What is Target Wake Time?

Target Wake Time (TWT), one of WiFi 6’s most clever features, helps devices conserve power, and prevents channel contention. Here’s why enterprises should pay attention.

As of this September, WiFi 6 certification has commenced. In light of this release, it’s prudent for enterprises to begin making plans to adopt the new wireless standard if they want to stay ahead of their competition and accommodate WiFi 6 hardware with upgraded access points. As a refresher, WiFi 6, also known as 802.11ax, is the next generation of WiFi. It offers high-efficiency connectivity and is nearly 37 percent faster than its predecessor, 802.11ac. But WiFi 6 also offers a whole host of new benefits beyond just speed.

With orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) at its backbone, WiFi 6 boasts a number of groundbreaking performance benefits, including improved data rates, lower latency for small packet transmission, and multichannel bandwidth. These benefits make it the ideal wireless standard for device-heavy environments. This is especially true for organizations deploying large numbers of low-power IoT devices that deal in small data packets. Unlike its predecessor, WiFi 6 access points are better equipped to manage these tiny transmissions.


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In a previous article, we broke down OFDMA and explained how it sets WiFi 6 apart from previous wireless standards. In this article, we’re going to explore another major WiFi 6 feature — Target Wake Time (TWT). For enterprise CIOs to ensure they get the most mileage out of their WiFi 6 investments, It’s important for them to understand what TWT is and how it works.

What is Target Wake Time?

At a high level, Target Wake Time is the function that allows an access point to define a specific time or set of times for individual devices to access the wireless network. In other words, it’s the mechanism that allows devices to negotiate when and how often they turn on and off, based on when they need to send and receive data. This new functionality has a significant impact on device battery life since not all devices need to be switched on during all hours of the day — they only turn on when they need to perform a task.

Since TWT enables device wake time to be scheduled rather than being determined by connection, a WiFi 6 access point can determine when a device should sleep and when to wake. In theory, this means IoT and mobile devices could remain off for long periods of time — even days or weeks — to conserve battery. This also helps optimize spectral efficiency by reducing contention and overlap between devices.

The History of Target Wake Time

The Target Wake Time mechanism first emerged in 2017 in the 802.11ah standard, which was also known as “WiFi HaLow.” This low-power standard was designed for scaled IoT infrastructures (think: sensors and remote alarms).

WiFi 6 greatly improves upon that first iteration of TWT. Now, those sensors and remote alarms are not only required to wake and communicate with specific stations, they also must follow specific transmission instructions for the broadcast sessions they belong to. This is what allows the 802.11ax standard to make power-saving more efficient for devices. It also makes the connection on WiFi 6 networks more reliable.

Moreover, TWT can now be used to collect useful information from devices on the network, like channel sounding — a testing technique that evaluates a radio environment for wireless communication — and buffer occupancy. What’s more, TWT can help multiple WLANs in heavy deployment environments reach consensus on non-overlapping schedules.

Making WiFi 6 a Reality 

Industry onlookers predict that there will be a whopping 25 billion connected devices in the enterprise by 2025. If this becomes a reality, experts predict that businesses will need to replace up to 273,972,603 batteries every single day.

In order for enterprise CIOs to mitigate this problem before it ever occurs, they must bring WiFi 6 into their organizations in order to take advantage of Target Wake Time. Of course, this is easier said than done. WiFi 6 often requires new cabling, new hardware, and a disruptive installation. For already short-staffed technical teams tasked with a long laundry list of IT items, it can be difficult to find time to make the proper investment. That’s where Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI) can help.

With almost thirty years of IT support experience, our experts can help your organization upgrade to a WiFi 6 network with ease. Whether you’re a large enterprise using wearables in the workplace, or a manufacturer deploying cutting-edge Industrial IoT, our award-winning engineers can offer you the support to ensure that your network is ready to meet the demands of the future.

By Chris Voll

October 18, 2019

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