Wi-Fi gets personal on its 20th birthday

Wi-Fi, as we know it,has just celebrated its 20th Birthday.  It was first set out as a standard in June 1997 with speeds of up to 2Mbit/second on the 2.4Ghz radio frequency.  The 5Ghz radio frequency was introduced soon after and offered more channel availability, though with shorter reach.  Speeds have increased, some neat technology has been introduced and of course there are far more devices using Wi-Fi but today’s Wi-Fi design is not very different to that of 20 years ago. 

Shared Wi-Fi access points are still the norm and a broadcast to multiple users with often patchy coverage is the order of the day.  However, with the introduction of the 802.11ad standard on the 60Ghz frequency, change is on the horizon.  This marks the first release of a new radio frequency to Wi-Fi in almost 20 years and it’s different.  Whereas the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequencies could achieve approximately 70 and 35 metres of coverage respectively, this new standard is much narrower in range and is limited to just over 3 metres.  The huge upside is speed of data transfer at a fantastic rate of up to 6.7 Gbit/second – a massive 3,350 times faster than the Wi-Fi of 20 years ago and more than 7 times faster than the current 802.11ac wave 2 standard.  Also with such a narrow range, interference is much lower.

As the number of devices that each person carries increases and IOT devices become ubiquitous, so we will furnish ourselves with more access points.  Wi-Fi access points in the workplace will be installed on each desk.  There is already a strong and sensible move to access points in each hotel room rather than shared from the corridor.  Within hospitality and the new wave of private residential units, this has become the more reliable way to provide a better service.  When each room has an access point, the setup is much neater with fewer issues.  By complementing this with personal area networks – an SSID for each hotel room – Connectivity issues drop away.  No longer are guests connecting to the wrong access point or not finding coverage.  Instead they have a great and very fast service with a network where they can connect their streaming devices to and can cast to them securely and privately.   With single room and desk access points and networks looking to be the new standard for the next 20 years – Wi-Fi has just become personal.