Sep 24, 2020


Managed I.T., Digital Transformation


Jay Longley

Outside of our offices, the need for increased wireless bandwidth has also become a priority. Densely populated areas like trains, airports, conferences, and other events have struggled to provide adequate wireless bandwidth to meet the demands of the people trying to get online in these locations. This is especially evident when bandwidth-intensive applications like video conferencing come into play. Thankfully, there is a new wireless standard known as 802.11ax, or High Efficiency Wireless, which aims to solve this problem for us.

A Quick Explanation of 802.11ax

Table comparing 802.11ax to previous wireless standards

Over the years, there have been a number of improvements made to the wireless standard in an effort to address our increasing demand for bandwidth. High Efficiency Wireless is the latest of these standards. 802.11ax takes over for the previous standard, known as 802.11ac. That previous standard offered a theoretical maximum rate of 1.3Gbps. The new standard improves upon this greatly, with a maximum rate exceeding 10Gbps.

Early wireless implementations only allowed for one transmission at a time per access point. Subsequent standards improved upon this and 802.11ax allows for 8 simultaneous streams.

Network World columnist Zeus Kerrevala explains this change: “Early Wi-Fi was like a long line of customers in a bank waiting for one teller.” Later improvements increased this to four tellers serving four lines of customers. 802.11ax means that each of those tellers can simultaneously serve four customers, greatly increasing the amount of people that can be served at any one time.

The Good News About 802.11ax

This new High Efficiency Wireless will mean much faster and more reliable wireless connectivity in our offices and population-dense environments. Problems with video conferencing in offices because of too much network traffic will become a thing of the past, as will painfully slow connections at the airport as we try to get some work done while traveling. These are just solutions for the challenges we have today, however. 802.11ax will also open the door to new ways for us to take advantage of the wealth of data that connected devices and other sources are making available to us. Real time data collection and analysis applications that may not be feasible today under the current standard will become possible with 802.11ax. The big question, of course - what will you need to do to take advantage of these wireless improvements.? Simply put, it is going to require an investment.

Investing in 802.11ax

First off, 802.11ax is not a thing of the future – it is here now. Endpoint devices that utilize this new standard have already begun to ship from manufacturers. Those devices are backwards compatible, so they can make use of the old 802.11ac standard, but this is like taking a Ferrari and deflating all 4 of its tires. The car will move, but its performance will be slow and clunky, a sad example of what it could be capable of it was fully equipped and enabled. As your company begins adding new devices, if your networking has not been upgraded to 802.111ax, you will be deflating the tires on those new devices.

So, what do you need to do to make this investment in High Efficiency Wireless? The truth is that this is not a small change. While every business and network will have their differences, at a high level, a network will need new cabling and access points to use 802.11ax. This is not a matter of simply plugging in some new devices or enabling select features; you will need to do some re-architecture on your environment. This is why Envision is talking to our clients about 802.11ax now. We are helping them put plans in place today so they can make the right investments now and be ahead of the wireless curve as 802.11ax becomes the standard that all new devices ship with – a milestone that is projected for 2020.

What are the Next Steps?

Like any important change in technology, if your company wants to make the most out of the improvements and become an early adopter in order to differentiate your company from its competition, you need to have a plan. Ultimately, the changes with high efficiency wireless are a network architecture issue, something that is at the very core of Envision’s expertise. The first step is to contact our engineering experts to discuss your business. Together, we’ll begin exploring a possible roadmap for the next generation of your environment and how you will embrace and benefit from 802.11ax.