Wi-Fi Will Require Enhancements to Keep Up With 5G Tech

High-bandwidth 5G technology will make our mobile phones, tablets and computers much faster, with even the earliest 5G devices capable of 1 to 5 gigabit per second speeds — 10 to 100 times faster than today’s home broadband networks. We’ll still need the modem or Wi-Fi network for data service, and cable companies plan to upgrade their home services to be able to offer 5G. But Wi-Fi is another story: current routers don’t have enough bandwidth for the high-resolution content that 5G can offer, making its future uncertain.

VentureBeat reports that, “one alternative is the IEEE 802.11ad ‘WiGig’ standard,” which adds a 60GHz antenna to previous generation 2.4GHz and 5GHz antennas. That configuration will enable data transfer at up to 7.2 Gbps, “so long as the router is in the same room with an 802.11ad device.”

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Should the 802.11ad device not be in the same room, “it will lose the 60GHz antenna’s connection and fall back to slower data speeds with the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.” That means a home might need multiple routers to achieve the higher speeds.

A new alternative — 802.11ax — might be the solution. It doesn’t use the short-range 60GHz antenna but instead “makes more efficient use of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, flooding each channel with denser data,” and promises up to 11 Gbps speeds across three connected devices. A single 802.11ax device reaches 5 Gbps speeds.

Tech companies have been neutral as to which alternative they plan to adopt. Apple, “rather than backing one 802.11 standard over the other … recently killed its entire AirPort router lineup and said that it’s getting out of the router business.” Devices with 802.11ad chips “remain few and far between” and the first 802.11ax routers will debut later this year, targeted at gamers. They are, says VB, “aesthetically monstrous,” pointing to “D-Link’s light green AX11000 and Asus’ mechy GT-AX11000,” which “appear to depend upon large numbers of big antennas.”

Asus shipped its first 802.11ad phone in some territories, but apparently “without 802.11ad support.” Intel has been working on a Bluetooth and 802.11ad Wi-Fi chip for 2020 iPhones, “but ran into engineering problems with the 802.11ad side,” saying that adding it “into any mobile product brings new and unanticipated challenges.”

VB concludes that, “60GHz antenna engineering challenges may wind up killing [802.11ad] in favor of 802.11ax.”