I finally got my head around 802.11a, b, e, n and the new ac specs and now I hear that there’s an 802.11ax version of wifi wireless coming up? So what’s new and when will 802.11ax units start showing up?
There’s no question that the wireless 802.11 standard as defined by the industry standards group IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) hasn’t stayed still for very long. In fact, the very first version of 802.11 came out in September 1999 and was known as the “a” protocol. It was based on earlier work by NCR Corporation on a wireless protocol called “WaveLAN”, which came out of a landmark 1985 ruling when the FCC released what was called the ISM band for unlicensed use.
Then, in order, “b” was also Sept 1999 (chips and circuitry had to catch up to the protocol that worked on a different frequency to “a”), “g” was June 2003, “n” was Oct 2009, “ac” was Dec 2013 and the new “ax” is expected to come out in 2019.
Not confusing enough? There are also 802.11s, 802.11ad and 802.11aj standards, among others!
The two main differences are speed and the frequency used to transmit data. For comparison purposes, 802.11a was broadcast on the 5Ghz band and could run at a theoretical max of 54Mbit/s, while the upcoming 802.11ax will be on the 2.4 and 5Ghz band and, well, published specs aren’t yet available for performance. But given that 802.11ac can go up to 866.7 Mbit/s and the goal of the “ax” team is to deliver a 4x increase in performance, we’re talking a huge leap in the last few decades of wireless technology!
Huawei, which has engineers in the IEEE 802.11ax working group, has already reported Wi-Fi connection speeds up to 10.53Gbps on the 5GHz frequency band as it starts to prototype protocol and hardware upgrades to attain “ax” performance levels.
However, 802.11ax isn’t really going to be showing up for at least 3-4 more years, though hardware based on the draft protocol could show up by 2016, just as the 802.11ac hardware that’s in the market today is all based on a draft version of the “ac” protocol (expect 2x performance increases with 802.11ac hardware that shows up in 2015 when they’ll be based on the official published spec).
Wi-Fi Alliance VP of Technology Greg Ennis says: “the 802.11ax standard will improve Wi-Fi performance in environments with high numbers of users, such as hotspots in public venues. This will be accomplished by using the available spectrum more efficiently, doing a better job of managing interference, and making enhancements to underlying protocols such as medium access control (MAC) data communication. This should make public Wi-Fi hotspots faster and more reliable.”
Sounds great to me. Now let’s just hope they can ship just a bit early, because I’m ready for 802.11ax today!