Author(s): Raghu Gopal
This week, the Wi-Fi Alliance launched a certification programme for IEEE 802.11ac Wave 2. The alliance's certification programme will encourage new products to support the faster speeds offered by the new spec. Perhaps the bigger upgrade is the requirement of routers to communicate with several devices simultaneously.
The majority of routers currently in use can only communicate with one device at a time. With only a few connected devices, this usually isn't evident to users as routers can switch between clients fast enough to provide smooth connectivity. But as the number of Wi-Fi enabled devices in use grows and each streams thicker content, it affects the experience.
Routers based on the new Wi-Fi spec will support multi-user multiple-input and multiple-output (MU-MIMO) technology, meaning the next generation of Wi-Fi routers will be capable of sending data to several devices simultaneously rather than one at a time, resulting in more consistent connectivity across the coverage area. Newly certified Wi-Fi routers will be capable of sending data to four devices at a time, thereby delivering faster results.
Other new features of 802.11ac Wave 2 include wider channel bandwidth, which doubles the speed of the previously supported channels, and expanded spatial streams, going from three to four spatial streams. The Wi-Fi Alliance is pushing its members to implement the new 802.11ac standard to support the expanding total number of active devices.
Wi-Fi is moving up in the world. The access technology is no longer only complementing cellular access, but in many ways competing against it. So-called "Wi-Fi first" services offer pseudo mobile access by relying on free unlicensed spectrum for connectivity whenever possible — Google's Project Fi is one of the more high-profile examples of such services. Wi-Fi continues to evolve and is earning a growing level of sovereignty alongside other wireless access technologies.