With the next generation of Wi-Fi just around the corner, it’s about time devices started supporting it. Thankfully, Qualcomm is getting ready to support the 802.11ax standard with a new Wi-Fi chip that has just been announced for smartphones and tablets.
Qualcomm claims that its chip is the first to make 802.11ax features available to manufacturers, as well as being the first to support WPA3 encryption, which should bolster the security of the Wi-Fi network. 802.11ax should also ensure that devices consume less power, while still giving a higher network throughput than the previous generation.
Very few Wi-Fi routers are currently available with the 802.11ax standard, although Qualcomm’s new Atheros WCN3998 chip is backwards compatible. That means users will still be able to connect to a Wi-Fi network no matter what generation of the technology their router supports.
What Is 802.11ax Wi-Fi?
It’s been a while since the industry all committed to adopting a new Wi-Fi standard. In fact, the 802.11ac standard, which is widely used currently, was published back in December 2013 – meaning the networking landscape has changed significantly over the last five years.
That pace of change is what has led us to 802.11ax. Seen as a direct successor to 802.11ac, this standard should become widely available in 2019, and will greatly improve the efficiency of Wi-Fi networks, while still utilising the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
The 802.11ax standard has yet to be formally certified, although it should boast a top speed of 10Gbps. That’s significantly faster than the current 802.11ac standard, which stands at around 1,300Mbps, although it’s unlikely to represent real-world speeds. Instead, users should see maximum speeds of 2Gbps, still pretty fast for a Wi-Fi network.
In addition to fast speeds, 802.11ax should be highly efficient. The standard allows up to four different spatial streams (MIMO), with each stream multiplexed with OFDMA (orthogonal frequency division multiple access). OFDMA should improve overall spectral efficiency, which means that while the nominal data rate will be just 37% higher than 802.11ac, the new standard should achieve a four times increase to user throughput.
When Will 802.11ax Be Available?
The standard has yet to be finalised, but that doesn’t mean devices with 802.11ax haven’t started to make their way onto the market. Asus announced the first router utilising the standard in August 2017, with the RT-AX88U boasting 4×4 MIMO in both bands, and is capable of achieving a maximum of 1148Mbps on 2.4GHz and 4804Mbps on 5GHz.
Since Asus’ announcement, Huawei has made its first 802.11ax access point available with the AP7060DN, while Aerohive has released a slew of new access points supporting the standard. The new family includes the AP630, AP650, and AP650X.
While the first networking devices have been released, there aren’t any devices that can actually connect to them. That’s why Qualcomm’s announcement is significant, although it won’t have a big impact to 802.11ax’s availability until next year.