The next wave is coming: With an update to its certification strategy, the Wi-Fi Alliance could make your future devices speedier than ever.
With the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) treating internet service as a public utility (and a court upholding that distinction), WiFi is pretty much a given wherever you go, but it’s an industry group that’s tasked with improving it.
You’ve probably seen the black-and-white “Wi-Fi Certified” label on certain wireless devices. It’s given out by the nonprofit Wi-Fi Alliance nonprofit, which announced new, faster standards for wireless internet last week.
The association doesn’t set industry standards, but it does verify that specific products meet its high performance benchmarks. Its seal of approval goes only to products that are interoperable and feature cutting-edge technology.
“In today’s world, people have more Wi-Fi devices per person and per household, and those devices require significantly more bandwidth,” Wi-Fi Alliance President and CEO Edgar Figueroa said in a news release.
The international organization, which represents WiFi providers, has certified more than 30,000 products. These products, the alliance states, meet its rigorous user-experience standards, offering faster, more secure wireless service.
Introducing “Wave 2”
In its latest update, the Wi-Fi Alliance boosted its certification standards in releasing a new “Wave 2” seal for products that meet high-bandwidth requirements.
“Wave 2” meets the 802.11ac specification, which allows for far more capabilities. While the current Wave 1 certification also meets the 802.11ac specification, Wave 2 products can handle more users and provide more data capacity and better device speeds.
Wave 2 will allow for “more efficient use of available spectrum and reduces interference and congestion by minimizing the number of networks operating on overlapping channels,” the alliance stated in the news release.
A feature exciting many in the tech industry, MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple-input, and multi-output), allows Wave 2 to be implemented. This feature enables wireless access points to send data streams to three or more users at once.
Wave 2 also raises the maximum channel bandwidth from 80MHz to 160MHz, “boosting the potential throughput of each stream to 866Mbps,” as Ars Technica notes in its report.
The association believes that Wave 2 will represent a majority of WiFi products in the next five years, with some supporting devices hitting the market even in the coming weeks, according to Kevin Robinson, vice president of marketing at the Wi-Fi Alliance.
However, you may need an upgrade before you can take advantage of faster, better WiFi. While routers with the 160MHz channel and MU-MIMO capability are already on the market, end user devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops need to be updated to support Wave 2.