What is 802.11ax and do I need it?

Wi-Fi has come a long way since the 802.11b standard was released in 1999. Today, 802.11ac offers state of the art improvements, with Gigabit wireless speeds. But even with this latest technology, there have probably been times when you have thought to yourself, why is my wireless so slow right now?
A new IEEE Wi-Fi standard is on the horizon – 802.11ax. Also known as High Efficiency Wireless, 802.11ax will be a major update, promising 1) improved performance, 2) better coverage and 3) longer battery lives. When it comes to speed, 802.11ax can deliver a single stream up to 3.5 Gbps.
The standard is created for public high-density networks – like airports, hotels and stadiums. But it’s also going to help homes, particularly for those living in apartment buildings and crowded urban/suburban areas. For the average home…if you have tablets, smartphones, smart-home devices, gaming gear, security cameras, a smart TV, you could easily have 30+ connected devices. And let’s face it – everyone wants better Wi-Fi.

Three Key Benefits of 802.11ax

1. Less congestion issues

One of the key challenges with Wi-Fi is congestion. 802.11ac offers Gigabit speeds (which should be plenty of bandwidth for the vast majority or uses). But what happens when everyone is trying to stream video at the same time? That’s when things can slow to a crawl.
802.11ax aims to solve the congestion issue by redesigning how Wi-Fi works, and it uses some cellular LTE technology to do so. This technology is orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA). This transmission technique enables multiple devices to share the same Wi-Fi channel at the same time. It basically breaks up each Wi-Fi channel into thousands of tightly spaced subchannels. With 802.11ax, up to 30 clients can share a Wi-Fi channel instead of having to take turns. This will make the network seem much less congested.

2.Better 2.4 GHz performance

There are some other benefits of 802.11ax too. For one, the standard improves the performance of the 2.4 GHz band, which has largely been ignored over the past decade. This is good news because the 2.4 GHz band has longer wavelengths than 5 GHz – and these signals can travel farther and better penetrate walls, floors and other objects.

3. Longer battery life

802.11ax also adds a feature called wake time scheduling, where the access point tells clients when to go to sleep and when to wake up. The sleep periods aren’t long, but they add up to dramatically reduce Wi-Fi-related power consumption and extend battery life on your connected mobile devices.

When with 802.11ax hit the market?

The 802.11ax standard is still under development with the IEEE task group and it’s expected to be finalized in early 2019. We’ve already seen the first pre-standard chipsets hit the market. As with previous Wi-Fi generations, early adopters can look for pre-standard routers and client devices. Some industry experts advise that since the 802.11ax standard contains several major changes and improvements, there’s a risk that pre-standard products won’t be as robust and might have a hard time gaining compliance. If you’d rather take a more conservative approach, expect certified 802.11ax to become available in 2019.
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