Intel announced this week that it will have chips ready within the year for the next generation of Wi-Fi known as 802.11ax. This new generation is theoretically faster but mostly meant to perform better in environments that have a lot of connected devices like public hotspots, and also your house if you just have a lot of phones and tablets and smart gadgets lying around.
Intel says it is going to start shipping 802.11ax chips for routers and “consumer retail devices” this year, nevertheless, it will be a while longer before most or even many individuals are connecting to the internet on faster Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group that sets the standards for new versions of Wi-Fi, stated in an email that it does not expect to see mass adoption of 802.11ax until 2019. This is because product certification doesn’t commence until next year, and certification, a spokesperson said, “is typically an inflection point toward broader industry adoption.”
Companies are able to come out with Wi-Fi products before certification (Asus has already announced a router), however most wait for the standard to be finalized. The certification process ensures that all Wi-Fi products work together as they’re supposed to (effectively and efficiently), and the Alliance is spot-on that it usually marks the beginning of a new era of Wi-Fi. For example, take a look at the recent update to the current Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac. Certification for “wave 2” devices was announced in June of 2016, Linksys shipped a wave 2 router for businesses the next month, and now it is common across higher-end consumer routers.
Intel isn’t even all that early to the picture. Qualcomm announced the availability of 802.11ax chips last February and while Intel’s Wi-Fi chips are used in Arris routers (which are used by Comcast so they are inherently pretty popular), Intel isn’t closely as big in the connectivity space as some of the other chip companies, so this availability isn’t necessarily going to be what gets the ball rolling.
Once certification arrives for 802.11ax next year, don’t expect to take advantage of it for a little while because it’ll be several months before certified products hit the market. First and foremost, you’ll need a new router to take advantage of it. But the chips also have to make their way down to smaller devices, like laptops and phones, which will take a longer time period. You will then have to replace your current laptops and phones with ones that support the new standard, which could take a few years or more.
Obviously, new Wi-Fi standards are great and really important for helping us get online. And it’s good to know that 802.11ax is coming but it still has a long way to go before we’re using it to connect to the web.