With 802.11ax, the Evolution of Wi-Fi Brings Us Closer to a 5G Future

Imagine a future where there are 3.5X more devices and wireless connections than there are people on earth. It’s coming, and it’s coming soon. With mobile data traffic growing at a CAGR of 47%, operators are transforming their networks to meet the demand for ultra-low latency wireless connectivity, delivered at 10s of Gbps and a high-degree of reliability, for an increasingly densified number of users and devices.

5G promises to meet, and potentially exceed, the demands of a wide range of use cases—but a wholesale transformation of wireless networks and technologies is no easy feat. The evolution to the next generation of wireless, and to the 5G new radio standard will take time and significant investments to make a commercial reality.

A new paper by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), titled “Enhanced Wi-Fi- 802.11ax: Overview, Features, Use Cases, 5G Context,” chaired and co-authored by Intel, explores how the latest Wi-Fi standard can step into the gap, delivering upgraded capabilities to support 5G services, with a faster time-to-market and lower total cost of ownership for wireless operators. Intel participates in more than 250 standards groups worldwide, holding leadership positions in the ITU, 3GPP, IEEE, WFA, and WBA. This paper is one of many we’ve co-authored in conjunction with the WBA exploring the vital role Wi-Fi has to play in addressing the business challenges of operators, and the technical requirements of 5G applications.

It’s widely understood that licensed spectral resources are finite, and some might say approaching their limit. Network capacity is an ongoing challenge for wireless operators trying to keep pace with the rapid growth of mobile data, driven by consumer thirst for streaming content and bandwidth-intensive applications. As such, unlicensed spectrum and Wi-Fi are already integral components of most operators’ strategies, carrying the bulk of the world’s offloaded mobile traffic.

With 5G promising to bring billions of new devices online, all with varying requirements, the importance of Wi-Fi cannot be discounted, particularly when evaluating how to best support enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) scenarios. We also cannot forget about its relevance to the massive machine type communications (mMTC) and ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) usages—both have needs that can be best served by Wi-Fi—connecting Internet of Things (IoT) devices connecting to the Edge for increased demands.

Wi-Fi evolution is the logical path forward, and the 802.11ax standard is a major step in that direction. “Enhanced Wi-Fi - 802.11ax: Overview, Features, Use Cases, 5G Context” decodes the new standard and explores its practical impact.

802.11ax is an evolution of 802.11ac. It delivers an improved experience (higher speeds, lower latency) for more users and devices in outdoor or dense environments, even when using high-bandwidth applications (like Virtual Reality), while also providing flexible support for the differing requirements (low power, wide area) of the IoT. In aggregate, 802.11ax can deliver up to 40% higher peak data rates for a single device, and improve average throughput per user by at least four times in dense or congested environments. It also can increase network efficiency and extend the battery life of devices.

802.11ax is expected to be ratified in late 2019, and multiple WBA members will deliver forward-compatible products prior to ratification for faster time-to-market. For our part, Intel will deliver 802.11ax Wi-Fi solutions for both client devices and home infrastructure. Our 802.11ax chipsets for home routers and gateways are designed for digital lifestyles. Incredibly, the chipsets allow up to 256 devices to share bandwidth simultaneously and deliver enhanced throughput rates for a mix of small and large packet sizes. This helps ensure optimal device performance, as well as low latency for common applications.

Alongside, Intel 802.11ax client chipsets are designed to support multi-GB throughput, DL/UL OFDMA and DL/UL MU-MIMO, among other advanced features to deliver high efficiency performance in dense environments. With the new capabilities of 802.11ax in place, Intel and its partners can further lay the groundwork for full-scale commercial 5G deployment in trials around the globe.

802.11ax marks an important step in our 5G journey. Thank you to all of the WBA members who contributed to the development of “Enhanced Wi-Fi - 802.11ax: Overview, Features, Use Cases, 5G Context”—this paper is a great resource to help break down the implications of the 802.11ax standard, and the opportunities at hand.

Published on Categories Internet of ThingsTags , , , ,
Necati Canpolat

About Necati Canpolat

Dr. Necati Canpolat is currently part of the Next Generation Standards at Intel. He has been involved in mobile communications R&D, product definition, path finding, industry engagement, standards development, forging partnership, and ecosystem formation. He is a director of at the WBA board. He has held a number of officer positions in various organizations including IEEE 802.11, Wi-Fi Alliance, WBA, and GSMA. He has been recently working on Wi-Fi and 5G, and carrier Wi-Fi related topics. He is the chair of “Next Gen Wi-Fi: 11ax” project at the WBA. Prior to joining Intel, he has worked at Qualcomm Inc.