MAX STANDS
FOR 802.11AX

THE LATEST EVOLUTION OF WI-FI

So how does it compare with the most recent standard for Wi-Fi, 802.11ac?

Let’s say a car manufacturer releases a new version of a sleek sports car. It has a turbocharged engine capable of generating unparalleled horsepower, smashing zero to 60 records and hitting a top speed in the blink of an eye. It has precise handling, smooth motion and high performance at breakneck speeds.

But what good does it do on the heavily congested streets of a large metro area, with mostly stop-and-go traffic? Or what about rural areas where gas stations are few and far between?

That’s how we have been thinking about wireless connectivity for the last several decades. We’ve been primarily thinking about speed, and consumers are better off—the first Wi-Fi standard had a top link speed of 11 Mbps in 1999. Great, but still much slower than wired. The next revisions increased speeds by introducing Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) technology, to provide higher rates and improved multipath performance.

The next link speed improvement came with 802.11n (2009) presenting users with single stream links up to 150 Mbps. The most recent Wi-Fi standard—802.11ac—brought with it the possibility of link speeds around 866 Mbps using two spatial streams (2x2 MIMO) in the 5 GHz frequency spectrum and higher modulation. In theory, using 802.11ac is the equivalent of replacing your bicycle or even your family sedan with a souped-up Ferrari.

However, such speeds might only be achievable on a controlled racetrack. That’s not how we use Wi-Fi today. Users sometimes experience frustratingly slow traffic checking their email on public Wi-Fi at a busy airport terminal, in a downtown office building, or even at home as more and more devices compete for the same bandwidth.

The newest generation of Wi-Fi was designed with the goal to consistently and reliably improve throughput per user by at least four times in dense or congested environments. In dense networks 802.11ax blew that goal away.

Max includes the following key features

  • Works with other Wi-Fi standards. Access points will be able to handle devices transmitting using 802.11a/b/g/n/ac.
  • Increase by at least four times the average throughput per user in high-density scenarios, such as train stations, airports and stadiums. Now you can upload a picture or FaceTime in a flash, while on the go.
  • The ability to use wider spectrum channels to achieve gigabit speeds and higher.
  • Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) technology effectively allocates spectrum when you need it, so more users can be accommodated in the same channel bandwidth, both uploading and downloading. This allows many more users or devices to share a single 80 MHz or 160 MHz channel.
  • There are a number of changes to the standard that mean using the spectrum more efficiently and more robust and reliable connections, including outdoors.
  • 802.11ax introduces a scheme to reduce interference and use the spectrum even more efficiently called: Spatial Reuse with Color Identifier. Each Wi-Fi access point and client transmits data with a unique identifier called a “color.” Wi-Fi “listens” for interference before sending data, and will back off if it senses data in the band. With 802.11ax, when an access point or a client listens first before transmitting data, they are more aggressive if they hear data from a different color, since that data is going to a different AP further away from the client.
  • Improved traffic flow and channel access
  • Better power management for longer battery life