Have you ever connected to your home WiFi or public WiFi only to have your Youtube videos buffer or Facebook loading slowing or not at all? Yeah that’s happens to everyone lately. And it’s because a lot more devices are connecting to the internet via WiFi causing network congestion and interference.
The 6th generation of WiFi dubbed WiFi IEEE 802.11 ax is expected to solve some of these challenges. WiFi 802.11 ax is due to be publicly released sometime in 2019 succeeding 802.11 ac the latest standard. The new standard is 10 times faster than the latest standard and is designed to operate in existing 2.4 GHz and 5GHz frequency spectrums. This means it will be backward compatible with WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac devices.
WiFi has come a long way ever since its first commercial introduction in 1997. Back then, speeds were only 2 Mbit/s but this was improved to 11 Mbit/s link speeds with 802.11 b in 1999 which made the wireless standard very popular. WiFi 802.11g was soon released in 2003 introducing Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) technology that provided higher rates and improved multipath performance. This increased transmission speeds to 54Mbps.
Later on, WiFi 802.11n came in 2009 supporting up to four MiMO streams in both 2.4Gh and 5Ghz bands pushing speeds slightly higher to 150Mbps. WiFi 802.11ac aka Gigabit WiFi introduced MIMO-OFDM modulation on 2.4Gh and 5Ghz bands pushing speeds further to 1 Gbps using two spatial streams.
Since there are over a billion WiFi devices in the wild, there is a lot of interference and congestion with the 2.4 GHz and 5GHz frequency spectrums. The result is slow internet connections. According to Broadcom, the leader in manufacturing WiFi chips, WiFi IEEE 802.11 ax 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.
Generally 802.11 ax is expected to improve traffic flow and channel access, better power management and therefore longer battery life for your devices.
Already some major vendors have started rolling out WiFi 802.11 ax chips. Qualcomm announced their first 802.11 ax silicon on February 13, 2017 while Broadcom announced their 6th Generation of Wi-Fi products with 802.11 ax support also known as WiFi Max on August 15, 2017. These chips are now being tested in upcoming 802.11 ax routers and access points. On August 30, 2017, Asus announced the first 802.11 ax router while Huawei announced their first 802.11 ax access point on On September 12, 2017. More commercial 802.11 ax products are expected sometime in 2019.