Today, Intel announced it will be expanding its portfolio of Wi-Fi chips with 802.11AX chipsets for 2×2 and 4×4 home routers, and gateways for cable, DSL, fiber, and other consumer retail devices. Heralded as the next generation of Wi-Fi, 802.11AX promises to replace the current Wi-Fi networks that we use today. The importance of the new 802.11AX standard and its associated chipsets is amplified by the fact that the home router or gateway will become the digital front door into many people’s homes. Previously, people had a separate phone, television and internet devices/services, but they are all now converging through IP services (like VoIP), TV streaming services (like Netflix ), and Cable/Fiber IPTV. Because so many different types of communications and smart home capabilities will also be managed by the home gateway or Wi-Fi network, it is becoming an increasingly important device in the home for everyone to be involved in.
As a refresher, 802.11AX builds on many of the technologies from the previous standard, 802.11AC, such as the ability to serve multiple users simultaneously (Multi-User MIMO). With the implementation of OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access) waveforms, borrowed from the cellular world, 802.11AX Wi-Fi becomes even more stable and efficient at delivering bits, making it faster. This technology promises to also improve upload speeds over Wi-Fi as well, an area that has suffered due to focus on downlink performance improvements. Overall, 802.11AX is designed to deal with the extremely dense network conditions that most users have today, with many wireless devices connected to the same Wi-Fi network at the same time. It also will be able to operate in both 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands of unlicensed spectrum and improve both 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bandwidth and coverage—something 802.11AC couldn’t do.
Intel ’s play in the 802.11AX segment is focused on multi-media and smart home experiences because that’s where the majority of Wi-Fi usage is headed, and those are areas that Intel has experience in. Intel ’s new chips will be 802.11AX Draft 2.0 compliant which should enable them to comply with the final standard of 802.11AX due next year. Intel is also enabling optimizations between the 802.11AX chipsets that will be in its routers, gateways, and access points. Interoperability is important, especially for Wi-Fi—following the latest standard is a must.
Naturally, Intel isn’t alone in these developments—there will likely be numerous 802.11AX announcements at CES 2018. The reality is that the home will continue to become a denser environment, with more and more devices depending on smooth and consistent Wi-Fi connections with faster speeds. As people’s multimedia and connected home needs increase, the Wi-Fi router and home gateway will become an increasingly important point of control for ISPs and other stakeholders in consumer tech and media consumption.