Wi-Fi is about to get better in the following couple of years through the new 802.11ax standard, and access points supporting it will appear at CES.
A new revision of the standard focused on supporting greater client density is expcted to begin to roll out in 2017.
The latest wireless routers currently available are based on the 802.11ac Wave-2 standard with multi user (MU) MIMO and 4x4 antenna arrays. They enable spatial reuse to minimize channel sharing among multiple simultaneous users. These systems deliver high theoritical peak data rates to clients, but their most important benefit is increased capacity and improved user experience in crowded networks.
The new 802.11ax standard will address increasing congestion and will bring better bandwidth management. The standard extends MU-MIMO to 8x8 antenna arrays for both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. The result is a potential for a 4x increase in capacity over 802.11ac which limits these techniques to the 5 GHz band. With better antenna and other signaling improvements, the .11ax standard will also have better coverage than .11ac.
The 802.11ax spec also supports better bandwidth allocation. Wi-Fi has used a listen-before-transmit approach to avoiding collisions. The addition of the Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) protocol brings scheduled resource allocation to Wi-Fi. In this model, each access point acts more like a small cell tower, controlling channel band allocation.
The .11ax OFDMA protocol also supports both down and uplink channel management.
The new standard also lets clients schedule awake times to communicate. In addition, it supports 1024 QAM encoding and support for long OFDM symbols for greater channel bandwidth. There?s also improved management for multiple access points.
Another benefit of 802.11ax is that it works in conjunction with other Wi-Fi standards such as 802.11ad (WiGig). The 60 GHz .11ad standard provides maximum bandwidth for in-room links such as wireless HDMI for 4K video, VR headset connections and wireless docking stations.