What’s Next for Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi has come a long way in the past quarter-century. Prompted by engineer Michael Marcus, in May of 1985 the FCC released a ruling opening up spectrum—including the 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, and 5.8 GHz frequencies—in what was then called “junk bands.”

The first iteration of the 802.11 protocol was released in 1997, offering up speeds of up to 2 Mbps. “This was updated,” TechWorm’s Vijay Prabhu writes, in 1999 with 802.11b to permit 11 Mbit/s link speeds, and this proved to be popular.”

Then came, over the next few years, 802.11a/g, 802.11n, the current 802.11ac standard—and now the latest standard, 802.11ax, also known as Max WiFi. With each subsequent Wi-Fi standard, users have been able to enjoy faster and faster speeds than ever before. Wi-Fi technology has become a critical component of our world, and demand for it has never been higher and continues to grow. More than 15 billion Wi-Fi connected devices were shipped around the planet in 2016 according to the Wi-Fi Alliance, and IEEE anticipates that there will be 50 billion connected wireless devices by 2022. Gartner estimates that an average family of four will have about 50 connected devices by then.

Unfortunately, that intense demand is where the current Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac, begins to meet its match. “Previous generations of Wi-Fi,” Network World’s Zeus Kerravala writes, “assumed more casual use and that there would be far more downloading of information than uploading.” Current consumer trends—demand for more data, with more devices, for more downloading and uploading—challenge even the fastest Wi-Fi networks as we expect them to accomplish more, faster, while handling more connected devices simultaneously. 802.11ac can hold its own well enough with five to eight connected devices per access point, but its performance declines when you add more devices.

Enter Max WiFi. “This next generation of Wi-Fi was engineered for the world we live in,” notes Kerravala, “where everything is connected and there’s an assumption that upload and download traffic will be equivalent. For years, the goal has been to make each Wi-Fi standard faster. Not anymore.

Max WiFi is built for capacity, not just speed. Sure, it’s fast—on average, up to six times faster than the current standard can offer—but that’s not what’s most exciting about this groundbreaking standard. Max WiFi has been expertly crafted to make the best possible use of available spectrum, thanks in large part to orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) and scheduling technologies like Target Wake Time (TWT).

OFDMA allows Max WiFi to direct data traffic in a much more efficient way than the current Wi-Fi standard can, and adding TWT to Max WiFi upgrades that already impressive efficiency. Beyond making for enviable specs, this also makes for real-life benefits for users in both enterprise and residential environments. Thanks to this hyper-efficient Wi-Fi standard, people will be able to use many more connected devices, up to six times faster, at four times the range, and with up to seven times longer battery life.

With Max Wi-Fi, dead zones are also a thing of the past—you can get the highest-quality voice and video, on more devices and for longer, no matter where you are or how crowded your environment is. Max WiFi “will enable higher throughput that addresses fairness issues that,” Adrian Stephens, chair of the IEEE 802.11 Wireless LAN Working Group, admitted, “have been a challenge in some limited high-density deployments.” Max WiFi’s ability to handle high-density deployments will make it indispensable as the industry begins to take on 5G.

We’re way past looking solely at speed. Max WiFi offers the full package; the literal standard by which true excellence in wireless broadband may be set. The future is here, and it looks fantastic. For more about Max WiFi technology, visit maxwifi.org.