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802.11ax release date: Here's what has to happen first

Members of the IEEE committee developing the new wireless LAN standard now expect the final 802.11ax release date won't arrive until mid- to late-2020. Here's what has to happen first.

802.11ax release date: Here's what has to happen first

Many networking pros are eagerly awaiting the new high-efficiency wireless standard, which promises to radically change the Wi-Fi game. But although most experts agree the technology itself is all but final, members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) now say the official 802.11ax release date likely won't arrive until at least mid-2020.

"Final ratification is most likely in the June to December time frame next year," said Dorothy Stanley, a member of the committee overseeing the development of 802.11ax, also known as Wi-Fi 6.

While the 802.11ax release date was initially scheduled for the first quarter of 2019, Robert Stacey, a volunteer technical editor for the development group, said it's not unusual for a new standard to experience delays.

"I don't remember a group in 802.11 that met its initial timeline," he said.

However, setting an aggressive date can motivate committee members to make difficult technical decisions in a timely manner. "It is always optimistic," Stacey said.

Stacey also pointed to the complexity of the 802.11ax technology, as well as the inevitable feature creep.

"When push comes to shove and members are weighing specific changes vs. meeting the schedule, the schedule often suffers," he said, adding that when new ideas arise, the working group must either add them now or wait years for the next major amendment. "There is always pressure to add new features."

Osama Aboul-Magd, chair of the .11ax committee, said he expects to finish all the major work on the draft itself by the end of 2019. But the new standard must also clear a number of bureaucratic hurdles within the IEEE before final publication, adding to the delay. Organizations eager to upgrade needn't wait until the 802.11ax release date, however. Vendors began offering prestandard gear in late 2018.

This was first published in April 2019

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