Will IEEE 802.11ax be a “5G” Contender?

Note:  Neither IEEE 802.11ax or 802.11ay have been presented to ITU-R WP 5D for consideration as an IMT 2020 Radio Interface Technology (RIT), which will be first evaluated at their July 2019 meeting.  Hence, those future IEEE 802.11 standards will be orthogonal to IMT 2020 (the only real standard for mobile 5G).  There are no official standards for 5G fixed Broadband Wireless Access (BWA).  Despite what you may have read, all such “5G” BWA deployments (e.g. Verizon, C-Spire, etc)  are proprietary.

IEEE 802.11ax-2019 will replace both IEEE 802.11n-2009 and IEEE 802.11ac-2013 as the next high-throughput WLAN amendment.


The future IEEE 802.11ax standard will provide users with 5G-level speeds over Wi-Fi networks and be more economical, says a report from GlobalData. Equipment that supports a pre-standard version of IEEE 802.11ax is rolling out this year.

“The 802.11ax standard will drive a significant boost in capacity, efficiency and flexibility that should make Wi-Fi align closely with emerging 5G priorities,” GlobalData Technology Analyst John Byrne said in a press release. “The ability to support up to 12 simultaneous user streams from a single access point, 8×8 multi-user multiple input multiple output, and the use of much larger 80 MHz channels of wireless spectrum represent dramatic upgrades from the current state-of-the-art standard, 802.11ac.”

Byrne continued: “However, once the cost curve comes down, 802.11ax Wi-Fi has the potential to deliver 5G-like user experiences at a fraction of the cost of similar cellular gear. The ability to deploy Wi-Fi access points at significantly lower cost than 5G small cells offering similar performance characteristics could represent a significant selling point for Wi-Fi gear vendors.”

IEEE 802.11ax Carrier Wi-Fi:

The forthcoming IEEE standard will address challenges faced by carrier-provided Wi-Fi, including unreliability, suspect security and difficulty in integrating with cellular networks. The shift from 802.11ac to 802.11ax access points will begin as the cost curve falls through 2022. The equalization of 5G and Wi-Fi technology and 802.11ax’s lower cost could “represent a significant selling point for Wi-Fi gear vendors,” Byrne said.

Technology vendors believe that IEEE 802.11ax could be a big commercial success . In January 2018, Starry and Marvel said they would team to develop fixed wireless technologies. The deal includes the Starry millimeter wave integrated circuit and cloud management software and Marvel’s 802.11ax chipsets.

Aerohive plans to deliver its first 802.11ax access points in mid-2018. PCTel said in January that it haddeveloped a reference design for 802.11ax antennas for an unnamed “major 802.11ax Wi-Fi chipset manufacturer.” There’s a lot of chipset activity in particular, with Qualcomm already having launched its “802.11ax-ready” Atheros WCN3998 chipset in February and other companies like Intel laying out plans to begin offering chips this year. Chip company Skyworks is collaborating with Broadcom with modules integrated into Broadcom’s Max Wi-Fi 802.11ax solution and claims that its 2.4 and 5 GHz 802.11ax modules and Broadcom’s Max WiFi solutions “provide four times faster download speeds, six times faster upload speeds, enhanced coverage and up to seven times longer battery life when compared to 802.11ac Wi-Fi products available in the market today.” ABI Research has noted that in addition to those vendors, Marvell, Quantenna and Celeno  have also made 802.11ax chipset announcements — mostly targeting the access point space — and that AP companies such as Asus, D-Link and Huawei have already put out 802.11ax-ready APs and gateways.