Despite the fact that nobody could keep track of the array of acronyms underlying Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b, .11a/g, .11n, .11ac), the good news was that each new version was a clear step forward in raw data rate. In four generations, that rate went from 11 Mb/s to 6.9 Gb/s – an increase of more than 650 percent! After all, raw data rate is the “name of the game.” This comes as no surprise, since Wi-Fi is about pure data communication.
Now there is the imminent arrival of IEEE 802.11ax, with a maximum raw data rate of 9.6 Gb/s. But given its slow appearance (ratification is now planned for late 2018) and marginal improvement, one might wonder if this is an indication that Wi-Fi is running out of steam.
But don’t be fooled! Underneath the acronym, there is a real shift going on from raw data rate toward multichannel capacity and improved spectral reuse. This means that the real-life throughput experience of .11ax may be an increase of as much as four times that of .11ac. Let’s explore, because this has consequences for consumers, as well as for product builders.