When you download an app, browse the Internet, read your email or watch a YouTube video on your smartphone you are invariably using some form of wireless technology. On cellular networks that means technologies like 3G and 4G LTE. When you are at home or at work you are probably using Wi-Fi. Wireless networking has been around since the 1990s and the 802.11a protocol was ratified in 1999. It provided speeds of up to 54 Mbps using 5 GHz radio waves. Since then the Wi-Fi standard has grown and developed significantly. Today the current range of 802.11ac routers can pump out data at up to 1.3Gbps on the 5 GHz band, and up to 450 Mbps on 2.4 GHz.
But what is next? There are several different developments concurrently occurring in Wi-Fi. The first is the emergence of the next wave of 802.11ac routers and the second is the development of the 802.11ax standard.
Second wave 802.11ac routers will deliver maximum physical link rates of over 7Gbps!
Most current 802.11ac routers are based on a draft version of the standard. The Wi-Fi Alliance didn’t launch its first 802.11ac certification program until mid 2013, but that didn’t stop companies like Buffalo from shipping devices based on the draft standard, in fact Buffalo shipped its first 802.11ac router in 2012!
Wave 2 802.11ac routers will start hitting the shelves in 2015. These second generation routers will use the less-crowded 5 GHz frequency band (rather than 2.4 GHz as used by 802.11b/g/n) and they will support technology like MU-MIMO (multi-user multiple input/multiple output), which enables them to send multiple spatial streams to multiple clients simultaneously. They will also support 160Mhz channel bonding. The result of all this clever technology is that the second wave 802.11ac routers will deliver maximum physical link rates of over 7Gbps!
The aim of the new standard is to quadruple wireless speeds to individual clients and not just to increase the overall speed of the network.
After Wave 2 802.11ac comes 802.11ax. The aim of the new standard is to quadruple wireless speeds to individual clients and not just to increase the overall speed of the network. Huawei, the Chinese OEM, has engineers on the 802.11ax committee and it has already reported Wi-Fi connection speeds up to 10.53Gbps on the 5GHz frequency band!
But we mustn’t get too excited, just yet. The current plan is for the Wi-Fi alliance to ratify the 802.11ax standard in 2019. However, devices based on a draft of the standard could reach the buying public by 2016. But just like the early versions of 802.11n and 802.11ac products these 802.11ax would be based on an un-ratified standard.
The current plan is for the Wi-Fi alliance to ratify the 802.11ax standard in 2019.
Smartphone and tablet users will not only need to wait for the routers to become available, but also for the manufacturers to support the new standard in their devices. At the moment the flagship devices from companies like Samsung, HTC, Sony, and LG support Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac over two bands (i.e. 2.4GHz and 5GHz). Low- and mid- range devices, like the Moto G, often only support Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n.
What do you think? Are higher Wi-Fi speeds important to you? Are you looking forward to 802.11ax support?