IEEE 802.11ax Wi-Fi

IEEE 802.11ax is a new Wi-Fi standard being developed to provide improved spectral efficiency and hence better performance.


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IEEE 802.11ax is a new standard in the IEEE 802.11 series. It has been designed to provide some significant improvements over 802.11ac, especially in terms of spectral efficiency and user access.

In view of this, IEEE 802.11ax will improve the use is seen as the successor to 802.11ac. The new 802.11ax is still in its early stages of development, but it is anticipated that it will provide up to four times the speed of 11ac.

Another of the key issues that 802.11ax aims to resolve is that of mutual interference between different access points. In some densely covered areas this is significantly slowing down the networks. Solving this issue rather than just providing bearers for faster data rates will have a greater effect on real throughput.

Comparatively few details have emerged yet about the actual specification, and the technology for IEEE 802.11ax, but some details have emerged.

IEEE 802.11ax basics

There are a number of technologies involved in 802.11ax

  • OFDMA   It is anticipated that the system will be based around and OFDM based system.

    Note on OFDM:

    Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex, OFDM is a form of signal format that uses a large number of close spaced carriers that are each modulated with low rate data stream. The close spaced signals would normally be expected to interfere with each other, but by making the signals orthogonal to each other there is no mutual interference. The data to be transmitted is shared across all the carriers and this provides resilience against selective fading from multi-path effects.

    Read more about OFDM, Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing.

    OFDMA, orthogonal frequency division multiple access, uses OFDM as the basic signal format, allowing different users to access the system by allocating different resources to them.

    OFDM is very resilient to the effects of selective fading. It also provides excellent spectral efficiency. It is expected that IEEE802.11ax will provide a four-fold improvement in spectral efficiency when compared to 802.11ac.
  • MIMO   MIMO is currently used in many Wi-Fi and mobile telecommunications systems.

    Note on MIMO:

    MIMO is a form of antenna technology that uses multiple antennas to enable signals travelling via different paths as a result of reflections, etc., to be separated and their capability used to improve the data throughput and / or the signal to noise ratio, thereby improving system performance.

    Read more about MIMO technology

    For 802.11ax the working group is considering state-of-the-art technologies including uplink MU-MIMO.
  • Modulation:   In order to enable the very high data rates required, where applicable 802.11ax will utilise high order modulation. BPSK right up to 1024QAM will be able to be used dependent upon the channel condictions.
  • Frequency bands   Current thinking is the 802.11ax will operate in the 2.4 and 5 GHz ISM bands.
  • Full duplex radio   Single channel full duplex radio is being considered for 802.11ax as this will provide additional improvements in spectral efficiency.
  • OBSS interference handling   The use of OBSS ,overlapping basic service sets interference handling techniques is being considered as a way of improving performance. This may take one or more of many forms including some form of beam-forming reception, etc. . With increasing numbers of APs being deployed spectrum management and interference mitigation from adjacent access points is of increasing importance.

    A BSS is a Basic Service Set. This is a key component for the IEEE 802.11 WLAN architecture. This network architecture is built around a Basic Service Set which is actually a set of STAs (the component that connects to the wireless medium such as a network adapter or NIC) that communicate with each other. When one access point is connected to wired network and a set of wireless stations it is referred to as a Basic Service Set or BSS.


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