OFDMA: the Heart of the Max WiFi Evolution

Wi-Fi innovation is an incredible success story, with each “generation” getting faster and faster. Max WiFi, built on the latest Wi-Fi standard, promises to give consumers even faster speeds and much more capacity. However, the real innovation in 802.11ax and Max WiFi comes from the fact that the Wi-Fi nuts-and-bolts have been completely revamped to make the best use of available spectrum. In order to accomplish this, the Wi-Fi world took a cue from the cellular world by introducing the concept of Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA).

So what is OFDMA? Imagine a two-lane highway. Previous generations of Wi-Fi, use the entire channel to transmit packets of information. When there’s a lot of data to transmit and one router (access point) and a limited number of clients, this works phenomenally well. The massive pipes allow data to move quickly, just like a few big trucks on a totally clear, two-lane highway. But when there are many access points and many devices, sending different sized packets of information in short bursts or sustained streams, the traffic gets congested. If there’s a blockage in the road—or a heavy stream of data—all traffic must come to a halt and wait for it to clear.

OFDMA changes the rules of the road; it increases the efficiency and capacity of the wireless network so several devices can communicate simultaneously because the spectrum is allocated according to the needs of the devices and traffic. Using OFDMA, Max WiFi ensures each device gets enough airtime and bandwidth. With OFDMA, our two-lane highway expands to add more lanes so that slow-moving vehicles do not block the faster ones, and the additional lanes facilitate smaller cars and buses carrying smaller packets of traffic at the same time as the larger trucks.

 

The benefits of OFDMA are instantly obvious in Max WiFi. In a network with a large number of IoT devices requiring short bursts of data, OFDMA lets that traffic flow simultaneously from multiple devices to the cloud in the “uplink” on the same frequency channel. And the same is true for data coming back from the cloud in the Wi-Fi “downlink.” This exponentially increases how much data one Wi-Fi network can handle, up to four times more than the best Wi-Fi available today can handle with the same number of routers and devices.

This means better Wi-Fi performance in our homes—with smart TVs, wireless doorbells, tablets and security cameras—and also stadiums and venues where many people want to use their mobile devices to upload pictures and livestream their experiences. And for those of us that spend time on the office Wi-Fi, we can cross one frustration off our lists.

Meet the First Router Using Max WiFi

ASUS Vice President Eric Chen recently took the stage at The Edge of Beyond press event at IFA 2017 in Berlin to unveil several exciting new products, including one very special router, ASUS RT-AX88U. The ASUS RT-AX88U router isn’t just the first-ever ASUS router designed to use 802.11ax Max WiFi technology—it’s the world’s first Max WiFi router product to be announced.

Max WiFi helps the ASUS RT-AX88U router achieve “unprecedented combined speeds of up to 5952Mbps—1148Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 4804Mbps on the 5GHz band,” according to an ASUS press release. Not only does Max WiFi make the ASUS RT-AX88U router impressively fast, it also makes it significantly more efficient. Thanks to Max WiFi, the press release goes on to explain, “ASUS RT-AX88U supports more simultaneous data transfers than 802.11ac MU-MIMO routers, allowing more devices to have faster network access at the same time without waiting for each other—perfect for homes with a growing number of smart, connected devices.”

Claus Hetting from Wi-Fi Now notes that while “ASUS—and soon many others—will market 802.11ax [Max WiFi technology] based on speed, this new Wi-Fi technology is really more about quality: doing away with contention and introducing OFDMA will serve up a vastly improved Wi-Fi user experience in the home and everywhere else.”

Indeed, the ASUS RT-AX88U router with Max WiFi is surely the first of many products to take advantage of this new best-in-class Wi-Fi standard. To learn more about Max WiFi and about Broadcom’s new ecosystem of Max WiFi chips, visit maxwifi.org.

What is Max WiFi?

Max WiFi, also known as 802.11ax, is the latest evolution of Wi-Fi. Since standardization began a couple years ago, the tech world is abuzz about this sixth generation of Wi-Fi, which offers significant improvements in wireless speed, capacity, range, and efficiency—a major upgrade for connected homes, for businesses, and for anyone with a smartphone. Continue reading