Within the year, Intel will beef up its portfolio of networking products with 802.11ax Wi-Fi chipsets for mainstream 2x2 and 4x4 home routers and gateways, the company recently announced. Routers and gateways based on Intel's new chipsets will be compatible with today's cable, DSL, and fiber optic networks, delivering faster wireless performance to home consumers and their devices.
The Wi-Fi Alliance is still hammering out an official specification for 802.11ax. Once completed and deployed by hardware makers in earnest, 802.11ax will deliver significant performance over 802.11ac Wi-Fi, with up to 40 percent higher peak data rates for a single client device and much better average throughput in congested areas where many wireless devices operate at the same time—Intel says its chipsets will enable up to 256 devices to share bandwidth at the same time. In addition, users can expect improved network efficiency and longer battery life on client devices that use the new standard.
"These performance enhancements are coming just in time to answer new demands in the smart and connected home. 802.11ax offers a path to faster, more intelligent Wi-Fi to support an increasing number of connected devices, the growing popularity of streaming HD content and the proliferation of smart home appliances and security systems," Intel says.
Intel is getting a head start on the eventual transition to 802.11ax. Its first chipsets will be based on Draft 2.0 of the 802.11ax standard, which will be more mature than infrastructures based on Draft 1.0, meaning better compatibility and interoperability with client devices.
"To help OEMs smoothly transition to the new standard, designs based on Intel’s 802.11ac infrastructure chipset—the Inte® Home Wi-Fi Chipset WAV500 Series—can upgrade to 802.11ax with no change to the host SoC. In addition, Intel’s new 802.11ax home Wi-Fi chipsets will offer backward compatibility with older Wi-Fi technologies to support a breadth of client devices," Intel added.
One thing to keep in mind is that 802.11ax is different than 802.11ad. The latter was introduced as a major speed bump in Wi-Fi connectivity, supporting data rates up to 7 gigabits per second (7Gbps). However, that speed comes at a cost. 802.11ad operates on the 60Hz band, which is poor at penetrating walls, ceilings, floors, and other obstructions. It has limited range, even compared to 802.11ac. That said, it's still good for in-home scenarios, especially as the market move towards 4K streaming.
802.11ax is seen as a more immediate successor to 802.11ac. While it doesn't offer the same huge speed bump as 802.11ad, it is both backwards compatible with 802.11ac and offers faster connections to all devices connecting at the same time—it's designed for densely populated environments.