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What is the Future of Wi-Fi?

New standards including 802.11ax and WiGig could make wireless connectivity easier and faster than ever before.

 By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Jan 9, 2018
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When the internet first appeared, it was all about wires. In 2018, while wires are still critically important, an aount number of the world's connectivity is wireless Ethernet, or what is commonly called Wi-Fi today.

While speed and stability have improved significantly in Wi-Fi networks over the last decade, new innovations that will become available in 2018 and into 2019 will make Wi-Fi faster and more available than ever before.

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design

The Wi-Fi Alliance, which is a multi-stakeholder industry consortium that is all about promoting Wi-Fi, is working on a number of programs to advance Wi-Fi in 2018 and beyond. One of those programs is called Wi-Fi Certified Home Design.Wi-Fi Home Design

Today, Wi-Fi is an afterthought in the home building process, unlike basic utilities like water and power. The general idea behind the Wi-Fi Certified Home program is to change that paradigm and enable home builders to build Wi-Fi technology directly into a new or rebuilt home.

"There is no need to purchase and install Wi-Fi access points after the home is built," the Wi-Fi Alliance explains. "Wi-Fi Home Design networks are move-in ready and are optimized to allow for a growing array of future smart home devices and systems."

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Vantage

The Wi-Fi Certified Vantage effort aims to bring the best possible wireless experience in large, congested venues including airports and stadiums.

Wi-Fi Vantage includes multiple mechanisms and protocols including IEEE 802.11ai, which is a standard that was finalized in June 2017. IEEE 802.11 provides Fast Initial Link Set-up (FILS) methods to help improve Wi-Fi access in busy spaces.

"IEEE 802.11ai enables low-delay communications for a large number of users within a confined space, thereby establishing it as a proven reliable and logical choice for the development of products serving 5G applications,"  Hiroshi Mano, IEEE 802.11ai Task Group chair, stated. "Enhancing the end-user experience in high-density WLAN environments is a key concern, and this standard revision brings vast, impactful and measurable improvements to the technology."

Wi-Fi Aware

The Wi-Fi Aware effort is all about making it easier to discover other Wi-Fi devices and services. The technology is based on thee Wi-Fi Alliance Neighbor Awareness Networking specification.

"Wi-Fi Aware delivers always-on, real-time discovery of what is available nearby, and provides an on-ramp to the kinds of rich here-and-now experiences people want," the Wi-Fi Alliance explains. "It establishes a common 'heartbeat' that aligns communication windows to enable efficient, continuous discovery of devices and services."

WiGig

For the most part, Wi-Fi has only utlized the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands. The new WiGig (Wireless Gigabit) standard also known as 802.11ad, makes use of the 60 GHz band, which is less congested, offering the promise of increased bandwidth of up to 8 Gbps.

802.11ax

The IEEE 802.11ax standard is the likely successor to 802.11ac, which is currently the leading edge of mainstream Wi-Fi deployed standards. 802.11ax is not yet a formal standard, though vendors are already starting to produce gear that conforms to the draft specification.

Among the new capabilities in 802.11ax is a feature called OFDMA (orthogonal frequency-division multiple access), which holds the promise of improved signal modularity for improved bandwidth and stability.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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