As more of us pack our homes with an increasing number of connected devices, faster and more reliable wireless networks have become vital. But the next generation Wi-Fi standard, IEEE 802.11ax, is expected to ease these congestion woes.
Intel has announced that in 2018, it “will expand its home Wi-Fi portfolio with new 802.11ax chipsets for mainstream 2x2 and 4x4 home routers and gateways for cable, xDSL, fiber and consumer retail devices.”
The new standard brings a slew of improvements over its predecessor, 802.11ac. It offers 40 percent faster peak data transfer rates, moving from a maximum 433Mbps to 600Mbps, but the more significant focus is on congested networks, where it should improve average throughput for each user by at least four times; this is achieved partly by sending data to specific devices, rather than flooding an area with signals. Additionally, 802.11ax will increase network efficiency and extend the battery life of client devices.
To aid manufacturers with the transition to the new standard, designs based on the 802.11ac infrastructure chipset—the Intel Home Wi-Fi Chipset WAV500 series—can upgrade to 802.11ax “with no change to the host SoC.” Moreover, the new Wi-Fi chipsets are backward compatible with older Wi-Fi technologies to support a wide range of devices.
While the promise of consumer retail devices with the new 802.11ax chipsets in 2018 sounds exciting, mass adoption of the new standard isn’t expected to take place until product certification begins next year, and even then, it will take a few months before certified products start arriving. A Wi-Fi Alliance spokesperson told The Verge that certification “is typically an inflection point toward broader industry adoption.”
Expect to see a number of 802.11ax chipsets from firms other than Intel at CES 2018. At last year's IFA conference, Asus showed off its pre-certification, 802.11ax RT-AX88U router, which has a 4,804Mbps transfer speed over the 5GHz band.