Next generation Wi-Fi will provide the world with a preview of 5G capabilities long before mobile 5G becomes a reality, Wireless Broadband Alliance CEO Shrikant Shenwai told Mobile World Live.

The new 802.11ax Wi-Fi standard will deliver a huge boost over existing speeds, pushing Wi-Fi well into the gigabit realm, and will also include orthogonal frequency division multiple access (channel sharing) to increase spectral efficiency and reduce congestion.

Energy consumption in devices will be slashed thanks to a new targeted wake time feature, and the standard will also introduce multiple user MIMO and 1024 QAM for better throughput.

“This will definitely be available much faster than when the so-called standalone version of 5G becomes available,” Shenwai said: “There are a large number of [application] requirements that can be supported by the Wi-Fi roadmap way before 5G becomes a reality.”

Unlike 5G, which is expected to make its debut in fixed-wireless form in 2019, Shenwai said 802.11ax chipsets are already being announced and products are likely to hit the market in 2018. He expects an inflection point to come in 2019 which will facilitate broader commercial uptake of the technology.

Shenwai pointed to IoT deployments as one of the applications Wi-Fi will be able to serve, particularly on local levels.

“Cities are recognising that there’s a value in using a public Wi-Fi network to not just give free access to public, but also to support IoT [devices] like sensors on light poles,” he said, noting Wi-Fi is in a position to serve connectivity needs without necessarily requiring huge infrastructure investments.

In addition to IoT, Shenwai said next generation Wi-Fi will also be able to support high-density environments, low latency and power requirements, and predictive capabilities.

But Shenwai indicated it’s important the new Wi-Fi standard plays nice with 5G, and said the Wireless Broadband Alliance is working to promote interoperability across the new standards.

“There’s a lot of work happening in WBA around how do you take Wi-Fi connectivity and make it work better, but also make it work better in conjunction with other technologies whether they come from the Wi-Fi side of things, the broadband side to connect people, or the narrowband side to connect things. The body of work we do spans across all these areas.”

Mobile World Live – in partnership with Broadcom – recently published a whitepaper on the potential of 802.11ax. Access it here.