As the number of devices connected to our home, work and school wireless networks continues to grow, and with increasing demands from things like 4K video streaming, the Wi-Fi Alliance is working to make sure the Wi-Fi standard keeps apace with ever higher high-bandwidth demands. The “wave 2” upgrade to 802.11ac brings with it better multitasking, double the channel bandwidth and extended support for 5 GHz connections.
One of the most anticipated features wrapped up in the latest upgrade is Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) support, which allows more devices to operate on the same network without a drop in performance. Rather than sending data to one device at a time, MU-MIMO is able to transmit to multiple devices at once, which means you’re less likely to suffer slow download speeds because your idiot co-worker is busy streaming YouTube videos.
As well as improved multi-device support, maximum channel bandwidth has increased from 80 MHz to 160 MHz with the Wi-Fi 802.11ac wave 2 update. There’s also an additional spatial stream, an increase from three to four compared to the previous standard, and wider support for 5 GHz channels, reducing interference and congestion by cutting down on the number of networks using overlapping channels and offering the potential to double transmission speeds.
“In today’s world, people have more Wi-Fi devices per person and per household, and those devices require significantly more bandwidth,” says Edgar Figueroa, Wi-Fi Alliance president and CEO. “Wi-Fi Alliance updated the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac program to meet increasing user demands and to stay ahead of emerging applications.”
While a lucky few may be able to upgrade an existing device to support the new standard via a software update, most people will need to purchase new hardware to take advantage of the improved performance.The first W-Fi Certified products to support the new features come from Broadcom, Marvell, MediaTek, Qualcomm and Quantenna.