In 2019, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), is scheduled to release the 802.11ax standard for mass consumption. This new standard promises to be the next big thing for Wi-Fi. But what exactly does that mean?
If there’s one advancement the 802.11ax has over its predecessors is its data capacity. While the 802.11ac carries MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input/multiple output), the 802.11ax offers MIMO-OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing). The difference is how the data is transferred.
In the MU-MIMO model, there are four channels available for the transfer of data. However, while all four channels can transmit simultaneously, they still require the completion of one transmission before the next could begin. Think of it as a grocery store with four checkout lanes. Everyone has to queue up and wait their turn while the four tellers ring up each customer individually.
With the new OFDM technology, those channels are sliced into hundreds of smaller sub-channels at different frequencies. This allows the transmission to be split up across the various sub-channels and reassembled once it makes it across. The sub-channels not in use can then be used for additional data transfer at the same time. This means that teller at the grocery store can take care of multiple customers simultaneously. So instead of four customers being served by four tellers at any one time, imagine up to 120 customers being served by those same four tellers without a loss of speed or service.
As an enterprise solution, think about how many additional devices could connect with your network with no issues.
The 802.11ax promises a data stream of 3.5 Gbps. This is ridiculously faster than the current speed king, 802.11ac, which clocks in at a comparatively pedestrian 1.3 Gbps. In a strictly theoretical idea, if you have the four spatial streams of the 802.11ax running at 3.5 Gbps, it would give you a maximum bandwidth of 14Gbps. That’s not flying through the cloud. That’s punching a hole in it. Theoretically, of course.
But let’s not be too harsh on the 802.11ac. The speed it provides is actually pretty amazing. I love that in my house, we can stream Netflix on two Wi-Fi Blue-Ray players, have one daughter rolling YouTube on a tablet, another making Musical.ly videos on her smartphone and yet another streaming music through Spotify all at the same time. And we don’t notice any difference other than the Netflix picture might be a little fuzzy for just a little bit.
But with the 802.11ax, we’ll be able to do all of that without any lag time or signal degradation because the ax is designed with connected device-heavy environments in mind.
Improved Battery Life
This is somewhat of a no-brainer, but when you don’t have to work as long, you don’t have to expend as much energy. And since the 802.11ax is going to shoot out data like Saturn V rocket off the launchpad, your connected devices are going to be able to get the information faster without working as hard for it. This will definitely lead to increased batter life for your device.
Plus, the 802.11ax will have a new feature called ‘wake time scheduling.’ This will allow access points (APs) to tell your device connectivity when to go to sleep and when to wake up so they don’t have to keep pulling data constantly. Think about it as mandatory nap time for your Wi-Fi device. While the naps will be very short, it’ll add up in a big way for your device and its battery life.
When the new 802.11ax is finally released, it’ll be backwards compatible so you don’t need to worry about getting new tech or hardware. Everything will work just the same. Only faster. And more efficient. And longer.
In other words, it’s the next big thing for Wi-Fi.