802.11ax Holds Promise Beyond Higher Speed

    The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ 802.11 Working Group continues to churn out useful standards. The latest that is ready for prime time, 802.11ax, has been in the pipeline for several years.

    Zeus Kerravala, the founder and principal analyst of ZK Research, posted about the new standard today at Network World. He wrote that 802.11ax will be faster. But the most important element, he writes is the use of the orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDM) modulation scheme. The new approach is far more efficient:

    With OFDMA, each channel is chopped up into hundreds of smaller sub-channels, each with a different frequency. The signals are then turned orthogonally (at right angles) so they can be stacked on top of each other and de-multiplexed.

    OFDM enables as many as 30 clients to share a channel.

    Kerravala points out that each successive version of 802.11 adds to client battery life. This is more or less a natural technical progression. 802.11ax takes this a step further with a new feature called “wake time scheduling,” which enables the client to go to sleep for short periods. This, he writes, “will make a big difference on battery life.”

    Mojo Networks’ Hemant Chaskar, posting at Network Computing, suggested that the technology’s biggest challenge will be that some of the advances in 802.11ax have not been deployed in the field and may experience growing pains. “The rub is that such mechanisms are yet to be devised and tested in practice.”

    Chaskar especially points to the transmission scheduling approach that is at the core of the nascent standard. 802.11ax, he writes, “introduces significant complexity in wireless transmission scheduling” due to the use of OFDM and Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO). The remainder of Chaskar’s commentary describes these difficulties. The bottom line is that the standard has a lot to prove:

    802.11ax started its journey at the beginning of the hype cycle one year ago. Due to the upcoming ratification of the standard and the announced availability of 802.11ax chipsets by the leading vendors, one would expect it to move upwards on the hype cycle to the “peak of expectations.” However, due to the lack of field-tested mechanisms as described above, I think we will see 802.11ax making its way through the “trough of disillusionment” in the near future.

    Belden also posted on 802.11ax. There are two useful graphics on 802.11ax in the piece. One compares data rate, Ethernet uplink speeds and total number and power consumption between 802.11n, 802.11ac Wave 1, 802.11 Wave 2 and 802.11ax. A second graphic compared the throughput of 802.11ax and 802.11ax as the number of users increases.

    802.11ax is not right around the corner. Standards move slowly. However, it seems to be gathering momentum and, if the challenges are met, will add another useful item to the 802.11 tool chest.

    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 [email protected] and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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