If you’re a broadband installer or technician who’s ever had to troubleshoot interference or bandwidth problems with your customer’s WLAN, you know this reality all too well: It’s an ultra-crowded wireless world out there, and only the strongest network signals survive. But that could all be about to change.

The next generation of wireless technology is on the horizon. Are you equipped to take advantage and position your clients for the best possible experience? Here’s everything you need to know about 802.11ax, a new wireless standard from the IEEE.

The problem: Current standards are behind the times

From work time to downtime, Wi-Fi dominates just about everything we do and everything we use our devices for. Each new Wi-Fi standard released by the IEEE 802.11 Working Group has made massive improvements in performance in an attempt to keep pace with increasing demands, but wireless usage has rapidly outstripped the pace of Wi-Fi innovation.

When smartphones first appeared on the scene just more than ten years ago, the average home or business might have had a handful of devices connected to the router. Fast forward to today with the Internet of Things, 4K streaming, and cloud computing the demand has surged.

These days the average home could have upwards of 20 or 30 connected devices battling for bandwidth, including smartphones, tablets, streaming devices, smart home equipment, major appliances, and more.

For businesses and public environments, the demands placed on wireless networks are exponentially more intense. Bandwidth is being shared among devices and devices are often switching between network access points.

The promise of IEEE 802.11ax

The most recent Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac, offers a theoretical maximum rate of 1.3Gbps. While this is certainly robust, it’s not well equipped to handle busy or crowded environments with lots and lots of devices vying for bandwidth.

The new standard from the IEEE, 802.11ax—also known as High-Efficiency Wireless (HEW)—is being designed to provide a faster and more reliable wireless experience in overcrowded environments, specifically. While it’s still in its infancy, it promises a four-fold increase in average throughput per connected device.

It does this by increasing the capacity of WLAN networks, increasing the number of users supported by a single access point, and increasing overall coverage. Take, for example, how 802.11ax handles access points. It creates broad channels that are then split into narrow sub-channels, increasing the overall number and making it easier for devices to connect to different access points.

Theoretically, 802.11ax can deliver a single stream rate of 3.5Gbps. When combined with multiplexing technology, it can theoretically deliver four simultaneous streams to a single device for an eye-popping total rate of 14Gbps.

What does this mean for the future?

Widespread adoption of 802.11ax is just around the corner, so it’s time to consider how this will impact your customers and clients. More and more businesses, governments, public environments, and homeowners are making the switch to fiber optic to meet the demand for faster and more robust internet connections.

Currently, wireless routers using 802.11ac or older standards can hinder the effectiveness of these newer, faster fiber networks. The new 802.11ax Wi-Fi standard will go a long way to bridging the gap between the speeds promised by fiber and the bandwidth capabilities of wireless. This is why it’s vitally important to ensure 802.11ax routers are optimally installed to ensure the clearest possible signal and minimize any possible interference.

If you’re installing a new 802.11ax router in an enclosure, make sure you’re using a clear signal media panel made from plastic. Metal enclosures are notorious for blocking and disrupting Wi-Fi signals.