802.11ax Entering the Market

Carl Weinschenk
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9 Rules for Digital Transformation in the Enterprise

The march of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) 802.11 family of Wi-Fi standards continues apace. It’s important to track progress, however. And a milestone denoting that progress occurs when the first products based on a new iteration of the specification make it to the marketplace.

That is happening with 802.11ax, at least according to Quantenna. The vendor made two announcements today at Broadband World Forum. It said that it is issuing an initial public offering (IPO) and introduced the QSR10G-AX 802.11ax chipset.

The press release says that 802.11ax is aimed at enabling Wi-Fi to work better in dense environments such as multi-dwelling units (MDUs), supporting more users simultaneously and increasing speed. The QSR10G-AX supports eight streams in the 5GHz band and four in the 2.4GHz band. The density goal is achieved through the use of Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) modulation in both the uplink and downlink directions.

The Microwave Journal last week offered a comprehensive tutorial on 802.11ax. The heart of the piece is a graphic that compares it to 802.11ac in seven categories.

Needless to say, 802.11ax, the later standard, outpaces 802.11ac. The most impressive is the difference in data rates. One 80 MHz spatial stream using 802.11ac offers 433 Megabits per second (Mbps) and 600.4 Mbps in 802.11ax. Eight spatial streams offering a combined 160 MHz of bandwidth yield 6,933 Mbps in 802.11ac, and 9,607.8 Mbps in 802.11ax, the graphic says.

A much more technical explanation of 802.11ax was offered in a paper presented at the XXXIV Simpósio Brasileiro de Telecomunicações e Processamento de Sinais, which was held six weeks ago in Santarém, Pará, Brazil. The abstract of the paper, which was written by R.P.F. Hoefel of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, said that the number of spatial streams, advanced antenna implementations and modulation technology enables the system to support highly concentrated user populations:

We conclude that reserving degrees of freedom at receiver side to allow diversity gains can mitigate the negative effects of imperfect channel state information (CSI), providing expressive power gains. We also have concluded that it is necessary to implement sophisticated channel estimation schemes and advance MIMO detectors to cope with the interference generated in uplink channels loaded with a large number of clients.

The world of 802.11 is confusing. Another new entrant is 802.11ad, which is aimed at shorter-range applications. Linksys offers a comparison between 802.11ad and 802.11ax. The bottom line is that the 802.11 family of specifications has been wildly successful.

Corporate planners will hear more about 802.11ax, which is likely to be a very valuable addition to the 802.11 family. They should keep the spec in mind as they make their long-term plans.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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