However, this time the focus is shifted from the network to the actual device. For example, the 1.3Gbps claimed by the ac protocol is a bit misleading in so much as it represents the achievable speed of the individual radio – a single endpoint device would rarely reach such throughputs. On average, a wireless device connects to a wireless access point at speeds of around 300Mbps and the actual communication rates are even slower.
The engineers in the 802.11ax committee are concentrating their efforts on the individual device rather than the access point or the infrastructure and the set improvement target is to push endpoint speeds four times faster which is closer to the Gigabit mark. Rumour has it that a telecommunications giant who is cooperating with the IEEE on the development of the 802.11ax protocol, recently ran a speed test in a lab environment and managed to achieve a remarkable 10Gbps!
In terms of the technology, 802.11ax is not that different from its predecessors in that it operates in the 5GHz spectrum, adopts channel bonding and uses OFDA and Spatial Division Multiplexing (better known as MIMO). This uses up to four spatial streams to achieve the desired speed of communication from end-point device to access point. However, 802.1ax increases the spectral efficiency of each stream, pushing the boundaries to deliver connections speeds even faster.
The IEEE will achieve this with the use of a technology named MIMO-OFDA or OFDMA. The goal is to be able to squeeze more data than ever into a single signal transmission even in densely populated conditions (lots of clients associated to the same access point). On top of that, 802.11ax promises to deliver the same or better power efficiency than 802.11ac.
Although other wireless protocols are currently being developed by the relevant IEEE work groups, the Wi-Fi Alliance has recently named 802.11ax as the official successor of 802.11ac and while the actual standard is not expected to be released until 2018-19, drafts of the protocol will likely be seen as early as 2016.