How Does 802.11ax Address Common Problems With Wi-Fi?

Last time, we looked at some of the history of the WLAN standard, and where it has gotten us. 802.11n and 802.11ac introduced some great new technology including PHY and MAC layer enhancements that helped achieve higher data rates. In essence, we built bigger highways and faster cars.

But it led to a few problems. The issues facing next generation Wi-Fi systems involve degradation to system efficiency due to dense deployments and due to network traffic with a preponderance of small data frames (e.g. Voice-over-Wi-Fi). With an ever-growing number of devices using Wi-Fi along with the emergence of the IoT, Wi-Fi networks need to do a better job of managing dense client environments, increased data traffic, and a diverse mix of applications and services with differing QoS requirements.

As we discussed, in the past, the evolution of Wi-Fi was focused primarily on achieving successively higher peak (theoretical) speeds. However, in the real world, with lots of users and diverse needs, a network needs to be designed and measured based on the user experience. The problem isn’t how fast Wi-Fi can go, but if the Wi-Fi network has enough capacity to handle the growing demand for the volume and diversity of connected devices and services.

To use a Navy term, 802.11ax is bringing about a sea change vs previous 802.11 performance improvements. Even the title of the amendments hints at this as it uses the term High Efficiency, while previous improvements were identified as High Throughput. These new changes improve the way Wi-Fi networks work by leveraging technology that substantially improves capacity, provides better coverage, and even reduces congestion, resulting in a better user experience. It’s Wi-Fi for the real world.

802.11ax standards and specifications are designed to adapt Wi-Fi for dense usages scenarios, with the potential for dozens of devices communicating simultaneously to each access point radio. Using proven Wi-Fi techniques, and innovations from the cellular world, the 802.11ax standard is designed to increase capacity by up to 4x, mostly by improving efficiency and not just going faster. This provides benefits in both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands in a variety of environments: homes, schools, businesses, hotspots, airports, and more.


Alexandra Gates is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Aerohive Networks, where she helps define market strategy and vision for the cloud and WLAN products. She is a CWNA with a comprehensive background in wireless technology, including capacity and management planning, RF design, network implementation, and general industry knowledge.

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