What are the exact benefits of 802.11ax?
- Reducing latency, especially for IoT devices – One of the most successful processes to reduce latency and increase user data rates is known as Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA). OFDMA is especially relevant for IoT devices because of the profile: short frames with low data rate requirements. OFDMA supports multiple users at once. A single transmission can be divided by its frequencies, and those separations carried separately to different destinations. OFDMA is great at raising network capacity in a network with a large number of devices, short frames, or low data-rate streams. In order to receive Wi-Fi Alliance 11ax certification, companies must have both uplink and downlink OFDMA.
- Improving network capacity – Multi-user, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MU MIMO) was originally introduced in 802.11ac for downlink traffic. MU MIMO is a second multi-user capability that improves network capacity without scaling bandwidth. Using MIMO, you have the ability to transmit simultaneously through multiple devices. Companies have the ability to make use of multipath spatial channels in this way. 802.11ax improves on 802.11ac MU MIMO. In the 802.11ax protocol, you get an increased number of downlink multi-user MIMO groups. This gives you even more efficient operation. The second update of the 11ax certification will add uplink multi-user MIMO.
- Transmit beamforming – Until 802.11ax, you needed more antennas in order to extend the range of a signal. Transmit beamforming allows you to extend range and improve data rates without the need for more hardware. Beamforming means the use of several access points on fewer transmission antennas to send and receive signals. 802.11ac access points needed up to 4 antennas, and this is on the low end of what is recommended. 2019 will bring the marketplace 8-antenna 802.11ax access points.
- Increasing data rates – Higher order modulation increases data rates. 11ax protocols improve peak rates by 25 percent over 802.11ac. You get this performance through an extension of the highest modulation level – an extension from 256-QAM to 1024-QAM. All else being equal – high SNR – you will get a much-improved user experience.
- More efficient operation of sub-channels – Remember OFDMA (and reduced latency for IoT devices)? You need a few changes in subcarrier spacing, symbol duration and FFT size between 11ac and 11ax to get that superior performance. Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM) symbols are the RF building-blocks of 802.11. The changes made allow for a more efficient operation of small OFDMA sub-channels. OFDMA operation piggybacks off of these changes. The final result is that network capacity improves and per-symbol overhead goes down.
- Outdoor operation – 11ax works better outdoors. There are a few feature changes that correspond with this improvement. A brand new packet format now repeats its most sensitive field, which makes it stronger. Longer guard intervals and purposeful redundancy in the right places make it easier to recover from errors.
- Reduced power consumption – Reducing the need for power is always a good thing. 11ac comes with power-save modes, but 11ax improves upon those with new features for longer sleep intervals and scheduled wake times. Both of these features lower the total power consumption on client devices. IoT devices have a 20MHz-channel-only mode that allows for simpler, less power-hungry chips on that frequency.
- The reuse of transmission space – In most cases, you cannot transmit over a transmission – until now. Devices are now permitted to transmit right over the top of a simultaneous distant transmission. You no longer have to wait until the first transmission stops, and this increases network capacity without the need for new hardware. If more simultaneous transmissions can move in a smaller geographic area, you get more power out of less real estate.
The question is not whether to upgrade, but when. Some companies are slow to upgrade because of Cell Phone Syndrome – a new update comes out almost as quickly as the old one gets installed. Yes, there will be a new standard every few years. This should not stop you from upgrading into the 11ax protocol when you are ready, but not before!
When are you ready? In general, if you are spending more time fixing network issues than using your network, you need to upgrade. Keep in mind that you do not need to have the absolute latest, but you do need to keep up in order to remain compatible with the larger market and compete with the new functions of later iterations.
Call one of the dedicated experts at Comport to discuss your Aruba Networking Needs or sign up for an Aruba Wireless Assessment to see where you stand.