802.11ax Wi-Fi Expansion Elevates User Experiences

802.11ax Wi-Fi

802.11ax Wi-Fi Expansion Elevates User Experiences

Ever had an iphone? Remember iOS8? Remember the good ol’ days when your battery would only last half of a workday?

In large part, those battery issues were caused by iphones repeatedly attempting to connect to overcrowded Wi-Fi networks.

Granted you could have put it into Airplane Mode, but that would have rendered it useless for basic functionality like texting or receiving phone calls.

Thankfully Apple fixed the majority of the bugs around that particular issue, but what about the Wi-Fi networks themselves?

On February 13th, 2017, Qualcomm announced the release of its first end-to-end, 802.11ax Wi-Fi Portfolio solution, which includes the IPQ8074 system-on-a-chip (SoC) for network infrastructure and QCA6290 solution for client devices. So what is the 802.11ax protocol?

“As Wi-Fi networks become more crowded, dense and diverse… Qualcomm Technologies’ 802.11ax solutions [will enable] improved connected experiences, delivering up to 4x greater capacity to make Wi-Fi traffic more efficient, resulting in up to 4x faster user throughput and longer battery life for Wi-Fi devices*.”

This new standard IEEE 802.11ax (AX) will fix some frustrating gaps left unaddressed in the earlier 802.11ac (AC) release.

Preserving battery life is just one of the benefits end users will enjoy with Qualcomm’s newly introduced 802.11ax Wi-Fi Portfolio solution.

802.11ax Provides a Better Wi-Fi Experience

What does 802.11ax offer? Specifically what benefits does it provide that the most recent IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi solution does not?

For starters, AX is aimed at addressing the complexity of frequency bands used in Wi-Fi.

Did you get a chance to read our recent article on IoT Adoption? If so, you’ll remember that we found quality and personalized user experiences are fast becoming high priorities for businesses.

Manufacturers have thus frequently found themselves asking, “How can we improve the Wi-Fi connection experience?”

When developing the earlier AC standard, the industry focused on overall network capacity. It was all about volume.

The move to AX signals a shift in that methodology, where UX isn’t as freely sacrificed for capacity. The AX protocol not only improve capacity, but it also allows individual devices to connect to Wi-Fi faster and with greater ease.

802.11ax Features

As you might imagine, there are a host of new features that come with the new protocol. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable.

Advantaged of 802.11ax Wi-Fi Infographic

Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA)

OFDMA assigns or divides low data transmissions between multiple users. This was not available in AC devices. OFDMA “segregates” the spectrum [frequency range] into time-frequency resource units (RU).

AC did not have OFDMA. There are only so many frequencies in the physical universe. OFDMA increases efficiency in dense deployments.

Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU MIMO)

With Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU MIMO) a single multi-antenna transmitter communicates with a single multi-antenna receiver.

MU MIMO allows faster speeds, increased capacity and robustness of signal–which means you’re less likely to be dropped from network. MU MIMO is highly complex. It further separates what OFDMA does into spatial streams.

Directional efficiency of radio frequency signals.

AC was able to downlink only–send data to multiple receivers downstream. AX is available to uplink and downlink. That means it can receive data upstream using MU MIMO and OFDMA at the same time.

Trigger-Based Random Access

Helps prevent the collision of transmissions, which is one reason iPhone users were having a hard time getting onto Wi-Fi networks or getting dropped in the earlier AC version.

Network Allocation Vector

Network allocation vectors limit the need for physical carrier sensing. This saves power and lowers energy costs.

Target Wake Time (TWT)

TWT allows devices to wake up at other periods besides transmission period, thus reducing the number of devices contending for the same wireless medium. This further lowers energy bills.

Wireless Category

Overview of 802.11ax Improvements

From an end user perspective Qualcomm’s new product will deliver:

  • 4x capacity | supporting eight 80 MHz streams
  • Speeds of up to 4.8 Gbps, and maintains fast connections over larger coverage areas
  • Enhanced connected experiences, such as 4K Ultra HD video streaming and video-conferences, content sharing, social media and file transfers
  • Better network performance
  • Easier connectivity
  • All in one platform
  • Reduced power consumption by 2/3rd

When will AX reach the market?

The SoC will find its way to market soon. “Qualcomm Technologies expects to sample the IPQ8074 and QCA6290 in the first half of 2017.”

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Comments (4)

  • Petri Riihikallio Reply

    Thanks for a concise summary of the upcoming 802.11ax features. Just a couple of notes, that I consider important:

    1) The 802.11ax won’t be finalised until 2018. Any products before that will be based on draft specs, which often change. You can end up with a product that is non-compliant with the final standard.

    2) My main concern with this article is the image for “4x more capacity” which is plain wrong. The image shows 16x the area. Why not just use the same image as “4x more speed” which is correct?

    3) Network Allocation Vector is age old. 802.11n ja WMM changed its rules a bit, but used the same basic principle. I am not aware of any significant NAV updates in AX. Could you please expand on that?

    April 10, 2017 at 12:50 am
    • Allison Reply

      Thanks for the input, Petri!

      These are overall theories and white papers. Until the samples have been released to vendors for integration and further research, we will see a lot of changes with the upcoming technology. Only time will tell whether Qualcom releases additional info or decides to drop the project. We will continue to release more information as the new technology hits the industry.

      April 10, 2017 at 10:45 am
  • Mark Reply

    Thanks for the valuable information for 11ax.
    There are still a few questions I don’t understand very clearly, and I’d like to know
    1) Does OFDMA and MU-MIMO have any relationship ?
    I thought that the MU-MIMO could be done by introducing OFDMA, because the OFDMA sub-carriers could be allocated to several clients at the same time. That also means several clients could be served at the same time. (Not like the OFDM that all sub-carriers are allocated to a single client at a time)
    2) 11ac only support OFDM, but it can also support MU-MIMO in 11ac-wave2. How does the MU-MIMO work in 11ac that does not support OFDMA ?

    Thank you for considering my request.

    May 1, 2017 at 7:27 am

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