20 Years of Wi-Fi: On the Way to Wireless Freedom – Part III

20 Years of Wi-Fi: On the Way to Wireless Freedom – Part III

Standardized in 1997, Wi-Fi has changed the way that we compute. Today, almost every one of us uses a Wi-Fi connection on a daily basis, whether it’s for watching a show on a tablet at home, using our laptops at work, or even transferring photos from a camera. Millions of Wi-Fi-enabled products are being shipped each week, and it seems this technology is constantly finding its way into new device categories.

Since its humble beginnings, Wi-Fi has progressed at a rapid pace. While the initial standard allowed for just 2 Mbit/s data rates, today’s Wi-Fi implementations allow for speeds in the order of Gigabits to be supported. This last in our three part blog series covering the history of Wi-Fi will look at what is next for the wireless standard.

Gigabit Wireless

The latest 802.11 wireless technology to be adopted at scale is 802.11ac. It extends 802.11n, enabling improvements specifically in the 5.8 GHz band, with 802.11n technology used in the 2.4 GHz band for backwards compatibility.

By sticking to the 5.8 GHz band, 802.11ac is able to benefit from a huge 160 Hz channel bandwidth which would be impossible in the already crowded 2.4 GHz band. In addition, beamforming and support for up to 8 MIMO streams raises the speeds that can be supported. Depending on configuration, data rates can range from a minimum of 433 Mbit/s to multiple Gigabits in cases where both the router and the end-user device have multiple antennas.

If that’s not fast enough, the even more cutting edge 802.11ad standard (which is now starting to appear on the market) uses 60 GHz ‘millimeter wave’ frequencies to achieve data rates up to 7 Gbit/s, even without MIMO propagation. The major catch with this is that at 60 GHz frequencies, wireless range and penetration are greatly reduced.

Looking Ahead: Wi-Fi 6 to kick-off a new connectivity age

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 ensures interoperability and an improved user experience across all devices running IEEE 802.11ax technology. Wi-Fi 6 benefits both the 5 and 2.4 GHz bands, incorporating major fundamental enhancements like Multi-User MIMO, OFDMA, 1024-QAM, BSS coloring and Target Wait Time.

Source: Wi-Fi Alliance

Source: Wi-Fi Alliance

Wi-Fi 6 delivers faster speeds with low latency, high network utilization, and power saving technologies that provide substantial benefits spanning all the way from high density enterprises to enabling battery operated low power IoT devices.

Wi-Fi Alliance forecasts that over 1.6 billion devices supporting Wi-Fi 6 will be shipped worldwide by 2020. NXP’s broad Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 portfolio [Add link to WiFi 6 page] is ready to kick-off a new connectivity age.

Read on:
Part 1: The early years of Wi-Fi
Part 2: Wi-Fi on the run for speed improvements
NXP’s Wi-Fi portfolio

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At NXP, innovation is always now, but our focus is always the future. Our dedicated team of experts is united by a passion to make everyday life more remarkable through technologies that continually redefine life as we know it.

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