E-Handbook: 802.11ax Wi-Fi and training act as paths to better security Article 1 of 4

Brave new wireless: 802.11ax Wi-Fi promises big LAN changes

Shakespeare didn't have wireless LANs in mind when he wrote The Tempest, but the promises of 802.11ax Wi-Fi leave us paraphrasing it:

O, wonder! / How many goodly [features] are / there here! / How beauteous [ax] is! O brave / [wireless], / that has such [efficiency] in't! 

As a wireless end user with a predilection to Instagram Red Sox games and Beyonce concerts, I'm particularly excited about the orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) feature. While it doesn't roll off the tongue like the lyrics of "Single Ladies," OFDMA should be a crowd-pleasing hit in high-density environments.

Experts say OFDMA puts the "high-efficiency" in high-efficiency Wi-Fi by allowing access points (APs) to multitask and serve multiple clients at once. After an 802.11ax Wi-Fi upgrade, previously overrun 802.11n or 802.11ac APs could theoretically manage heavy user loads with aplomb. (No more #latergrams.) OFDMA marries faster speeds with network smarts, arguably the most substantive functional change in 802.11 standard history

Speaking of history, wireless technology has come a long way since the late '90s and early aughts, when end users thought of 802.11a/b as a nice-to-have novelty in a wired- world -- if they thought about it at all. Fast forward two decades: Wireless outstrips Ethernet in many environments and is the need-to-have network, with end users expecting service everywhere, from elevators to public restrooms. Demands on the wireless- LAN keep growing; it makes sense the next standard should perform not just faster and better, but differently. On paper, 802.11ax Wi-Fi fits the .

Of course, we're not there yet. Even assuming timely, meaningful adoption in enterprise networks after the standard's ratification in 2019, features like OFDMA will remain academic without ax-capable clients to bring the benefits to life. To quote the Bard: "All that glitters is not gold." But I'm an optimist. Here's hoping 11ax amounts to more than just the shiny object du jour.