HPE Aruba Networking Blogs

Federal IT: 3 reasons to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 in support of return to office mandates

By Dolan Sullivan, Vice President of Federal at HPE Aruba Networking (Retired)

Public and private sector organizations alike are increasing pressure on employees to return to the office this fall, citing the productivity, collaboration, and engagement benefits of in-person work. The federal government is no exception. Earlier in August, the White House called on agencies to “aggressively execute” plans for employees to spend more time in the office, further underscoring OMB’s guidance in April to increase meaningful in-person work.  

But after three years of the freedom and flexibility of remote work, getting people back into the office isn’t easy. About 30% of federal employees are working entirely remotely and 62% work in a hybrid environment, with only 8% working entirely in-person, according to a Federal Network News survey from May 2023.

To get employees excited about a return to the office, many organizations are focused on improving the workplace experience by sprucing up the office, creating collaborative spaces, and offering social activities to build new connections.

Technology also plays an important role in getting staff back to the office.

Three reasons to upgrade legacy Wi-Fi

As organizations work to improve employees’ digital experiences in the office, many are upgrading older campus and branch networks to deliver faster, more secure Wi-Fi experiences and AI-powered, cloud-managed operations.

1. Better Wi-Fi is ready for how work has changed. Employees rely on digital collaboration tools whether they return to in-person or continue hybrid work. Applications have shifted heavily to the cloud, making the quality of the network connection more important than ever. Employees expect their video calls and cloud apps to just work, without glitches or frozen screens.

Wi-Fi 6 is up to four times faster and delivers more capacity than legacy Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) technology. Wi-Fi 6 is designed for today’s digital habits and expectations and can even deliver a better experience for older Wi-Fi devices. Wi-Fi 6 is also more adept at handling low-power, low-bandwidth IoT devices like environmental sensors, automated controls, and smart medical devices.

Agencies that need to support high-definition video and other use cases that demand multi-gigabit speeds can adopt Wi-Fi 6E access points. Wi-Fi 6E expands on the existing Wi-Fi 6 standard and allows access to a new 6 GHz band.

2. Enforce top-secret security standards. Wi-Fi 6 mandates support for WPA3 and Enhanced Open for authentication and encryption for stronger user privacy, meet government requirements, and simplify IoT security. WPA3-Enterprise supports Suite-B 192-bit encryption that’s aligned with the Commercial National Security Algorithm (CNSA). Enhanced Open provides improved data encryption in open Wi-Fi networks and protects data from sniffing. With cyberthreats continuing to rise, secure Wi-Fi is critical.

3. Leverage AI and automation so IT staff can focus on strategic work. IT teams can spend as much as 80 percent of their time troubleshooting network problems. But modern networks use AI-driven tools that can automatically optimize the user experience and simplify troubleshooting. AI and automation can reduce the time IT staff spend chasing down “ghosts in the network.” When problems do occur, AIOps tools can identify the source of the problem and even proactively fix it.

Network modernization is a journey

Whether you are refreshing your campus and branch network as part of a return-to-office strategy or to support new applications or locations, Aruba offers a broad portfolio of Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E access points for indoor and outdoor deployments as well as campus core and access switches. Agencies can manage their Aruba wired and wireless networks through Aruba Central, the industry’s only cloud-native network management system that has achieved FedRAMP Authorization. Agencies can also choose an on-premise management model or delivery in a network as a service model with Aruba. Whatever your mission, HPE Aruba Networking solutions are highly resilient and secure, simplify operations, and adhere to US government compliance and purchasing programs.