourteen 80 MHz channels or an additional seven 160 MHz channels, as shown in Fig. 2. This means faster connections and less interference from other devices.

The 6 GHz frequency band will improve Wi-Fi performance by enabling:

  • Higher concurrency – The 6 GHz frequency band provides an additional 1200 MHz of spectrum resources, which is more than the total resources provided by the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. This alleviates channel congestion and enables more simultaneous users, improving the concurrency rate.
  • High bandwidth – Although 160 MHz channels can run on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands, there is generally too much traffic on these bands to provision a 160 MHz channel. The seven additional 160 MHz channels in the 6 GHz frequency should enable more of these high-speed connections, improving bandwidth.
  • Low latency - Conventional Wi-Fi devices support only the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. The 6 GHz frequency band is supported only by Wi-Fi 6E devices, which should mean lower traffic and lower latency. 
As a caveat, note that 6 GHz uses shorter wavelengths, which work well for data transfers but may face degradation of the transmitted signal over longer distances or outdoors and may not perform as well through obstructions like walls and floors in a building. So, if you’re video conferencing with a direct line of sight of the 6E router; performance should be fabulous. If you’re behind a brick wall, you may get better performance from the 5 GHz or even 2.4 GHz spectrums.

Since 6E is relatively new, products that support the 6GHz spectrum are more expensive today. However, if you want to future-proof your Wi-Fi investments, they are probably worth it. Overall, Wi-Fi 6E is another example of how continued investments in Wi-Fi-related R&D deliver additional functionality and performance to Wi-Fi users.


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Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 Release 2: What You Need to Know

On January 5, 2022, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 Release 2. Here’s what you need to know about this announcement.

What are the new features in Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 Release 2?
The new features include uplink multi-user MIMO and three power management features.

What is uplink multi-user MIMO?
MIMO stands for multiple input, multiple output. While  the previous Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6™ certification program supported downlink multi-user MIMO, which enables an access point to deliver data to multiple client devices simultaneously,  Release 2 adds support for uplink multi-user MIMO that allows multiple devices to simultaneously upload data to an access point.

Imagine you have multiple individuals connected to Wi-Fi participating in a Zoom conference, an increasingly common scenario. Without uplink MIMO, each device uploads data individually, in rotation, which can introduce latency and interruptions. With uplink MIMO, all devices can upload simultaneously, which decreases latency and interruptions.

Uplink MIMO (and all new certified features) work over all bands supported by Wi-Fi 6 – 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 6 GHz, enhancing the performance gains delivered by Wi-Fi 6 and 6E.

What are the power-management features?
There are three primary enhancements, broadcast target wake time (TWT), extended sleep time, and dynamic multi-user spatial multiplexing power save (SMPS), which are primarily targeted towards Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Broadcast target wake time (TWT) - Target wake time is a feature introduced by 802.11ah and included as well in Wi-Fi 6 in an improved version. This feature allows a device to “sleep” for extended periods, preserving battery life, and then wake and communicate with the access point. Broadcast target wake time allows a network to coordinate target wait times with multiple devices in the same wakeup window.

Extended sleep time - Clients may stay asleep even longer if they wish. Before 11ax, TWT clients would sleep for some milliseconds and then wake up, exchange data and go back to sleep for some milliseconds and repeat. With enhanced TWT, clients may sleep for seconds, minutes, or even hours. Some IoT devices only need to communicate back to the network once per day. In theory, they could sleep for 23 hours and 59 minutes and just wake up and do a transmission, then go back to sleep for another day. These efforts greatly improve battery life.

Dynamic multi-user spatial multiplexing power save (SMPS) - allows devices to dynamically power down and power up antennas to save power.

Will Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 Release 2 devices work with my existing Wi-Fi devices?
Yes, all Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 Release 2 devices are backward compatible, so they can communicate with existing Wi-Fi technologies. To access the new features identified above, however, both the access point and client device must be Wi-Fi CERTIFED 6 Release 2 compatible.

How can I tell if a device conforms to Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 Release 2?
You can check on the Wi-Fi Alliance website here.

What is the Wi-Fi Alliance?

The Wi-Fi Alliance is a worldwide network of companies that promotes the evolution and adaption of Wi-Fi through a variety of activities, including the certification process, which ensures that products are interoperable with other Wi-Fi certified products supporting the same standard and meets other requirements.

What is Wi-Fi 6?
Wi-Fi 6 is the most recent generation of Wi-Fi technology that conforms to the IEEE 802.11ax standard. It delivers multiple new features that improve performance and efficiency in crowded Wi-Fi environments and for IoT applications.

Funding Wi-Fi Innovation
As consumer, enterprise and IoT usage continues to push the envelope for new features and improved performance and reliability in increasingly challenging environments, the Wi-Fi development community continues to invest in R&D to meet and exceed these requirements. As a patent pool administrator, Sisvel helps companies that fund this R&D recoup their investment so they can perform more research to deliver even more benefits in future versions.




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