Making Wi-Fi Truly an IoT Technology Thanks to 802.11ax

By Ambroise Popper

802.11ax is an important step forward for Wi-Fi, bringing many new features and improvements that have been documented quite widely within the industry. We’d like to focus on one of the lesser known benefits of 802.11ax that actually provides significant improvements to 2.4GHz operation, as well as new features improving operation of battery devices.

So what does this mean when it comes to picking an IoT technology for smart home applications?

Today, many different IoT connectivity technologies are used within the home. This means a fragmented market, with little interoperability between various solutions.

IOT connectivity technologies

Let’s now have a look at some of the reasons why 802.11ax is well suited for IoT applications:

  1. Enables simple client design: bandwidth for clients can be as low as 2MHz, with rates of 375kbit/s, thus allowing for simple and cost-effective radios, supporting only simple BPSK modulation.
  2. Better coexistence with other 2.4GHz technologies: thanks to the use of 2MHz channels, coexistence with other IoT technologies is much more effective.
  3. Increased battery life: thanks to the new TWT (Target Wake Time) mode, IoT devices that only transmit occasionally can be in sleep mode for extended periods of time, resulting in better battery life for IoT applications.
  4. Longer range: the bandwidth for 802.11ax clients can be as low as 2MHz. This allows to concentrate the transmit energy into a narrower bandwidth, thus improving the link budget without impacting the battery life of clients.
  5. Better airtime usage: IoT devices typically send out small packets of data. Thanks to OFDMA, these smaller packets can be aggregated and therefore allow for multiple IoT devices to be connected without impacting too much the bandwidth available to more data-intensive applications.

We believe that once 802.11ax is deployed, it makes more sense for many IoT applications to use 802.11ax, and share the same Wi-Fi network as other higher-bandwidth applications. This will remove the need to create dedicated IoT networks using additional hubs or bridges, and will provide needed convergence to the IoT world. There will be of course a transition period during which all technologies must coexist, but over time we believe that Wi-Fi will become the main smart home IoT application thanks to 802.11ax.