The Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group backed by nearly all the major players in the tech world, including Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Samsung and others, announced last week an update to its certification program for modern Wi-Fi devices, which will require all new products to support faster speeds and will compel routers to do a better job of handling multiple devices at the same time.
Going forward, routers and devices that want to comply with its latest certification program will have to support three key new features: wider channel bandwidth, an additional spatial stream, and perhaps most importantly, MU-MIMO. That latest one just means that a router can send data to multiple devices at the same time.
Right now, routers are generally sending data to one device at a time. They switch back and forth between our devices fast enough that we do not necessarily. But MU-MIMO should deliver a more consistent result for everyone. Newly certified Wi-Fi routers should be capable of sending data to four devices at a time, potentially delivering a faster result when combined with other Wi-Fi improvements.
Technically, a given device that supports all these features will be capable of delivering three times the speed of [802.11ac] devices even a year ago. However, it needs to be pointed out that the Wi-Fi Alliance does not set the Wi-Fi standard; it just formalizes which features of the standard the industry has agreed to support. So in practice, some new products may not actually support all of these features, but many will given the names of companies that are members of the group. And some products on sale today already do support these features, since they have technically been in the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac, all along.
With today's announcement, the Wi-Fi Alliance — and its members — are basically saying they want to start taking fuller advantage of the 802.11ac standard and directing everyone to start doing that. The alliance expects that the new 802.11ac features will go on to dominate the market within the next five years.