Wi-Fi Standard 802.11ax

High Density Environments

The primary Wi-Fi use case for early 802.11ax standard development was for high-density network environments, such as large public venues. However, high density doesn’t just mean hundreds or thousands of Wi-Fi-connected devices in a stadium or large venue.

If you need to guarantee an acceptable level of service to all users on your enterprise Wi-Fi network, twenty or more devices is high density. Today’s enterprises are challenged to deal with corporate-owned wireless devices, employee devices, guest devices, wireless security cameras, environmental sensors, and more. These challenges will become even more complex as IoT has the potential to provide wireless access for almost everything.

Even within a private home, a family has numerous Wi-Fi devices including voice-activated smart speakers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and so on. With all these connected devices, your home can quickly become a Wi-Fi hive of activity!

Streaming Video

In addition to the immense growth of client devices, the ever increasing volume of streaming video is another key use case for newer Wi-Fi technologies. The Ericsson Mobility Report predicts that worldwide mobile video traffic (currently 14 exabytes per month) will grow approximately 50 percent annually (to 110 exabytes per month) through 2023, accounting for 75 percent of all mobile data traffic.

The report indicates that mobile users offload approximately 65 to 95 percent of their mobile traffic to Wi-Fi, when available. To remain a viable user alternative to cellular networks, Wi-Fi standards must maintain parity with the rapidly evolving 5G cellular standard.

Plus, where video traffic was primarily seen as only as wireless downlink traffic, social network streaming is now generating enormous uplink traffic loads. In addition to dealing with video’s large data objects, streaming video is time-bounded, meaning that latency must be kept low. Delays in transmission due to network congestion or retransmissions required by problems with prevailing radio conditions can result in the dreaded “buffering” message, or worse.

High Definition

To be fair, most high-definition (HD) video traffic only requires between 2 and 20 Mbps, because video can be highly compressed during transmission. 4K video represents, of course, a bigger challenge: Ultra HD Blu-Ray runs at about 82 to 128 Mbps but is still well within the copious bandwidth provisioned by even low-end 802.11ac. With gigabits of performance instantaneously available on each Wi-Fi channel and with HD video becoming more common (or even required in most organizational settings), the biggest challenge will be handling the growth of the WLAN.

The number of users, devices, and applications will drive the need for as much throughput and efficiency as possible to address the aggregate demand.

Finally, according to a report published by PRNewswire.com, 2.4 GHz devices are expected to represent the largest market segment in wireless mesh networks through 2022. Because 802.11ac does not support the 2.4 GHz band, a new Wi-Fi standard is needed to support the expected growth of 2.4 GHz devices, as well as to provide backward compatibility with 802.11n and older Wi-Fi devices.