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Wi-Fi, like ice cream, is coming in many flavors

Matt Hamblen | July 15, 2014
Coming 802.11ax Wi-Fi promises fast speeds to each user in a crowd; WiGig (802.11ad) gives quickness in a single room.

The word 'orthogonal' refers to a kind of frequency division technology that sends out data streams at right angles to each other, and then captures and decodes the streams at the receiving end. That approach aims to find a frequency pathway that has the least interference, especially in crowded environments like airports or outdoor venues.

"The increased data rate of [802.11ax] technology means you end up not just increasing the speed for individual [users] but also aggregate capacity in the network," Ennis said in an interview.

"That's a significant improvement of performance not only for those in a sweet spot, but for all the users in a particular Wi-Fi hotspot. One interesting requirement of ax is to address issues seen in dense environments like sports stadiums where there are lots of devices and many applications being used. There will be mechanisms in 802.11ax especially geared towards really good service," he added.

Even though some reports suggest that 802.11ax will rely on MIMO-OFDM technology, Ennis isn't convinced that will be the only approach. "Various technologies are being proposed and until we go further down the road, it's difficult to say that one part is necessarily going forward."

Still, he called MIMO-OFDM a "very strong candidate" and added, "Huawei's announcement of their test results was a good advertisement for the viability of the technology."

Also, Huawei's use of the 5GHz band doesn't mean 802.11ax will use that band exclusively. "The actual project requirements also say that other bands can be considered, including 2.4 GHz," Ennis said.

Another Wi-Fi for tight spaces: 802.11ad, orWiGig

While 802.11ax Wi-Fi could be promising for large, crowded spaces with multiple users running multiple apps, there's also an emerging IEEE standard called 802.11ad that makes use of the 60GHz band.

Also known as WiGig, 802.11ad is expected to work in a short-range fashion, perhaps within a single room, but at relatively fast transmission rates of about 7Gbps. That would make WiGig ideal for use in a room in an apartment, perhaps to prevent a video stream from bleeding into another room or even another apartment or dormitory room.

The 60 GHz band uses very short radio waves, which don't travel through walls easily.

"With Wi-Fi and 802.11ac over 2.4 GHz, going through walls is a good thing because it allow more total home coverage," Ennis said. "But with 802.11ad, short range is a positive in an apartment environment where it won't interfere with the neighbors because it's not going through the wall. You get really high speed in-room capability."

The IEEE ratified 802.11ad in late 2012, and there are few products on the market today that can do things like wirelessly stream an HD video from a Blu-ray player to a video projector (such as the DVDO Air).


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