FAQ: What is 802.11ay wireless technology?

Products based on the IEEE 802.11ad (WiGig) standard have really only begun rolling out over the past year, but an effort to deliver an enhancement dubbed 802.11ay that promises to deliver faster and longer range W-Fi networks is gaining steam.

Here’s the lowdown on this newest in the 802.11 WLAN series…

I can’t believe I have another 802.11something-or-other to keep track of.

Believe it. Though really think of 802.11ay as an enhancement of 11ad in the unlicensed 60 GHz millimeter wave band of spectrum, so it should be a pretty natural upgrade. And it could really be worth any trouble given potential speed and range improvements.

So what’s the difference between ad and ay?

The 802.11ad standard was published in 2012 and the technology gives devices access to the unlicensed and relatively unclogged 60 GHz millimeter wave spectrum band for multimedia streaming, VR headset connectivity, computer-to-monitor wireless links and other apps that don’t require more than say 30 or 40 feet of unimpeded space. It has been adopted by chipmakers like Intel, Peraso and Qualcomm as well as vendors of routers, access points or other devices such as Dell, TP-Link and Netgear. The Wi-Fi Alliance runs a WiGig certification program for vendors, and the early 11ad gear on the market most commonly supports data transfer rates of 4.6Gbps – way faster than 802.11n and 11ac, but more limited in range and unable to penetrate solid objects.

The backwards compatible 802.11ay amendment to 802.11ad is designed to boost speeds several-fold. That initially would amount to a transmission rate of 20 to 30Gbps and a range of 33 to 100 feet with 11ay-to-11ay device setups, but once channel bonding, MIMO and other capabilities are exploited, you could be getting closer to 200Gbps and reaching distances approaching1,000 feet, according to industry players.

11ay, as the specs are being developed, “is really allowing for a wider range of products than you’d get with ad, which has one set of data rates that everyone supports… ay has a lot more parameters to play with in channel bonding, MIMO and features at the MAC level to allow a far greater range of performance and products,” says Brad Lynch, co-founder and SVP of product development at Peraso Technologies, which already has WiGig-certified 11ad chipsets on the market and is readying for 11ay.

By the way, don’t confuse 802.11ay with 802.11ax, which will work in the 2.5 and 5 GHz bands.

What would 11ay be used for?

It remains to be seen how soon the high speeds of 11ay will really be needed for internal uses, as 802.11ac — including Wave 2 products — are already pretty robust. But Peraso’s Lynch says that if 11ad doesn’t quite do it for you given its distance limitations, “11ay will finally be the technology that would let you snip that Ethernet cord – you no longer have to run Ethernet cables to everyone’s desk… there’s enough wireless bandwidth in ay.”