The 802.11ax Era Dawns

Carl Weinschenk

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) ongoing 802.11 program, Wi-Fi, is one of the most successful and impressive long-term development cycles in the annals of technology. Wi-Fi has made so much possible that it is hard to even create a list.

And the hits keep coming. 802.11ax, which has been under development for a few years, is about ready for primetime. Yesterday, Qualcomm announced an end-to-end 802.11ax portfolio. The highest profile element is the IPQ8074 system-on-a-chip (SoC) for client devices. It is aimed at enterprise access points (APs) and, according to Qualcomm, will be able to provide 4.8 Gigabits per second (Gbps) capacity in its 12 x 12 multiple user multiple in multiple out (MU-MIMO) configuration.

Qualcomm’s goal is to provide optimum connectivity in increasingly complex Wi-Fi environments:

To address this, Qualcomm Technologies’ 802.11ax solutions support 12-streams (eight 5GHz and four 2.4GHz), 8x8 MU-MIMO, 80 MHz channels and other features to maximize capacity and coverage. Additionally, the solutions feature proven cellular techniques, such as Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) and traffic scheduling, which is designed to provide greater efficiency, higher user throughput, and a more consistent performance.


The family incorporates 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology – the preceding specification – and useful elements from the cellular world, according to Computerworld. The result could be a platform that is more robust while using as much as two-thirds less power. Sample chips will ship by June.

Phone World notes three elements that it says make 802.11ax a potential game changer. It mandates a minimum of 8 x 8 MU-MIMO on both the uplink and downlink, it uses the modulation scheme used in LTE – orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) modulation – to increase the amount of data that can be trafficked. It also includes uplink resource management for better performance in congested environments and to provide longer battery life.

Toms IT Pro also provides insight into the potential benefits of 802.11ax. Its speed is best illustrated by two applications: streaming of 4K ultra-high definition television and downloading of full retail games to user consoles. Pokey technology couldn’t touch either of those.

The 802.11 family has been a singular success story. To put it bluntly, these folks know what they are doing. There is no reason to think that 802.11ax will prove any less successful than the iterations of the standard that preceded it.

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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