Talking Max WiFi: Phil Solis of SAR Insight

The tech world is abuzz about the latest standard of Wi-Fi: Max WiFi, also known as 802.11ax, is a breakthrough technology that provides users with capacity on their mobile devices. Phil Solis of SAR Insight recently wrote a compelling two-part series: “Why 802.11ax Will Maintain Wi-Fi’s Relevance” explaining how Max WiFi technology continues to keep Wi-Fi at the forefront of how we approach our increasingly connected world.

In Part One, Solis lists some of Max Wi-Fi’s most exciting features: dual-band, uplink MU-MIMO, self-optimizing network functionality, OFDMA and scheduling. Each of these features makes Max WiFi a highly-efficient, blazing fast force to be reckoned with—up to six times faster than the current 802.11ac standard can handle, with more devices at six times the range.

Solis also covers some of the implications of Max WiFi’s use of OFDMA technology, which he describes as “the single most important new feature of 802.11ax.” With OFDMA, Solis writes, “Wi-Fi becomes a much more robust and reliable solution, even in crowded urban areas for consumers, dense enterprise environments, or other industrial settings,” as well as in the context of small cells. Max WiFi’s unprecedented efficiency means that it can handle high-density environments with ease, with several devices simultaneously accessing the same access point on the same network.

In Part Two, Solis outlines how Max WiFi will “be very relevant in the IoT realm,” especially with its use of Target Wake Time (TWT) and flexible channel sizes. Max WiFi’s TWT saves battery power for your smart home devices by only “waking up” each device when it is needed. In fact, with Max WiFi your devices’ battery life can last up to seven times longer. The flexible channel sizes help data transmit even more efficiently, allowing your many devices to send and receive more data, more efficiently and much faster.

“With 802.11ax chips configured as 1X1 with less processing power,” Solis writes, “the market can create smaller, lower cost Wi-Fi chips for IoT that work in the two most popular bands for Wi-Fi and will be compatible with the massive wave of 802.11ax access points to come…Whether it is the typical end-user product space or the IoT, 802.11ax is keeping Wi-Fi relevant.”

We certainly agree. For more about Max WiFi and Broadcom’s set of Max WiFi chips, visit maxwifi.org.

*Phil Solis is the Director of Wireless and Mobile Connectivity at SAR Insight & Consulting, covering Wi-Fi, WiGig, Bluetooth, ZigBee, NFC, and GNSS, 5G and LPWAN.

Phil has been tracking, analyzing and commenting on technology markets for over 14 years. He is the most well-recognized and sought-after industry analyst around Wi-Fi. He also wrote the industry’s first in-depth 5G report over three years ago when few people knew what 5G would look like. In the past, Phil has covered a diverse array of topics outside of connectivity, from application processors to robotics.

Mid-Band Unlicensed Spectrum and Max WiFi

When we talk about Wi-Fi development, there’s essentially two sides of the story: the technical evolutions—and revolutions, like the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ax Max WiFi—and the airwaves that Wi-Fi uses to transmit data.

Demand for Wi-Fi is immense—and increasing. 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 even estimates that an average family of four will have about 50 connected devices by then. Max WiFi, which is built for capacity and not just speed, is designed to help manage all of that data.

However, the FCC can also give Wi-Fi a boost by expanding the amount of available unlicensed spectrum. If Max WiFi is a highly efficient new race car, you can think about spectrum as the number of lanes on a highway. Upgrading to an incredible vehicle is great, but it’s even better when there are sufficient high-speed lanes for all of us to drive on. We need more fast lanes—more spectrum—to make the best use of Wi-Fi technologies like Max WiFi, which can operate on up to 160 MHz channels.

A broad range of technology companies — from major semiconductor companies to mobile operating system vendors to content providers to enterprise Wi-Fi vendors, including Broadcom — agree. We’re committed to Wi-Fi and the future of technologies like Max WiFi, so we’re stepping up and asking the FCC to allow Wi-Fi to expand to a new frequency range of unlicensed spectrum.

For more on Wi-Fi and Max WiFi technology, visit maxwifi.org.

The Sharing Economy Goes Invisible with Wi-Fi

From Zipcar to AirBnB, the sharing economy has made us all look at cars, apartments and even clothes a little differently. And recently, that’s expanded to Wi-Fi.

With the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge smartphones, Samsung introduced the Wi-Fi sharing feature. This new Wi-Fi sharing feature helps to extend the Wi-Fi coverage area by making the Galaxy S7 or the S7 Edge as a Wi-Fi extender (or repeater). And the recently launched Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus also included the same Wi-Fi sharing feature.

This is not a mobile hotspot. Rather, with Wi-Fi sharing, users can turn their mobile devices into Wi-Fi range extenders or repeaters. This extends the coverage of a particular Wi-Fi router, but also comes in handy when the number of connections on a particular Wi-Fi is limited. Great news if you’ve paid for the upgraded, faster Wi-Fi in a hotel or airport and want to share amongst your many devices.

Max WiFi could give this feature a further boost, literally. With the technical changes in the 6th generation of Wi-Fi, access points can handle many more devices at ever-increasing speeds. And these improvements also mean less battery drain from using—and sharing—Wi-Fi. As consumers, this looks like a very positive development and we can’t wait to see what other phone manufacturers have up their sleeves.

Max WiFi at The Wi-Fi Summit

This week, the WifiForward coalition brought policy makers and wireless industry leaders and insiders together in Washington, D.C. for The Wi-Fi Summit. Panelists discussed spectrum issues and policy, both as they are today and into the future. One prevalent topic in their discussion of the wireless future: the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ax, also known as Max WiFi.

“I’m going to talk about some of the most exciting things we’re working on, including 802.11ax,” said Broadcom Director of Wireless Connectivity Business and panelist Gabriel Desjardins. He described the the improvements that Max WiFi brings to the Wi-Fi including twice as much bandwidth, blazing fast speeds — up to four times better range — and up to seven times longer battery life.

Desjardins told attendees that with Max WiFi, the name of the game is capacity: “802.11ax Max WiFi has a massive improvement in spectrum efficiency, management, and better throughput, but ultimately it’s really all about an improvement in capacity.”

“Previous Wi-Fi generations have had trouble keeping up with all the data we use, but 802.11ax aims to change that. It has significant increases in capacity—not just in venues, but also in the office and in the home,” he said, adding, “You will see improvements in Wi-Fi [with the Max WiFi standard, especially] in the places where most of us use Wi-Fi and cellular and can’t necessarily get the data access that we need, that’s where 802.11ax Max WiFi will go. It will solve all of those connectivity problems for users.”

Lucky for us, Desjardins also hinted that it won’t be long until we can see this breakthrough Wi-Fi standard in action: “Tons of demos are going to show up at CES, and products will be on the shelves in the Spring.”

For more about Max WiFi and Broadcom’s set of Max WiFi chips, visit maxwifi.org.

Max: the Wi-Fi that’s a Match for WWE (and Taylor Swift)

These days, being event-ready is a more digital experience than ever before. Around one in five smartphone users in the United States are interested in live video broadcasting, and one third of Facebook’s 1.6 billion plus users have watched a live video of a celebrity, politician, musician, or other influencer. Attending an event like a game or a concert now goes hand-in-hand with the ability to livestream and upload content to share with friends and family. To do that, event goers largely depend on Wi-Fi.

We’ve seen Wi-Fi in action at events such as Taylor Swift shows and Wrestlemania: in 2015, Taylor Swift fans used more than 3 terabytes of data in a single night—two nights in a row—during Taylor Swift’s 1989 tour, and fans at Levi’s Stadium for Wrestlemania 31 used over 4.5 terabytes of data. That’s a truly impressive amount of data. What’s even more impressive is that fans are continuing to use even more data: fans at Super Bowl 2017 generated a whopping 11.8 terabytes of data.

Sports and music fans have depended on Wi-Fi to handle their data needs, and it has delivered. However, Max WiFi—built on the latest generation of Wi-Fi—would seriously upgrade WiFi capacity, reducing the strain on the venue’s wireless networks.

For starters, devices equipped with Max WiFi have some serious bandwidth. With Max WiFi, they can use twice as much bandwidth as the best-in-class Wi-Fi devices running on the current standard, 802.11ac. Max WiFi is also much more efficient, thanks to Target Wake Time (TWT) and Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) technology. Max WiFi can deliver more data at blazing fast speeds—up to six times faster than today’s Wi-Fi standard. Stuck up in the nosebleed seats? No problem. Max WiFi also lets event goers enjoy four times more range. Because Max WiFi is so efficient, devices that use it don’t need to work as hard to connect to a network or to send a livestream, meaning they can also stay online longer—Max WiFi delivers a battery life that lasts seven times longer.

That means more Snapchats of Taylor Swift, more video chatting with the people you love as your favorite wrestlers battle it out in the ring, and more seamless livestreaming so that you can share that perfect touchdown in the moment—no matter where you are. Plus, you won’t need to worry about your signal cutting out: Max WiFi eliminates Wi-Fi dead zones and has you covered, whether you’re inside in a private box or out in the stands.

It’s time that we had a Wi-Fi standard that’s as social as we are. No matter where your event is or how crowded it is, Max Wi-Fi can help you livestream and upload more, faster. For more about Max WiFi technology, visit maxwifi.org.

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.  

Wi-Fi: Solving the Mystery of the Disappearing College Football Fan

Notre Dame football fans are legendary, and they’ve just hit a new record. They’ve hit the highest Wi-Fi traffic number ever recorded for a single-day college event, according to Mobile Sports Reports. At the Fighting Irish’s September 9th home game against Georgia, the Wi-Fi network saw 6.2 Terabytes of data traffic. That’s roughly equivalent to 1,620 hours of high-quality video! That’s impressive. What’s also impressive: attendance for the game was near capacity.

This is good news because it could mean the beginnings of a change for declining college football attendance. At the end of 2016, NCAA reported that home attendance at all major college football games was down–for the sixth consecutive year. The attendance decline is slowing, down by less than 1 percent in 2016 from 2015, thanks in part to college athletics departments taking a look at what fans want and trying their best to deliver.

Just a few years ago, very few professional stadiums and even fewer college stadiums provided free fan Wi-Fi. But schools are now fighting for fan’s attention from a competitor that is hard to beat: the cozy confines of a fan’s living room. So, beginning around 2012, teams began putting together plans to encourage fans to attend and engage, attempting to make the live game experience as comfortable and easy as the couch.

Enter Wi-Fi. It’s an amenity that many of us value over food and sleep, according to some studies. And it’s crucial, for many college football fans, for sending celebratory selfies, videos of victories, and photos of football fun. Beyond just straight Wi-Fi access, teams are also developing apps to help fans order concessions from their seats, offer in-venue reporting and use data to learn more about who is coming to games and what they need.

The real game changer for networks in these stadiums is the emergence of live video. From Facebook Live, to Snapchat and Instagram stories, consumers today expect to be able to share where they are and what they’re doing via video at any time. Facebook reports that 1 in every 5 Facebook videos is a Live broadcast. And more often than not, those live broadcasts are happening on university and college campuses (including in stadiums). In fact, in 44 states, colleges and university campuses are in the top 5 most instagrammed places in that state. For college football, this could translate into bigger sales: according to New York Magazine, 67% of live video viewers are more likely to buy a ticket to a concert or event after watching a live video of that event or a similar one.

Depending on the size of the stadium, that means that 70,000-100,000 fans could be accessing their phones at once. That type of use cannot be handled by cellular providers alone. Even best-in-class Wi-Fi networks today need to be calibrated carefully to handle the increasing terabytes of data fans expect to throw around.

This situation is where Max WiFi shines: it makes better use of the limited spectrum available and can handle more devices, transmitting at the same time on one access point. And not only will fans in Max WiFi-enabled stadiums experience faster, more reliable connections, but they’ll get better battery life, too. Because Max WiFi is so efficient, devices don’t need to work as hard to connect to a network or to send a livestream, meaning they can stay online longer.

We’re looking forward to transforming college gameday with Max.

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