Emerging Wi-Fi Standards:
What You Should Know

In our last post we discussed the advantages of 802.11ac Wave 2 products, which promise to boost Wi-Fi throughput, increase client density and optimize the user experience. If Wi-Fi is a mission-critical component of your operations, you probably should be looking at Wave 2 technology.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is continuing the development of new standards that will define the future of Wi-Fi. In our last post we mentioned that the 802.11ax standard is slated for release in 2019, and promises to deliver 10Gbps throughput in the 5GHz frequency band.

Other emerging IEEE standards use the 60GHz frequency band to provide even greater throughput. 802.11ad, also known as WiGig, is available now and delivers speeds as high as 7Gbps, making it fast enough to support wireless hard drives. The tradeoff is that the 60GHz frequency cannot penetrate walls very easily, resulting in slow, unreliable connections unless there’s direct line of sight between the device and the router. 802.11ay, also known as Next-Gen 60GHz (NG60), is expected provide 20Gbps throughput and greater range than 802.11ad, making it suitable for more use cases. The first draft of that standard is targeted for release in 2017, but it won’t be finalized until late in 2019.

The IEEE isn’t the only standards body busy with Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi Alliance recently introduced HaLow, a new specification for the 802.11ah standard operating in the 900MHz band. HaLow is essentially the opposite of WiGig — a low-frequency connection that moves easily through walls and other physical barriers to provide greater range than standards using the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands. Designed for the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine communications, HaLow is also a low-power technology that won’t drain the batteries of sensors, wearables and other connected devices. The Wi-Fi Alliance says the first HaLow-certified devices should ship sometime in 2018.

802.11af, also called White-Fi, operates in the TV white space spectrum in the 200MHz to 600MHz frequency band, and offers longer range and a broader usable spectrum than other Wi-Fi technologies. As countries move to replace analog television with digital television technology, broadcasters no longer use some parts of the radio spectrum reserved for analog TV, freeing up that “white space” for wireless communications. Microsoft sees White-Fi as a means to interconnect continents and bring cost-effective Internet access to remote areas. The company has launched a pilot project connecting schools in India and Kenya.

What do these emerging standards mean to your business, given that it will be some time before products are released? The key takeaway is that Wi-Fi continues to evolve rapidly, and new technologies are on the horizon that promise to revolutionize wireless connectivity. IPC is staying abreast of these trends so we can help you plan your Wi-Fi strategy.