The Path to the Fastest Wi-Fi Speed: Three Things to Know about 802.11ax

Talk about Wi-Fi that knows no bounds. The upcoming IEEE 802.11ax standard promises to delight Wi-Fi users, technology providers and network operators alike with significant improvements over its predecessor, 802.11ac. By the numbers, 802.11ax is expected to:

  • Deliver up to 40 percent higher peak data rates for a single client device1
  • Improve average throughput per user by at least four times2 in dense/congested environments
  • Increase network efficiency by more than four times2
  • Extend the battery life of client devices

It’s no wonder there’s so much buzz around it. With an increasing number of connected devices in the home, the growing popularity of streaming HD content and the proliferation of smart home appliances and security systems, 802.11ax is designed to meet the ever-increasing demands on Wi-Fi.

Because 802.11ax offers so many possibilities, Intel has committed our technical and commercial expertise to ensuring the standard achieves its full potential—just as we have done for all previous Wi-Fi standards—by contributing to its technical specification, feature set selection and test plans for certification.

Adopting a new standard can cause frustration, especially if customers have issues with compatibility. It’s essential that standards are done right, and this is even more important for 802.11ax. For example, 802.11ax infrastructure devices based on earlier drafts of the standard may not work with those based on later drafts (more on this later). This can result in a less than desirable user experience and a situation in which devices don’t have the longevity that users expect.

For our part, Intel will offer 802.11ax chipsets for both clients and home infrastructure that will be based on Draft 2.0 of the standard, which will be the baseline draft for the Wi-Fi Alliance’s 802.11ax certification.

To get ready for brilliant Wi-Fi, here are three things you should know about the new standard:

#1: Smarter data transmission means more efficient networks

Among its many benefits, 802.11ax could enhance download speeds by up to four times and upload speeds by up to six times.3 The new Wi-Fi standard does a better job managing data and allocating the required airtime to multiple users. It also works smarter than its predecessors in dense environments, transmitting more data to an increased number of users with better reliability.

#2: To ensure compatibility, devices should be based on Draft 2.0

In early 2017, we saw the publication of Draft 1.0 of the 802.11ax standard. However, that early draft accrued more than 3,900 open technical comments. Infrastructure devices—routers, gateways, and extenders—with chipsets based on Draft 1.x (successive revisions of Draft 1.0) may not be interoperable with client devices that have chipsets based on Draft 2.0, and vice versa. The potential interoperability issues could result in degraded throughput, decreases in network efficiency and increased interference that could create a suboptimal user experience.

In addition, routers, gateways or extender chipsets based on Draft 1.x from different technology vendors may not be interoperable with each other. In fact, they may only work together on 802.11ac in the 5 GHz band and on 802.11n in the 2.4 GHz band. The net result? There wouldn’t be any performance, power efficiency or capacity improvement over what you can get today.

Wi-Fi Alliance certification is the only way to truly guarantee multivendor interoperability, and the 802.11ax certification will be based on Draft 2.0. While other technology vendors are offering chipsets based on Draft 1.x, we expect those devices may need both hardware and software upgrades—and requalification—to be compliant with Draft 2.0. Otherwise, their potential lack of interoperability could result in worse throughput and network efficiency, and a suboptimal design for power efficiency.

Consumers expect their devices to have greater longevity and won’t be satisfied with infrastructure equipment that needs to be replaced after six months or so, which is a scenario they may face if they have equipment that uses chipsets based on Draft 1.x.

#3: Intel is well prepared to drive a successful introduction of 802.11ax

We’ve had years of experience helping introduce new standards to the marketplace. Our work in 802.11ax is all part of our continuing commitment to deliver cutting-edge Wi-Fi solutions that enable robust, consistent, fast and interoperable connectivity.

By taking an active role in the development of Wi-Fi standards, conducting extensive testing and validation and working alongside others in the industry, we plan to incorporate all the features4 required for the Wi-Fi Alliance plugfests and certification efforts. With these investments, we can deliver on the promises of 802.11ax and give users the best possible connected experiences.

 


  1. “Nearly 40 percent higher peak data rates” claims are based on the comparison of the expected maximum theoretical data rates for dual spatial stream 802.11ax 160 MHz (2401 Mbps) vs. dual spatial stream 802.11ac 160 MHz (1733 Mbps) Wi-Fi solutions as documented in IEEE 802.11ax draft 2.0 spec and IEEE 802.11-2016 wireless standard specifications, and require the use of similarly configured 802.11ax wireless network routers.
  2. The amendment defines standardized modifications to both the IEEE 802.11 physical layers (PHY) and the IEEE 802.11 Medium Access Control (MAC) layer that enable at least one mode of operation capable of supporting at least four times improvement in the average throughput per station (measured at the MAC data service access point) in a dense deployment scenario, while maintaining or improving the power efficiency per station. For additional details visit https://mentor.ieee.org/802.11/dcn/14/11-14-0165-01-0hew-802-11-hew-sg-proposed-par.docx.
  3. PHY rates of four spatial stream 802.11ac 80 MHz is 1.73 Gbps for majority of infrastructure products in the installed base and four stream 802.11ax 160 MHz is 4.8 Gbps, which is ~2.7 times increase over 802.11ac. Collision avoidance of TCP Ack (small) packets in uplink is increased by a factor of ~1.4, providing total downlink efficiency increase of up to four times. Collision avoidance in upstream improves throughput by a factor of ~2 to 2.5 times, providing total uplink efficiency increase of up to six times.
  4. This may include features such as OFDMA (DL/UL), trigger frames and target wake time.

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Dan Artusi

About Dan Artusi

Daniel A. (Dan) Artusi is vice president of the Client Computing Group and general manager of the Connected Home division at Intel Corporation. Based in Munich, he is responsible for all aspects of the division’s business, including engineering, marketing, business operations and revenue. A 30-year veteran of the semiconductor and communications industries, Artusi joined Intel in 2015 with the acquisition of Lantiq Deutschland GmbH, where he had been chief executive officer since 2012. He also spent six years as an operating executive at Golden Gate Capital, focusing on semiconductor and communications investment opportunities. Earlier in his career, Artusi served as president and CEO of Conextant Systems Inc.; as chairman and CEO of Coldwatt Inc.; and as CEO, president and chief operating officer at Silicon Laboratories Inc. He was also a member of the board of directors at all four technology companies. Artusi started his career in 1977 at Motorola Inc. and subsequently spent 24 years with the company, culminating in his role as corporate vice president and general manager of the Networking and Computing Systems Group. Artusi attended the Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires in Argentina. He sits on the Engineering Advisory Board of the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He has been granted multiple U.S. patents in the field of power conversion and has published more than 50 articles and papers on topics related to power semiconductors, microcontrollers, radio frequency technology and mixed-signal integrated circuits. He is a former member of the boards of directors at Atheros Communications Inc. (later acquired by Qualcomm Inc.), Energy Micro AS, Micrel Inc., Powerwave Technologies Inc., Scintera Networks Inc. and Ubiquiti Networks.