Next-gen Wi-Fi chipsets unveiled

A pair of cutting edge chips capable of delivering Wi-Fi connectivity which complies with the latest 802.11ax standard have been unveiled this week by Qualcomm, according to CNET.

One chipset is designed for the routers and access points which will be pumping out Wi-Fi hotspots to bring high speed networking to businesses, homes and public spaces. The other is built for the devices which will need to receive this type of connection, including things like smartphones, laptops and millions of other web-reliant products.

What makes the arrival of these chips especially significant is that they represent the first commercial foray into 802.11ax-compatible wireless communications which will roll out across mainstream devices. And industry observers are hopeful that this new standard will be available on new hardware from a number of manufacturers before the end of the year.

802.11ax is the latest evolution of Wi-Fi, marking a new step on a journey which began all the way back in the final year of the last millennium. It is the successor to 802.11ac, but like its forebears it will also be entirely backwards compatible with older standards, so existing hardware will not need to be ditched immediately, but can still operate in unison with devices that feature the new chips.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this standard should be able to offer much faster data speeds, offering as much as four times the throughput for receiving devices and meaning that connections of up to 1.8Gbps should be achievable, at least in theory.

Furthermore, the designers have managed to make these chips operate more efficiently in terms of energy use, so they should help to improve smartphone battery life and be less of a resources hog across portable products of all kinds. This could be useful for items that rely on passive Wi-Fi connectivity to interact with the web, as necessitated by the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT).

For businesses that offer Wi-Fi networks to employees and customers, another advantage of the 802.11ax standard is that it is more efficient in terms of the way that it deals with high volumes of traffic generated by multiple users. So rather than becoming bogged down during peak periods, routers should be capable of operating effectively at all times.

The focus has been placed not just on theoretical performance capabilities, but how this technology will behave when deployed in real world scenarios. Managing connections and dealing with the ebb and flow of traffic will be achieved more effectively even during the transitional period when new 802.11ax devices are intermingling with those based on older standards.

Finally, the Wi-Fi networking technologies which are made available in the coming years with chipsets like these onboard will have the edge over older systems thanks to the way in which they can manage instances in which multiple networks overlap with one another.

At the moment, the airspace can become overcrowded with competing signals, often operating on the same bands and frequencies as one another. But by altering antenna configurations and taking into account this congested environment, many of the problems of the past should be easy to overcome.

The speed with which the mobile market moves in terms of technological adoption means that it should not be long before the first smartphones to feature 802.11ax Wi-Fi connectivity arrive. Predictions of late-2017 device launches including compatibility seem realistic, although manufacturers have yet to be sent samples of the chipsets that Qualcomm has unveiled.

For some businesses, Wi-Fi networking which is not only quicker in ideal circumstances but better able to manage in multiuser environments cannot arrive soon enough.